A FIRST time entrant clinched victory in the Wycombe Half Marathon this morning beating a field which included a former World Championship contender - and admitted he was not expecting glory.

Winner Stephen Male, 44, owner of running shop Fit 2 Run in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, was in the lead for the last two and a half miles.

He said: “It was after about ten and a half miles I took the lead, I thought I’d make a little testing effort for a few yards and then thought I’ll carry on with it.”

He said he was not expecting to win going into the race, which took place at the soggy course on the Rye.

“I knew I’d put the miles in beforehand but you never know who’s going to be running against you.

"You can never tell, you go through spells in the race where you feel good and other parts not so good,” he said.

The Oxford City runner said the hill was the most challenging aspect of the course.

He has competed in a number of half marathons before and won an off road event earlier this year - the Otmoor challenge.

Runner-up John Cleary, 33 from Waterford City, Ireland, only began running three years ago because he was four stone overweight.

The Ferrybank runner has previously come 15th in the Irish national half marathon.

“I wanted to win when I came here this morning. I’d looked up the previous year’s times online and I knew I was in or around the times of the winner.

“I just kind of ran out of steam and he picked it up after 10 miles.”

Mr Cleary, whose family live in High Wycombe, was neck and neck with Mr Male for a long part of the race.

He said victor Mr Male had shared some tips as they raced - as well as a bottle of water.

Mr Cleary, who works for a computer assembly company, said:“We were running side by side and the rhythm of our feet fall kind of kept me going.

“He put in a bit of a spurt and I couldn’t go with him.

“I was hoping I’d be able to pick it up for the last half mile but so did he.

He added: “I was dying for the last mile and a half but the adrenalin kept me going.”

First place in the women’s event went to Samantha Amend, 30, from High Wycombe. She runs for the Handy Cross Runners.

Mrs Amend, who won her first half marathon last year but has won various 10k events in 2009, said: “It’s nice to win here on home territory.”

Former Great Britain half marathon World Championship and Commonwealth Games racer Alan Chilton, 38, won the event at the Rye in 1996.

He emigrated to Australia in 1999 and now lives in Melbourne.

He came 61st in the half marathon World Championship in 1998 and was the second highest placed Briton.

He came 14th in today’s race on his return.

“I haven’t done a lot of running for a while, not seriously at least for five years,” he said.

“I went off a bit early today like I was back in my heyday but the old legs caught up a little bit.”

Mr Chilton, who was brought up in Downley, ran with the Handycross Runners from the age of 15.

Alfred Benjamin, 54, who works at St Marys hospital in London and Alan Wheeler, 60, an engineer, from Wallingford but originally from High Wycombe, are the only two ever presents in the race.

Mr Benjamin, who has lived in High Wycombe for 40 years, said: “It feels good when you finish but halfway through you wonder why you’re doing it.”

Mr Wheeler, who was recovering from Pneumonia, said: “It’s taken me longer this year as a result of the illness. I’ll be back again next year though.”

The 10k race winner was last year’s half marathon champion Phil Critchlow, 41, from Leicester.

He said: “I’m pleased to have completed this double. "The start is tough but once you’re over the first 2km it’s not so bad and it’s better to have the hills at the start than at the end."

His time was 34 minutes 50 seconds.