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clayton peaks in poland

Emma Clayton
9 September 2013

The 29th edition of the World Mountain Running Championships took place yesterday in the mountain resort of Krynica-Zdrój in Poland, and the GB & NI team performed admirably on a challenging course.

The event took place alongside the annual Running Festival Biegowy that is hosted by the Polish town. With over 8000 runners and spectators present, the atmosphere was nothing short of electric as the 365 runners from 40 countries took on the unusual ‘down and up’ course. Typically speaking, the world championships alternate between an uphill course and an up and down course, so this years ‘down and up’ course not only made history, but threw up more of a challenge than most expected, with most races going off at a near suicidal pace.

In what was a memorable day for the GB & NI team, Emma Clayton (coach: Andrew Henderson) secured the team's only individual medal, clinching a splendid silver in the senior women’s race to add to the three team medals won on the day.

Clayton showed she meant business, leading from the off on the two lap, 9.08km course, building up a 17 second lead only to be reeled in on the last climb by Alica Gaggi of Italy. There could be no complaints for the Bingley Harrier though, as she became the first GB & NI athlete to place in the top two for almost ten years. Afterwards she commented: “I knew I was in good shape but Gaggi was just so strong - but I’m delighted.”

Clayton’s run, the best of her career, set the tone for the senior women’s team, with the rest of the team packing into the top 16 to secure another silver medal. In eighth place, Sarah Tunstall had her best run since winning bronze four years ago, with Mary Wilkinson finishing 12th and Katie Walshaw rounding out the British quartet in 16th place to give them team silver behind Italy.

The day started well, with the junior women taking fourth, fifth and sixth to secure a fantastic team gold, the team’s only gold of the championships. Annabel Mason and Georgia Malir (Henderson) were together at the front during the early stages of the climb, with Catriona Graves hanging back in 15th. Mason and Malir pushed each other on well towards the end, but were overhauled by the three eventual medallists, whilst Graves came storming through to snatch sixth.

Post-race Mason commented: “I ran my own race and ignored everyone else and went at the pace that I thought I could go at. I was a bit worried about the transition from the descent to the climb but I just got into it and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. The hurt came later in the course!”

The junior men also packed extremely well to secure a surprise team bronze. At the top of the climb after one lap, which marked the half-way point, Brad Traviss was fourth, with Nathan Jones, Max Nicholls (Peter Brenchley) and Max Wharton (Brian Burgin) together in 13th, 14th and 15th. After moving into third place at the bottom of the second lap, Traviss eventually finished a very credible sixth, equalling the highest position ever by a GB & NI junior man at these championships. Nicholls climbed one place to 12th on his GB & NI debut, with Jones finishing 14th and Wharton 15th to give the team the bronze medal behind the Czech Republic and Italy.

On his sixth place finish, Traviss commented: “I’ve got to be pleased and I’m so happy for the team. At the Europeans [in July] I’d trained so hard and I was so ready but got a bacterial infection and it took it away from me. I came nowhere at the Europeans but I’m glad it’s happened at this one.”

The final race of the day was arguably the toughest due to the midday heat and the three lap, 13.56km course really tested the six-strong GB & NI senior men’s team. 2013’s breakthrough act Chris Smith had another strong run to finish 19th and lead the team to a seventh place finish. Andi Jones was second Brit home in 26th, with James McMullan 48th, Tom Adams (Anne Buckley) 51st and Nick Swinburn 63rd. Trials winner Rob Samuel (Andy Walling) unfortunately suffered with a hamstring problem, and he did well to finish in 70th position.

GB & NI team leader Sarah Rowell was upbeat when she spoke about the teams’ performances.

“We were always excited about the senior women’s prospects and they certainly delivered. However arguably more exciting is the potential we have seen from the British juniors, many of whom will remain in this age group for the next couple of years.”

Full results can be found at http://wmrc2013.pl/