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Gary Marshall, 38, of Wootton Bridge Runners, was first Island athlete home in this years gruelling Needles Half Marathon on 1 June.

He lost by just 22 sec to race winner Luke Montgomery, 34, of Corby Athletics Club.

The two were neck and neck throughout, with Luke pulling away to finish in 1 hour 22 min 51 sec.

Luke, in his fourth half marathon, described the race as “tough but enjoyable. It really helped to run with Gary, because he knew the route and set a very fast pace. He was brilliant.”

Gary, whose time was 1hr 23min 13sec, said: “I had a nice, steady-paced race. I took a tumble in a field, but didn’t come to any harm. I ran a strong race, but Luke had a stronger finish.” (pic of Gary and Luke at Colwell, sent by Michael Dangerfield).

Gary was cheered at the finish by his family, including daughters  Rosie, eight, and Megan, six, who had taken part in the Junior Fun Run. (Photo of Gary, Rosy and Megan, as above.)

First woman was Faye Johnson, from Pontepool and District Runners, in 1 hr 38min 03 sec. First Island woman – and fifth woman overall – was Hayley Baxter, of IW Road Runners, in 1hr 47min 56sec.

With 434 entries, the race marked the climax of the third IW Festival of Running, organised by West Wight Sports and Community Centre.

The festival, now in its third year, attracted 774 entrants in four races: 1.5km Junior Fun Run (sponsored by Warrior Fitness Academy), Freshwater 5km (PO41 Coffee House), Tapnell 10km (Tapnell Farm), and Needles Half Marathon (Love Running).

Winner of the 10km was Daniel Green, of Leighton Fun Runners, in 42hr 34min 01sec. First woman was Faye Johnson, as above, in 42min 53sec.

Winner of the 5km was Ross Wilkes, of IW Road Runners, in 17min 57sec. First woman was Nicky Millard, of Warley Woods Pacers, in 24min 39 sec.

Clare Griffin, of West Wight Sports and Community Centre, said: “The festival was a huge success, thanks to our magnificent runners, sponsors, marshalls and staff. We really couldn’t do it without such a brilliant team.”

Next year’s IW Festival of Running is on May 30 and 31, 2020. Entries will open on July 1 on