Paul Martelletti clinched his third victory at the Watford Half Marathon on Sunday.

The Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets runner was the winner in both 2015 and 2016 although he did not compete last year due to injury.

But he made his return to Cassiobury Park at the weekend and justified his status as favourite to finish first in a time of 1:08.36.

The 2017 winner Jonathan Cornish produced a strong defence as he managed second place in 1:08.56 with Paul Whittaker third in 1:10.34.

Race organiser Richard Parles said: “I think it went as anticipated. Paul is probably the best runner and knows the course very well.

“He has run it at least four times so he knows the hills and when to hold back and come through in the second half of the race. It was quite a convincing win.

“Jonathan was clear second and also has course knowledge.”

Rachel Felton was the fastest woman, finishing 33rd overall in a time of 1:18.56. It was the first time the Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers runner had competed in the half marathon although as a youngster she took part in the Junior Challenge 25 years ago.

Parles said: “Rachel contacted us the next day to say she was impressed with the race but found it extremely difficult. She also confirmed she will be back to defend her title next year.”

Stacey Ward was the next fastest woman behind Felton in a time of 1:19.50 and Lucy Ashe was third in 1:21.42.

Cold and windy conditions made it difficult for the runners on an already challenging, undulating course.

“It was very cold with a fairly strong wind which was not ideal for a half marathon run,” Parles said.

“I think they were very good times given the conditions and it was not really conducive to producing good times. In the circumstances I think the runners did very well.”

A total of 1,878 runners completed the half marathon and this included 16 athletes over from Pesaro, Watford’s twin town in Italy. One of this group, Francesco Tornati, finished second in the over-40 competition (1:16.21).

Parles said: “That went well and we have been invited over to Italy for their half marathon in June.”

The organisers were grateful to the support they received for helping run the half marathon.

“I want to thank Watford Joggers for supplying the majority of the marshals,” he said. “The Second North Watford Scouts helped run the water stations and Raynet provided the on course communication.

“We were also grateful for the help of Watford Police, St John Ambulance and Renteq for their traffic management.

“I also want to thank the residents for their understanding and support.”