As runners gather at Rocque Balan for the relatively flowing 4.75-mile ‘Full Course’ on Thursday, the start-line picture will give a clearer indication of the pecking order for an event where the previous winner has not raced since September amid injury issues.
Richard Bartram has twice been a champion of the route within a one year span, the Bath University-based miler showcasing his range to win the last Boxing Day race and repeating this in the August rendition of the same course.
But Bartram’s recent injury troubles mean that several other contenders will take an elevated standing in the battle for honours.
Fellow Bath pupil and Island Games teammate Alex Rowe has expressed interest and will be the natural favourite by form, having finished eight seconds behind the fast-finishing Bartram last Boxing Day as top woman Sarah Mercier had a barnstorming run for a close third overall. Improving middle-distance specialist Sam Lesley and Island Games runner-triathlete Dan Galpin both featured prominently last year and are also likely contenders for top placings.
All of these athletes are on the roster for the upcoming Hampshire Cross Country Championships and will be among those seeking a last quick run-out, though some of their older counterparts such as recent surprise club champion Lee Merrien are likely to be unavailable on Boxing Day.
Thursday’s race starts at 11am and incorporates a junior ‘half course’ option of 2.8 miles.