24th October 2018


The second British Athletics Cross Challenge race of the season is fast approaching, with Milton Keynes’ Teardrop Lakes playing host to the meet on Saturday, 10 November.

Defending senior women’s champion Gemma Steel (coach: Liz Nuttall; club: Charnwood) will begin her title defence in Buckinghamshire, bidding for her first win on the Cross Challenge circuit since November 2016, winning in Liverpool.

After a strong showing at the Commonwealth Half Marathon, this week brought with it the challenge of defending her Great South Run in Portsmouth, her final road race before diving into the Cross Country season.


“Since my last update, I had a two-week training phase into the Great South run which meant four days of steady running after the Commonwealth Half Marathon. After a tenth-place finish and a hard push into the last two miles my body was feeling a bit battered and bruised.

“The sprint into the last 200m was a shock to the system since I don’t do any specific sprint training. My glutes, hamstrings and shoulders in particular were aching a lot more than usual. Thankfully, a sports massage followed on Tuesday and physio on Thursday to help get my muscles back into working order.

“It’s taking me longer to recover these days, whereas in the past I would have been good to go in two days, I now need to be more sensible as I get older.

“Monday was just two steady seven-minute mile paced runs and the same Tuesday. Wednesday it quickened before easing into a hill session on Thursday, which was only four four-minute reps instead of the usual six. A bit more sensible since I had a session on Saturday as well to look forward to.

“On the menu were five 2km reps with 90 seconds recovery in-between. This isn’t a session I do very often, so it was interesting to see what times I’d go through the mile in.

“Starting off in good stead, I went through the first mile in a reasonable 5:17. The aim is to do reps 10-15 seconds quicker than your current race pace in order to improve. This ticked the box nicely without overdoing it (since my current 10km race pace is about 5:30 a mile) and another good sign was keeping the times consistent in difficult conditions.

“A 12 mile long-run followed on Sunday at a steady pace, which saw me nicely onto another double training day on Monday, followed by hill reps on Tuesday (10 x 2 mins), before heading into my taper of five miles on Wednesday and Thursday and travelling down to Portsmouth for the press conference on Friday morning.

“As last year’s winner I felt no pressure as I had already achieved my ambition by winning but it would have been a bonus to win again, especially coming back of illness and not being in peak condition.

“I was in contention with Steph Twell and Eilish McColgan up until 10k and I still thought I had a good chance of defending. The pace was steady at 5:37 first mile and consistent at around 5:30.

“We went through 10km in about 34 minutes, which was when I started to feel the pace lift. I tried not to panic but Steph threw in a 5:12 mile to break away early. Eilish went with her but I just didn’t have the turn of speed to go with them.

“It was a tough run from there as my pace slowed in the last three miles. Evidently my energy levels had plummeted suddenly for some reason and I fought to hold onto 3rd place in a slower time than last year of 56:56, despite perfect conditions.

“I don’t want to read into it as I am still getting back and recovering from the Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff and I’ve had three testing races in four weeks. I’m taking the positives from it like being the English champion, which was a nice bonus, and it’s a nice race to sign off into the Cross Challenge season as Milton Keynes gets even closer.”