The 2nd Commonwealth Mountain and Ultradistance Running Championships were held from 23-25 September in north Wales. The championships comprised of three events: the 24 Hour ultra run, an Up- and Down- Mountain race and a 53km Trail run.
Hawker clocks World Best - 24 hour, Llandudno (23-24)
It’s official – Lizzy Hawker (England) smashed the World best 24 hour performance by a woman on the road by 3.423 km at the Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships. By the end they were calling her ‘Superwoman’ and who could disagree after Hawker kicked-off the championships in north Wales with a World best on the road.
Llandudno has seen many things in its time, but the crowds watched in amazement as the diminutive English athlete smashed the 18-year-old mark by a full three kilometres as she ended 24 hours of pain and glory on Gloddaith Avenue by covering 246.4080 km – just over 153 miles.
The previous mark of 243.657 km was set in 1993 by Germany’s Sigrid Lomsky.
Not only that, she was making her debut in the endurance event and came home ahead of all the men. It was still a proud day for Wales’ John Pares, who picked up the Commonwealth men’s race gold medal, but he ended three kilometres short of Hawker.
“It was an honour to have been in the same race as Lizzy. “She is a world class athlete – Superwoman!" said Pares, who also covered more than 150 miles with his 243.3 km.
“I stopped for a massage at midnight and she went past me. Then I had to decide whether or not to try to beat her and blow my chances of the gold medal, and just concentrate on my own race.”
“In the end, I just focused on winning the title for Wales. I’ve twice run further than her in this event, but she was simply fantastic over the two days.”
The 35-year-old Hawker, who won the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc race over 110 miles only four weeks ago, admits to having first fallen in love with the mountains and running when she first saw the Matterhorn at the age of six.
Since then she has become one of the most feared ultra runners in the world and she broke the long standing British and Commonwealth 100 mile record on her way to victory.
Helped along with a diet of banana bread, a combination of jam and cheese sandwiches and melon, she never faltered after taking the lead and held a two-lap lead over Pares by the end.
“I really didn’t know what to expect because it was my first race over the distance on the road,” said Hawker, who used to work as a scientist at the South Pole with the British Antarctic Expedition.
“I didn’t have any huge expectations going into the race. It was just a case of staying fully focused and blocking out the pain.”
“It did hurt – a lot – but I’m really pleased to have won and taken the world best. It was also great to demonstrate just what women athletes can achieve by beating all the men.”
And after her record breaking success near the seafront in Llandudno, next on her race agenda is an event in the foothills of the Himalayas. What else?
Hawker also added a team gold to her individual medal and England also took the men’s team title. Pares led Wales to team silver.
Commonwealth 24 Hour Road Race Championship – Overall Standings
1. Lizzy Hawker (England) 240 laps / 247.076 km * World Best Female
2. John Pares (Wales) 237 laps / 244.335 km
3. David Kennedy (Australia) 230 laps / 236.929 km
4. Pat Robbins (England) 225 laps / 231.164 km
5. Bryan McCorkindale (New Zealand) 216 laps / 222.374 km
6. Wayne Botha (New Zealand) 216 laps / 222.295 km
7. Chris Carver (England) 214 laps / 220.719 km
8. Emily Gelder (Wales) 214 laps / 220.480 km
9. Ant Courtney (Australia) 214 laps / 219.868 km
10. Meredith Quinlan (Australia) 211 laps / 217.631 km
11. Alex McKenzie (New Zealand) 211 laps / 216.955 km
12. Richad Quennell (England) 210 laps / 216.452 km
13. Sean McCormack (Wales) 206 laps / 211.941 km
14. Deb Martin-Corsani (Scotland) 202 laps / 208.057 km
15. Jeremy Mower (Wales) 202 laps / 207.968 km
16. Marie Doke (England) 201 laps / 206.409 km
17. Wayne Gaudet (Canada) 200 laps / 206.230 km
18. John Pearson (Australia) 199 laps / 204.328 km
19. Susannah Harvey-Jamieson (Australia) 199 laps / 204.373 km
20. Sharon Law (Scotland) 198 laps / 204.017 km
1. John Pares (Wales) 237 laps / 244.335 km
2. David Kennedy (Australia) 230 laps / 236.929 km
3. Pat Robbins (England) 225 laps / 231.164 km
Men’s Team Race
1. England 668.335 km (Pat Robbins, Chris Carver, Richard Quennell)
2. Wales 664.244 km (John Pares, Sean McCormack, Jeremy Mower)
3. New Zealand 661.624 km (Bryan MacCorkindale, Alex McKenzie)
4. Australia 661.125 km (David Kennedy, Anth Courtney, John Pearson)
5. Canada 595.093 km (Wayne Gaudet, Bruce Barteaux, Dave Carver)
6. Scotland 490.296 km (Steve Mason, Bill Sichel, Richard Cunningham)
1. Lizzy Hawker (England) 240 laps / 247.076 km * World Women’s Best
2. Emily Gelder (Wales) 214 laps / 220.480 km
3. Meredith Quinlan (Australia) 211 laps / 217.631 km
Women’s Team Race
1. England 643.016 km (Lizzy Hawker, Marie Doke, Karen Hathaway)
2. Australia 619.190 km (Meredith Quinlan, Susannah Harvey-Jamieson, Sharon Scholtz)
3. Scotland 605.791 km (Deb Martin-Consani, Sharon Law, Pauline Walker)
4. Canada 448.369 km (Sue Armstrong, Bernadette Benson, Charlotte Vasarhelyl)
--- --- --- ---
McMullan and Adams make it a golden day for England - Mountain Race, Llanberis (24)
After Hawker had set the medal ball rolling the action moved 30 miles along the north Wales coast to Llanberis, and England's Lizzie Adams started the clean sweep for England with her victory in the 8 km race.
