Distance Running News, 24-29 November

Cheltenham Harrier Beth Hawling secured selection for the Great Britain under 23 team for the forthcoming European Cross Country Championships by placing fourth in the European trial race held at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. The U23 race was held within the women’s race over an 8.1km course consisting of one small and two large laps. Recent heavy rain meant conditions were always going to be testing, so sensibly the Cardiff University student settled into a comfortable pace during the early stages of the race and was placed around 35th overall and 10th within her age group as the first lap was completed. On the second circuit Hawling continued to move up the field and was just inside the top 30 as the crucial last lap began. Knowing that only the top four U23 athletes would gain automatic GB selection, with an additional two team places to be chosen by the selectors, the goal was simply to finish as high up the field as she could. The Matt Richards coached athlete increased her pace over the last lap and passed international 800m runner Jessica Judd (Chelmsford) with 1.5k to go to move up to 5th within the U23 race. Then a fantastic sprint finish saw Hawling overtake Jenny Nesbitt (Worcester) with only 150m of the race to go to claim the vital fourth qualifying position. Holding just a three second advantage over Nesbitt, the Cheltenham athlete crossed the line in a time of 28:44, 4th in the U23 race and 20th overall. Hawling will now make her Great Britain debut at the European Cross Country Championships in Toulon-Hyeres, France on Sunday 13th December. The other automatic qualifiers for the U23 team were Laura Muir (Dundee) who placed 5th in the 1500m at the 2015 World Championships, Madeline Murray (Bedford) and Rebecca Murray (Edinburgh), with the two other places being chosen at Monday’s selection meeting. In the men’s race Graham Rush finished in thirtieth place whilst fellow Cheltenham athlete Richard de-Camps was pleased with 131st place.

Darren Jordan made a welcome return to race action to finish as second veteran home at the Aztec West 5k road race in Bristol with a time of 16:35 that saw him cross the line in ninth place. The battle to finish as second Harrier home was a close affair with Marcus England, Mark James and Andy Prophett locked together for the first 4.5km before track specialist James moved clear to claim thirteen position in 16:50. Prophett followed one place and three seconds later to finish at third veteran, with England taking seventeenth place in a new personal best of 16:56. There were also season’s best times for Gareth Edwards and Dan Minors as they stopped the clock at 17:50 and 18:22 respectively.

Mia O’Connell enjoyed a victory and a course record on her first race of the winter at the Suzhou 10k road race in China. The Birmingham University languages student, who is currently studying Chinese at the Fudan University in Shanghai, is better known as a middle distance specialist and had never raced further than 6km before. O’Connell raced well to place fourth overall and was the first lady home in a time of 38:20. Closer to home Andy Prophett finished fourteenth in 35:49 at a windy Eynsham 10k where Sue Townsend recorded a time of 45:15. At the Cheltenham parkrun brothers Alex and James Chantler-Mayne finished first and second with Alex taking the win in 17:26 ahead of younger brother James who recorded 17:38. Gavin McCaugherty made it three Harriers in the top three with 17:59 for third place before Dan Minors came home in eleventh place in 19:01. Mark James finished third at the Kingsway parkrun in Gloucester in 18:19, a position matched by James Wilkinson who recorded 19:37 at the Tewkesbury parkrun.