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British mountain running in rude health

by Editor
Monday 20th June 2011

Race report: 8th WMRA Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge - Slovenia, June 18, 2011. By Matt Ward

British mountain running is apparently in rude health if the results of today’s WMRA World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge in Slovenia are anything to go by, with England’s Pippa Maddams taking a superb gold in the women’s race.

The race set off at 8am local time in dry and overcast conditions, with the temperature rising all of the time as the day unfolded.

There was joy for the Home Nations in the men’s event, as although one of the pre-race favourites Mitja Kosovelj scorched to a four and a half minute win, the performance of the Scottish mens’ team behind the Slovenian was nothing short of superb.

Tom Owens is possibly the UK’s man-of the-year to date, after wins at the Carnethy 5, British Championships rd 1, the 3 Peaks race and a superb second behind Kilian Jornet at last month’s Zegama race , and he once again showed his class as he took an excellent silver medal.

There was to be no catching Sloveniain Kosovelj though as he led Owens by over 90 seconds at the Hudajužna check point and extended it right to the end of this grueling race.

Backing Owens up in 3rd and 4th positions were teenage sensation Robbie Simpson (yes this guy is still only 19) and Jethro Lennox, meaning that the Scots romped to team gold, some 28 mins ahead of Slovenia. England’s men took a solid bronze in the team race with very strong runs from Oli Johnson (7th), Graham Pearce (8th) and Ambleside’s Ben Abdelnoor in 12th. Slovenia took the silver.

Photo: The England team; front row left to right Pippa Maddams, Anna Lupton and Helen Fienes. Back row left to right Ben Abdelnoor, Graham Pearce, Ollie Johnson and Ricky Lightfoot. Eventual winner Mitja Kosovelj hits the front of the pack from the start

Another notable home nation performance came from Wales’ Andy Davies. After sitting in 29th place at halfway the Mercia runner finished a brilliant 8th, blasting the second half of the race to finish just 14 seconds behind Englishman Johnson. He led Wales to 6th place in the team race, backed up by Richard Roberts in 25th and Iain Ridgway (34th) – a notable performance from the 12 teams competing.

Unlike the women’s race, which had a relatively stable state of play in terms of positioning throughout the 37.5km course, there were some tales of big blow-ups by men who went out very fast, and paid for it in the final stages. One such runner was US athlete Zac Freudenberg, as he was right with the leaders through the Hudajužna check point (just over half way) only to finish a painful 29th as he arrived at the finish.

All smiles from the successfull Scottish men's team and the English women's team © Pete Hartley

Photo: All smiles from the successfull Scottish men's team and the English women's team © Pete Hartley

Full mens individual results are here, with the team results here

In the women’s race it was a tale of strong mountain running and consistent splits, as 2009 and 2010 British Fell Running Champion Pippa Maddams took what must be the biggest win of her career to date. After racing relatively lightly to date in 2011, we knew the Keswick athlete was in good form after her impressive win at Staveley a couple of weeks ago.

After an early tumble, it was to all intents and purposes a gun-to-tape win for the Englishwomen, ahead of two superb performances from Ireland’s Karen Alexander and England’s Helen Fines. Both athletes running steadily throughout, picking off the inevitable fast starters, to move into silver and bronze positions in the second half of the race – with Fines only taking over in third in the last 30 minutes of the 4 hour plus race.

Maddams and Fines were backed up with an excellent 8th from Anna Lupton to win the women’s team race by a street, over half an hour ahead of the Russian team, with Scotland’s girls in the shape of Fiona Maxwell (10th), Andrea Priestly (11th) and Claire Gordon (17th) taking the bronze.

Maddams was obviously very happy after her win stating:

“I’m really surprised as I didn’t expect to do so well, and I am really happy. I fell over quite near the start of the race, it was nothing serious, but yeah I felt good most of the way round actually.

Really love Slovenia, never been here before, but I’ll be coming back again – the hills are much bigger than in the UK!"

A special mention should also go to Wales’ Andrea Rowlands who finish a fantastic 5th. The longer races really seem to be suiting the Eryri Harrier and after a her recent win at the Welsh 1000m, 2011 is turning out to be Rowlands’ best ever season. She led the Welsh team of herself, Sarah Ridgway (12th) and Anna Bartlett (28th) to 6th in the team race.

Women’s overall results are here with team results here

There are some  images on the GM40 website here


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