Conditions for the race saw rain and mist veil Moel Eilio, in the shadow of Snowdon, but after a superb fifth place run at the recent World Mountain Championships in Albania earlier this month Adams started favourite.
Women’s Race -
After a furious start on the initial road section as the female runners approached the mountain, Olivia Walwyn-Bush led English team mates Sarah Tunstall and Adams. Mary Wilkinson was tucked in behind, with Victoria Wilkinson in fifth.
But as the race turned onto the steep part of the course Brindley started to scythe her way through the front group, so much so that she led the race as they started the descent off the mountain and head back down to Llanberis. However, 25-year-old Hallamshire runner Adams was not to be denied as she passed and then held off Scotland’s Tracey Brindley to win by a clear 19 seconds.
“This is the first major title I’ve won and it was nice to win it here. I lived in Llandrindod Wells when I was younger and I’ve been to the Snowdon area before,” said an exuberant Adams.
“It was pretty tough, but very enjoyable. The weather made it wet and that made it tricky at the start. England have got a really strong team and it was great to add gold to the bronze we won in Albania. Now I will concentrate on the cross-country season and hopefully make it to the European Mountain Championships next year.”
The next four places were occupied by English athletes – Mary Wilkinson, Olivia Walwyn-Bush, Victoria Wilkinson and Sarah Tunstall – with Scotland’s Catriona Buchanan taking seventh. That enabled the English team to add gold to the bronze they won in the World Championships, with the Scots taking silver. Jackie Lee ran a strong race in ninth for Wales and was backed up by Anna Barlett in 11th place, meaning that Emma Bayliss’ ensured the bronze for Wales.
Men’s Race -
James McMullan was obviously inspired by Adams and Hawker’s success as he battled from fourth to first to hold off the strong Scottish challenge offered by young Scot, and former Snowdon Race winner Robbie Simpson.
The early leader had been Joe Symonds, fresh from his second place finish at the recent Trans Alps, with Jethro Lennox. McMullan was tucked in behind in third place at the point that they started the hard grind up to the Trwyn on Moel Eilio. Coming through after a steady start was Robbie Simpson, and with his superb technical skills he was going to be a threat in the second half of the race.
As they started the descent after the second loop McMullan pushed on and after a strong 22nd place at the World Championships recently, the Englishman’s form and basic speed told as he entered the finish area with a clear 17-second margin.
Simpson took an excellent silver medal with Symonds in third. That meant both countries were tied on 16 points for the team title, but McMullen’s first place meant England retained their Commonwealth title on count back. First Welsh runner was Rob Samuel. The Eryri Harrier had a storming run in fifth place, ahead of team mate Andres Jones. With Richard Phillips in 10th this meant that the home nation scored bronze in both team championships.
Men’s top 10:
1. James McMullen (England) 50:03
2. Robbie Simpson (Scotland) 50:20
3. Joe Symonds (Scotland) 50:31
4. Francis Khanje (Malawi) 51:54
5. Rob Samuel (Wales) 51:56
6. Andres Jones (Wales) 52:02
7. Tom Cornthwaite (England) 52:25
8. Chris Smith (England) 52:30
9. Billy Burns (England) 52:44
10. Richard Phillips (Wales) 53:06
1. England 16 pts (win on countback)
2. Scotland 16
3. Wales 21
Women’s Top 10:
1. Lizzie Adams (England) 43:37
2. Tracey Brindley (Scotland) 43:56
3. Mary Wilkinson (England) 44:15
4. Olivia Walwyn-Bush (England) 44:41
5. Victoria Wilkinson (England) 45:15
6. Sarah Tunstall (England) 45:17
7. Catriona Buchanan (Scotland) 45:36
8. Vivian Kiplagat (Kenya 45:44
9. Jackie Lee (Wales) 47:34
10. Claire Ward (Scotland) 47:52
1. England 8 pts
2. Scotland 19
3. Wales 35
--- --- ---
Welsh copper strikes Gold! - Trail Race, Newborough Forest, Anglesey (25)
It’s just as well that Richie Gardiner didn’t give up on his dream to represent Wales at a major championship because after four near misses he helped himself to two gold medals on his Commonwealth debut.
Gardiner led the Welsh team to an historic 1-2-3 podium finish, and team gold, in the final event of the three day championships.
