Friday, 14 July 2017

EUROPEAN MOUNTAIN RUNNING CHAMPIONSHIPS 2017

Hey everyone, 

As some of you may well know... I recently returned back to the UK after competing at the European Mountain Running Championships. This year the Championships were held in beautiful Slovenia and it was an honour to once again pull on my British vest at these championships alongside my inspiring team mates.

The British Team at the European Mountain Running Championships

I'll keep this blog post short and sweet (I hear you breathe a sigh of relief) but expect to hear from me again after the World Champs in a few weeks time!

So who formed the British team for these champs? 

Senior Men (bit of a Chris theme going on here!) :
Chris Arthur
Andrew Douglas
Chris Farrell
Chris Smith

Senior Women:
Rebecca Hilland
Sarah Tunstall
Katie Walshaw
Victoria Wilkinson

Junior Men:
Josh Boyle
Joseph Dugdale
Elliott Matier
Chris Richards 

Junior Women: 
Scarlet Dale
Heidi Davies
Anna Macfadyen
Helen Thornhill 

Team Management:
Mark Croasdale
Helen Macvicker
Jackie Newton
Meinir Jones
Graeme Everard   

Leaving British soil early on Wednesday morning, we soon touched down in Ljubljana, Slovenia after a short and easy flight. 

Just about to board our flight


The usual pre-race preparation began, including... the last few days of easy running, walking and checking out the course which included some rides on a cable car through the stunning Slovenian scenery. Fueling up for the big day, relaxing and passing the time with team mates, the opening ceremony of the competition... etc, etc.

squad run
 
Going up to the top of the course in the cable car



Course walking

The cable car route in the mountains

Getting ready to go up on the ski lift


 
With our tour guide; Aja


The flags at the opening ceremony

 
Team GB at the opening ceremony


The athletes parade. Josh Boyle was flag bearer

It came as a big surprise to be asked by the British Team Management to be the team captain for the competition. Over the last three or four years as a junior on the British mountain running team; I've seen the likes of Robbie Simpson, Sarah Tunstall, Andrew Douglas, Vic Wilkinson and many other inspiring people carry out this huge honour. I never ever dreamed that I'd be asked to lead the British team into battle (so to speak) with a motivational speech at the team meeting the night before the race.

Hotel base at Terme Snovik

Looking back over the years; I've always remembered the captains speech as the moment where reality really sets in and it becomes real that you're going to be pulling on your country's vest the next day and competing against the top mountain runners in Europe and in the World. I wanted to get our team excited and raring to go for the big day ahead and ready to win some medals on the European stage. It's probably fair to say, I was more nervous for this speech than for the actual race the next day!

"Firstly, well done to you all for running so well at the trials and earning your place here to represent the GB Mountain Running Team. Once again it's good to see old and new faces, and to welcome new people into this strong close-knit family. It's been an honour to grow beside you all over the years and to share these experiences together. Let's go and create more amazing memories tomorrow on that mountain.
When you're stood there tomorrow on that start line, probably full of nerves; look down at your vest and feel proud to have the honour of representing your county - it's something some people can only dream about so make the most of the experience. But... like Sarah said last year; "don't enjoy the race" because if you're enjoying it, you're not running hard enough!
In the race, trust the process, grind it out, one foot in front of the other. Live for that big moment and do your best. Remember every place counts.
Let's go out there and show everyone that as a team we can bounce back from Bulgaria last year, and we are a force to be reckoned with. The best mountain runners in Europe and in the World. Let's go and win some medals!"

Race day had arrived and it was time to face the brutal climb of Velika Planina. Everyone set off at different times on different buses to get to their different race starts but we would soon all meet again at the mountain plateau at 5500ft where we would know who had become victorious. 
 

Here's the link to the results. 

For me it was a fairly good day at the office; finishing in 9th place on my weaker discipline of uphill only.  I'm so proud of my junior women team mates for "stacking like pringles" with Scarlet Dale in 6th, Anna Macfayden in 7th and Helen Thornhill also having a brilliant GB debut in 20th place. The fact that there were only 5 seconds between us top 3 GB junior women meant we had done enough to secure and retain our team gold medal from last year in Arco!

Junior Women at the finish

Grinding it out with team mate, Scarlet Dale

GB juniors awaiting the arrival of the senior men

The star of the British show on the day had to be Sarah Tunstall who had a storming run to finish second overall in the senior women's race.  Cheering her on over the last brutal 200m of the race actually gave me goosebumps and it was absolutely brilliant to witness. The fact that the British Senior Women also retained their team gold from last year added the icing on the cake and made sure it will be a day to remember. 

An inspiring performance from Sarah Tunstall

Check out this clip by European Athletics to get a visual feel of the event. 

Junior women with our team medals and trophy

Up on the podium


So now; I'm back at home with just under two weeks to go until I fly out to Italy with my British team mates once again for the World Mountain Running Championships. Well done to everyone who competed at the Europeans and especially the British team for running strongly on our traditionally weaker format of uphill only. We should now all be relishing the challenge of the up and down World Championships in a few weeks time!

I know I've said it before, but the people you meet and the friendships you build are what make mountain running so special. I love the community surrounding this beautiful sport and many new friendships were made in Slovenia.






As always, thank you to everyone who made the trip to the Europeans so memorable, the team management for looking after us and the hosts in Slovenia for putting on such a wonderful event! (Especially the after party #crazymusiccrazypeople) Thank you to the people and support network around me including inov-8, SportsAid, The Metropole Hotel, RWG Mobile, Welsh Athletics and also British Athletics for these opportunities. I'll always be immensely grateful.

I know I'm feeling very inspired and very motivated after the Europeans to make my fourth (and final!) World Championships as a junior mountain runner one to remember! Let's go and do it all again in two weeks!   


Until next time, 
Heidi x 

PS: If you're curious and want to know more about what happened and what we got up to at the European Champs... watch Elliott Matier's video of the whole experience below!

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