Saturday, 26 September 2015

World Mountain Running Championships 2015

WOW! I think that I need to pinch myself to make sure that last weekend actually happened! What an incredible event this years World Mountain Running Championships was! I’m still on a high a week after the event and I’m sure that I will be for a very long time! After competing for Great Britain last year at the Championships in Italy, it was hard to imagine that a home championships in Wales would live up to the expectations in my head but Betws-y-Coed and Llandudno seriously delivered. The memories that myself and the rest of the athletes made during the weekend are sure to last a life time. I don’t think that I can use enough superlatives to explain how phenomenal the weekend was but I’ll try to give an account of it in the most calm manner that I can manage!

The British Team all set for the competition ahead

All the teams were located in various hotels in Llandudno in North Wales just half an hour bus drive to the race location in Betws-y-Coed.  The British team were located in The Dunoon Hotel which proved to have delicious food and great hospitality so was a great base for us all to prepare for the competition.  On the day before the competition after a steady run along the promenade and some drills we made our way to the Opening Ceremony at the Venue Cymru building to formally open the competition.  After welcoming all the different nations to the competition in Wales, it was Robbie Simpson's turn to carry the British flag into the ceremony to a huge cheer from the rest of the British team and British supporters.  This was a sign that the Championships on home ground were going to be well supported and that there would be an amazing atmosphere.  We all couldn't wait to get out there and compete for our country on British soil.  Wandering through the town after the opening ceremony lots of members of the public were asking what we were doing and we received lots of calls of ~Good Luck~.

Steady run selfie

It was nice to not have to wake up too early on the day of the competition.  Usually the junior women's race is early to try and avoid the hot weather abroad but being as the Championships were in Wales and the weather isn't that hot in September the Championship races started at 11:15am after the British and Irish Junior Home International earlier on the same course in Betws-y-Coed.  We arrived in Betws-y-Coed a good two hours before the first championships race was due to start leaving us plenty of time to relax and prepare mentally for the race.

Soon it was time to race and I was eager to get going. On the start line I felt calm and well prepared to do the very best that I could. I was confident that my training and race preparation had gone well and I was determined to prove that all the time that I had spent training on the course had been worth it.

On the start line eager to get going

I was surprised to find myself leading the race in the first stages along the road but remained calm and told myself not to panic and soon settled in within the leading group of girls. I could tell that the group of girls had begun to string out as we started to rise up the first steep track. The American girl Allie Ostrander (the pre-race favourite) led us all up the hill and powered ahead. I set myself in a good position before the course narrowed so that I would be able to work at my own pace through the more technical section. All the way up the climb the support from the home crowd was absolutely amazing and definitely spurred me on. At the top of the climb by the monument I was in fifth place and could see the third and fourth placed athletes. I knew that the downhill was going to be quick and that I perhaps had a chance to catch the athletes in front but I knew that it would be difficult. I ran the downhill faster than I had ever ran it before and before I knew it I was back in the village of Betws-y-Coed and running through the finishing funnel into the finish. I didn’t quite catch the athlete in front but finished absolutely delighted in 5th place. After collapsing onto the ground I managed to muster up the energy to look behind me towards the finishing straight and it was so good to see my team mate and friend Georgia Malir coming through strongly in eighth place. Scarlet Dale then came through in 21st place meaning that our strong team performance had earned us a team silver medal! After finally recovering from the race, posing for many photographs, doing some TV and Newspaper interviews and cooling down around the golf course with my team mates and two American girls, it was time to get back out on the course to support the rest of the British athletes on their bid for glory.

Post race feelings
The Junior Womens team

The junior men all ran extremely strongly to secure a team bronze medal on their two lap course and it was inspiring to see them all coming into the finish line having obviously given everything out there on the course. Soon it was the Senior Womens race so Georgia, Scarlet and I made our way up to near the top of the climb to cheer on the GB girls....and oh my when we saw the girls coming up the climb running so close to the front of the field, we all screamed so loud with encouragement willing them on! It was an anxious wait to see them come back down the hill to find that a Ugandan athlete had taken over the lead but Emma, Emmie and Sarah were all packing so well in second, third and fourth respectively with Vic following closely behind. It was sure to be a tough battle on the last lap between all the strong British ladies for the medals. Coming up the hill for the second time the Ugandan looked like she was tiring slightly and the GB girls were once again stacking behind. I had to keep checking my Twitter updates to get the information about who was first to the top and we raced back down the hill to cheer on the girls coming down the hill for the final time. The Ugandan was obviously going to win the race as she had built up a lead at the top of the climb and we then discovered that Emmie had broken away from Emma and had a marginal lead with Sarah just behind and Vic running strongly a bit further back. The girls all came flying down the hill so fast proving how fast the descent could be. I was amazed to find that the Ugandan athletes were just wearing racing flats! The British senior women team claimed the team gold medal to reinforce that they are the best mountain running team in the World at the moment! It was so inspiring to watch them in action and it’s going to prove difficult when I move from the junior to senior age groups to make this extremely strong team!