Having seen John Pares win the men’s title in the 24 hour race in Llandudno on Saturday, the 38-year-old Gardiner bided his time before powering through the field to pick off the early leaders and win the 53km Trail title in the spectacular Newborough Forest on Anglesey.
A Welsh champion at every distance from 10K on the track up to the Marathon, he led team mates Andrew Davies and Nat Lane into the medals as they each picked off England’s Hugh Lobb in the final lap as he fell to pieces over the sandy beaches on the course.
The Aberdare police sergeant almost quit the sport that has been at the centre of his life for the past 30 years after failing by two seconds to qualify for the Welsh team that went to Delhi for last year’s Commonwealth Games.
But while he switched back to his former club Aberdare AC from Cardiff, he never carried out his threat to throw his running shoes away and bring to an end a career that began as an eight-year-old in his home town.
“Having got so close, so often to making a major championship I thought about quitting. It had always been my dream to represent Wales on a major stage and when I failed by two seconds to make the Marathon standard last year it was the last straw,” admitted Gardiner.
“But I decided to look for a new challenge and ended up making the Welsh team for these Commonwealth Championships. I knew that at my age I had to make it count having been picked and I am absolutely elated at having brought home the gold medal.”
“It was so late in the day I took the lead. It was a slow burner of a race for me as I settled in over the first two of the 10K laps and then started to work my way through the field.”
Kenya’s Geoffrey Tum set off at an incredible pace and although Zambian Linos Chitalia followed him everyone else held back. The two Africans were seven minutes clear of Gardiner in fifth after two laps, but when both came to a grinding halt on lap four the Welshman, who had worked his way past South Africa’s Amon Mismango, suddenly found himself in second place.
Now the target was England Marathon runner and runner-up of the recent Davos Mountain Marathon, Huw Lobb, who held a 4:15 lead over his Welsh rival after three laps. That was when Tum limped out of the equation and Gardiner began to eat into Lobb’s lead.
He took more than two minutes out of him on lap four and went into the last lap two and a half minutes down. By the end he had turned that deficit into a 4:39 winning advantage over fellow Welshman Davies as he struck gold in 3:29:54.
“You have to respect the distance, 33 miles, and the different terrains on which you are running, and I knew that if the Africans had gone off as quickly as they did they might suffer for it,” said Gardiner.
“All of a sudden they were struggling and initially I thought I could aim for bronze. Then I got into the silver place and I thought that that was going to be. I know just how good and experienced a Marathon runner Huw is, but I started to get some times from the side and then I could see him in the distance. That’s when I knew he was in trouble and I realised I could catch him and move into the gold medal position.”
“Now that’s when the nightmares start. You take the lead with three miles to go and begin to wonder if you can hold onto it. I kept telling myself to relax, relax and I was able to keep it all together. It was a fantastic feeling coming up to the finish and winning and this is one of those races that justifies all the hard work that I’ve put in over my career.”
The icing on the cake was the second placed finish from Davies and Lane’s battling run for third. That gave Wales the team title and a second gold of the day on his major championship debut for Gardiner.
Davies was also a strong finisher, running in 13th place after the first lap the Newtown man was delighted with his double-medal haul, stating:
“I’m chuffed. I knew I would be strong over the second half of the race, but to come through for second is amazing. I’ve had a pretty good season, and this caps it off really.”
In the women’s race England’s Emma Gooderham struck out early on this deceptively tough course, to take a 12-minute win from Scotland’s Angela Mudge. Looking at the profile one could be forgiven for thinking that it was a relatively rolling route, however the sand, wind and deceptive clips over the second half of the course left the likes of mountain toughie Mudge saying that the 5-laper was “brutal”.
Gooderham led from the start to gradually increase her margin over Mudge, who in turn was a full 4 minutes clear of Australia’s Kristin Bull by the finish.
Following the race the English athlete said that course had been very tough, “but at the same time beautiful,” and put some of her success down to a recent run that she had done on the course some four weeks earlier.
Mudge was pleased with her silver medal, saying, “That was really hard, and I was dying a bit on the last lap. I have had a long lay off with injury this year and basically cant run hard downhill at the moment, so the course profile suited that really.”
Men’s top 10:
1. Richard Gardiner (Wales) 3.29.54
2. Andrew Davies (Wales) 3.34.33
3. Nathaniel Lane (Wales) 3.38.08
4. Brendan Davies (Australia) 3.38.56
5. Michael Dongers (Australia) 3.40.10
6. Andrew Fallas (Scotland) 3.41.02
7. Paul Fernandez (England)3.42.42
8. Vajin Armstrong (NZ) 3.43.12
9. Julian Rendall (England) 3.43.28
10. Russell Maddams (England) 3.44.56
Women’s top 5:
1. Emma Gooderham (England) 3.53.50
2. Angela Mudge (Scotland) 4.05.54
3. Kristin Bull (Australia) 4.09.53
4. Lucy Colquhoun (Scotland) 4.14.38
5. Helen Taranowski (England) 4.21.57
Matt Ward (organisers) for the IAAF