19 May 2014
On an atypically hot day in Blackburn, the 2014 British Athletics Mountain Running Challenge got underway in the form of the CAU Inter Counties Fell Running Championships, which saw a mixture of newcomers and old faces get their 2014 campaigns off to the perfect start.
The senior winners showed the nationwide depth that is starting to develop at the front end of mountain running races, with Cumbria’s Sarah Tunstall and Middlesex’s Shaun Dixon (coach: Ben Noad) taking their respective individual titles, with Middlesex and Yorkshire taking the men’s and women’s team titles.
In the men’s race Lachlan Oates (John Montgomery) of Scotland West and Chris Smith of Middlesex were to the fore early on, and by the end of the first lap they’d built up a lead of around 50 metres on Dixon and eventual runner-up Tom Addison of Yorkshire. But by the second lap Smith was out front on his own, with Oates falling back, and the chase duo slowly started to reel Smith in.
However it was on the third and final lap that the tables were turned, as one Middlesex man replaced another at the front of the race, with Smith unable to live with Dixon and the pursuing Addison on the final climb. It was the final the descent that proved decisive though, with Dixon opening up some daylight on Addison to take victory in his first ever hill race.
After the race the newcomer commented:
“I was told it was a good one to start with as I haven’t done anything like this before, and I definitely found the hill pretty challenging on the third lap. I was struggling up it that final time!
“I was in the B race at the Highgate Night of the 10,000m PB’s last Saturday [which incorporated the British 10,000m Championships] and I ran quite well in that one, just sitting in and clocking 30.16, with the race won in 30.09. So I just tried to do the same again and not go off too fast given I didn’t know what the race would be like and then try and go past them on the last lap.
"But it wasn’t until the descent coming back off the hill that I properly managed to get a gap on Tom, as he was always with me, just a couple of steps behind. Coming down that final hill, I think the track speed really helped.”
In the women’s race, it was the familiar name of Sarah Tunstall who made light work of the Billinge Woods course, providing evidence that she is returning to the kind of form that saw her clinch European Championship silver back in 2008. The years in-between have seen multiple injuries disrupt the Stockport based athletes progression, but the former European U23 Cross Country Championships silver medallist is showing good form as the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships in Conwy, Wales, draw ever closer.
Tunstall led from the off without ever a sign that she would faulter, beating Katie Walshaw (Katherine Farquhar) of the winning Yorkshire team by a full minute. In third was 2013 World Mountain Running Championship silver medallist Emma Clayton (Andrew Henderson) who ran a very conservative race and was buoyed by her performance after just seven weeks of running since November due to a foot injury.
In the junior races there were victories for Max Wharton (Mark Goldie) and Lauren McNeil, which for the youths in the race incorporated the England trials for the International Youth Cup in Italy next month.
Full results can be found here: http://www.thepowerof10.info/results/results.aspx?meetingid=105999
The next race in the 2014 British Athletics Mountain Running Challenge is the European Mountain Running Trial in Keswick on Saturday 14 June. For more information head to the Mountain Running Page.