A great picture of Emma Clayton on the fast
descent (photo courtesy of Phil Gale)

And finally it was the last Championships race of the day. The senior men. The men had some pressure on their shoulders as every athlete in the GB team had earnt at least one medal so far and they would have been hoping to do the same. The British men all ran sensibly on the first lap as they had a long way to go (3 laps!) and on the second lap the Italian ahead was caught by a Ugandan athlete. Robbie Simpson was sitting in fourth place and working well with the rest of the British team packing tightly behind in the top 30 or 40 positions. Anxiously waiting as the Ugandan and the Italian athlete flew down the hill on the last lap and suddenly Robbie Simpson emerged through the trees in the bronze medal position. Every time a GB athlete emerged from around the bend the group of spectators near where I was stood erupted into cheers and shouts and it really was spine tingling to see all the men packing so well. Robbie Simpson became the first British athlete to win a senior men's individual medal at a World Mountain Running Championships. I rushed back down the hill to the finish to the news that every athlete on the British team had won a medal as the Senior men had achieved a well deserved team bronze. It felt so great to be part of such a successful British team on home soil. I cannot put into words how inspiring and uplifting the whole day was in Betws-y-Coed.

Post race with all the British boys

When we had all calmed down it was time for food and to head back to Llandudno to get ready for the medal and closing ceremonies followed by a party. The medal ceremonies were a great end to a successful day and I felt so happy to be standing on the podium with my British team mates for the first time at a major championships after not winning any medals in the previous two championships that I had been to. Third time lucky! All the hard work had paid off! And I felt especially happy for Georgia as this was her last race as a junior before she moves into the senior age groups and it was great for her to finish her junior career on a high.

Feeling very proud standing on the podium

Finally it was time for the after party and there was a really friendly atmosphere as all the athletes from all the different nations mixed and danced together. It was definitely the best after party that I have been to!

I can only say WOW! What an amazing time I have had building up to and participating at this years World Championships. Early last year when I saw the Worlds course for the first time on a Junior Development Camp I never dreamed that I would make the GB team to compete at a World Championships on home soil....but then last year when I was selected for the same Championships in Italy my dream started to come to life as I began to have hopes of making the team here in Wales!

I would just like to thank every one that has helped me along my journey from a young teenager competing for my school at the local cross country races to finishing this Summer season running for Great Britain at a home World Mountain Running Championships and finishing 5th in the World and a team silver medalist! It has been one amazing journey and I know that I am not at the end of the road yet as I have many more goals that I wish to achieve in the future and many more dreams that I haven’t even dreamt yet!

A big thank you to the inspiring British Athletics team that I have had the privilege of being part of. We always bring the best out of each other in these competitions and I’m sure I would have trouble finding such a friendly group of people to be part of else where. Also a massive thank you to the British Athletics team managers and staff that always support us in the best way possible.

A big thank you to Welsh Athletics for all the opportunities that they have given me so far to compete at an international level and gain experience to help me become a successful athlete in the future.

 A massive thank you to my sponsors Norman Walsh Footwear for the never ending supply that I am presented with and for allowing me to wear the best UK made fell shoe out there around the world at the different races that I have competed in. To The Metropole Hotel and the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, thank you for the financial support. It feels great that I have a local business and a British charity helping me along my athletic career!

Thank you so much to ever single person that took the time to come and support us GB athletes out there on the course in beautiful Betws-y-Coed. The atmosphere out there was electric and helped spur us all on to achieve our very best!

Thank you to all the coaches that have helped me to achieve my goals as an athlete so far...from the coaches at Brecon Athletic Club and a few teachers at school, to the coaches at Welsh Athletics and British Athletics.

And finally last but definitely not least a massive thank you to my family and friends that are around me in every day life helping to bring the best out of me. To my Dad who has many roles as a training partner, coach and taxi driver and my Mum who cooks the best athletes food out there as well as winning the prize for the biggest screechy shout during a race! And thank you to my brother Luke, who may be faster than me now but I always know that I can keep him on his toes during a training session! 

Lots of people have played their part in helping to make me the person and athlete that I am know who you are, it would be too many to name you all. So thank you to everyone!

Finally I would just like to say diolch yn fawr to the organisers of the World Mountain Running Championships this year....

What an event...What an atmosphere...What an experience!
I think I’ll just finish this blog post by just saying simply.....WOW!

The team silver medal

Until the next adventure,
Heidi x

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