The Simplyhealth Great South Run in Portsmouth this weekend was once again host to the England Athletics 10 mile Championships. High quality domestic fields in both the men’s and women’s races, plus the additional late entry of Storm Brian on the Friday evening meant that it was going to be hard fought battle for the national titles.
By the morning of the race the gale force winds had subsided, but nonetheless the exposed seafront route and the cool breezy conditions were going to challenge the runners as much as the opposition.
In the women’s race there were a number of possible contenders to take the title, with Charlotte Purdue (Coach: Nic Bideau, Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District AC), Gemma Steel (Club: Charnwood AC), Lily Partridge (Club: Aldershot, Farnham & District AC) and Katrina Wootton (Coach: David Dix, Club: Coventry Godiva Harriers) having all shown recent good form. Wootton was certainly up there for a good stretch of the race, but started to drift off the back of the leading group and with four miles remaining it clearly looked as if the podium positions would be decided between Purdue, Patridge and Steel.
With three experienced athletes battling it out for the 10 miles title it was hard to call with four miles to go. Partridge looked to try and stretch things out with a couple of miles to go, but was unable to break Steel who grittily hung on and eventually took the lead - pulling away into the headwind on the long lonely finishing straight with a twelve second lead to win in 55:25. Partridge took the silver in 55:37 and Purdue the bronze in 55:43. This was Steel’s fifth appearance at the Great South Run, but the first time she has won the race.
Further down the field Wootton faded to an eventual fifth place, with Rebecca Murray (Coach: Alex Stanton, Club: Bedford & County AC) taking fourth and there were strong performances from Ruth Barnes F35 (Coach: Steve Williams, Club: Avon Valley Runners) and Sophie Cowper (Coach: Gary Warhurst, Club: Rotherham Harriers & AC) finishing in sixth and seventh respectively.
It was a similarly interesting battle in the men’s race. Fresh from a recent win at the Great Scottish Half Marathon it was Chris Thompson (Coach: Alan Storey, Club: Aldershot Farnham & District AC) who was perhaps the pre-race favourite to win. But with both the 2017 English National Cross-Country Champion winner, Ben Connor (Coach: Steve Vernon, Club: Derby AC), and the British University and Colleges Cross-Country Champion Alex Teuten (Coach: Roderick Lock, Club: Southampton AC), plus local athlete Matt Sharp (Coach: Geoff Watkin, Club: Enfield & Haringey AC) who has had a good year and the youngster Mahamed Mahamed (Coach: Peter Haynes, Club: Southampton AC) in good form following his run on the country at Cardiff last weekend, the 10 miles distance perhaps opened up some opportunities for Thompson’s challengers.
Connor, Sharp and Irishman Mick Clohisey all looked threatening at times and the final result was much closer than in the women’s race, but strength and experience told as the 2016 title winner Chris Thompson managed to inch away to a three second victory in a time of 48:32. Matt Sharp managed to convert last year’s bronze to silver, but with only a second separating himself from Ben Connor it was close thing. There were also good performances from fellow Southampton AC athletes Alex Teuten finishing just two seconds off bronze, and the youngster Mahamed Mahamed in sixth, with the Irishman Mick Clohisey splitting the two club runners in fifth place.
England Championships Medalists
1st: Gemma Steel (Charnwood AC)
2nd: Lily Partridge (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC)
3rd: Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC)
1st: Chris Thompson (Aldershot, Farnham & District AC)
2nd: Matt Sharp (Enfield & Haringey AC)
3rd: Ben Connor (Derby AC)