As a lifelong Leeds fan I’m used to dealing with disappointment on a Saturday afternoon, if anything it’s something I’ve come to expect. Today it was the Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday, a fixture I usually relish. This year however my mind was on something else…my third appearance in an England vest at the home international in Betws-y-coed, North Wales. Perhaps this was a Saturday fixture that might finally end in celebration?
It doesn’t matter how many times you get call up to represent your country, each time is as special as the last and it’s always an extremely proud moment in anyone’s sporting career.
Pictured above: The Snowdon International Mountain Race, competing for England
Following my third place finish at Snowdon a few weeks ago confidence has been high and training has been going well. I’ve felt in great shape and done lots of climbing to prepare myself for the big event. I’m no running expert and I don’t have a coach…to be honest I even had to Google the word ‘fartlek’ a few years ago to find out what it meant. However, despite a distinct lack of coaching knowledge I do know what works for me and I am extremely hard working when it comes to training.
Pictured above: Hill rep training on the ‘infamous’ Scammonden Steps
The past 12 months have undoubtedly been the finest in my 10 year career as an athlete. For once I’ve trained and raced consistently well and relatively injury free, using Strava as a motivational tool and to track my progress and mileage. Working to a rough plan of 50 miles a week minimum, around 10 hours a week on average and climbing around 1000ft per hour. This basic formula has kept me fit, strong and helped me enjoy a season full of success.
I’m not going to lie, when I saw the line up for the Home International (which was also the 3rd counter in the UK Mountain Running Championship AND the World GB Trial) I honestly thought I was aiming for a top 15 at best. The field was seriously stacked with the very best mountain runners in GB, Ricky Lightfoot the only noticeable absentee. It’s the strongest field I’ve ever raced against in my 10 years of competing. However, if anything I do thrive on the competition and I was well up for this one. I suppose the only thing I wasn’t happy about was the course- seriously fast, runnable and not technical at all, which really suited the speed merchants.
Pictured above: The start of the Home International senior men’s race, Betws-y-coed
On a wet and miserable day in North Wales I set off and tucked in behind the lead group and just planned to hang in for the 3 laps knowing I would need a top 6 if I was to qualify for the World’s. The positions changed after every lap, all except 6th which I was never prepared to give up. The 3rd and final lap nearly broke me, I’ve never destroyed myself as much to protect a position in a race. With England International Chris Steele breathing down my neck on the final descent I threw myself down the track and gave it everything I had left to hang on for 6th. I don’t even think Lewis Hamilton would have beaten me on that last turn into the finish!
It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, it was just pure Yorkshire grit.
I was absolutely ruined at the end, I couldn’t speak for about 5 minutes and I felt like I’d just done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. I was in a bad way after Snowdon but this was on another level. It’s taken me about 6 days to recover and finally muster enough energy to write this blog.
Pictured above: The finish of the Snowdon International
I didn’t think it was possible to eclipse my Snowdon result from a few weeks ago but earning selection for the Great Britain team is just the ultimate achievement for me. I’m still pinching myself to see if it’s all but a dream. I’ve made a select team of 6 alongside pro athlete Robbie Simpson (who finished 14 seconds behind Kilian Jornet the other week), Andrew Douglas, England’s Chris Smith and my fellow Yorkshire teammates Tom Addison and Tom Adams. I have to mention how pleased I am that both Tom’s have also made the team. We started the season together in the Yorkshire team, winning gold at the inter-counties and now we’ll end the year in style running for GB in the WMRC. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
I didn’t even bother checking the Leeds score.