Picture the scene; a magnificent backdrop of the French Pyrenees, low-lying mist from which runners emerge into bright sunshine. This was the memorable picture from the 6th European Mountain Running Championships held at Cauterets on the 8th July 2007.
Although the GB team encountered some problems along the way including heightened security in airports, predicted storms and race times being pushed back and forward, they came out in fine form with 14 athletes finishing their course, creating fantastic overall team results.
The Womens Under 20's won the Gold collectively in a superb team effort. Blue Haywood (Lincoln) started the race in the lead, in the U20 Womens, but started to wane at the 2nd kilometre as Lucija Krkoc (Slovenia), the eventual winner, took 1st place and remained there. Hannah Bateson (Lancaster & Morecambe) finished in 3rd place showing maturity and excellence pace judgment to steadily pull through the field on her GB debut. Heather Timmins (Warrington) unfortunately felt the effects of exhaustion and was unable to finish the race.
The men's Under 20's finished in 5th out of 26 countries running great individual races. As expected Turkey showed excellent quality and dominated the individual podium placings. The victory gold went to Mehmet Akkoyun closely followed by his team mates. Johnathan Hare (Halifax) ran strongly to 8th place on his GB debut while Nick Addison did well to take 15th position having stopped with cramp at one stage. Nick Swinburn and Kicki Cornock were below par but managed to finsih in 24th and 25th respectively.
In the senior races both the mens and womens teams finished in the top ten.
The GB mens team finished in 6th position having lost out on individual race places to Turkey as they continued to impress with a new champion in the form of 21 year old Ahmet Arslan. The spectators at 8000 feet were treated to a 'battle royale' in a close race over the final 4 km.
Such was the competition it had the crowd echoing passionate support as the previous two European champions of Marco De Gasperi (4 times world champion) and Marco Gaiardo pitted their prowess against the youthful Turk. In the final run in it was the Turk who was strongest 11 seconds ahead of Italian De Gasperi. De Gasperi had the consolation of leading the Italians to another title.
Andi Jones (Salford) struck out with determined intent to be leading a large chasing group in 3rd place at 4km of the 12 km course. Coming through the clouds at around 6km into warmer conditions at 2000m altitude, conditions started to tell as Andi dropped off to 13th position. A strong finish saw Andi take 11th place leading the team to 6th place. Joe Symonds (Kendal) on his debut took 26th place with both James Walsh (Leeds) (29th) and Andrew Hunt (Cardiff) (34th) close behind.
8th place for the womens team reflected their good effort and rankings in the individual races. A strong field that included some amazing performances, not least of all, from the defending champion, Anna Pichrtova. Anna who still shows the physical signs of an horrific accident in Nigeria in November 2006. Anna, complete with pins and plates, took the silver medal behind Norwegian Anita Haakenstad-Eversten.
Switzerland took the team honours. For Great Britain, Anne Buckley (Bingley) and Victoria Wilkinson (Bingley) ran closely for much of the race with Anne proving the stronger in the final stages. Olivia Walwyn (Altrincham)and Rebecca Robinson (Kendal) on their GB debuts completed the quartet with 33rd and 41st positions respectively.