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IAU World Trail Championships, North Wales

06/07/2013

In recent times Jo Zakrzewski has perhaps become better known for her road running, but on Sunday she returned to her first ultra discipline of trail running, taking up the honour of representing Great Britain in the World Trail Championships...

The event is held every 2 years and Great Britain was the 2013 host nation with a 77km course consisting of 5 loops in the Gwydyr Forest in North Wales with about 2500m overall of elevation lost and gained.

It was already hot at 8:45am when the 124 international athletes were mustered in the Eisteddfod Stone Circle and so everyone knew that they would need to be on top of their hydration and nutrition in order to make it back comfortably. 

The 5 British men started at the front of the field and were strong throughout, being led home to a team Gold medal by the new World Champion Ricky Lightfoot from Cumbria. 

The 5 British ladies took a more conservative approach starting at the back to ensure they didn't get dragged along too fast in the opening kilometre on tarmac. Once on the trail, Jo worked her way up the first climb with Tracy Dean (the British trail running champion) and Fionna Cameron (Scottish trail champion) to run as a team along the tricky technical sections up to the first feed station where Doug Brown was waiting as part of the Team GB support team.

From this point onwards Jo moved ahead of her team mates, but enjoyed exchanging banter with runners from other countries about how beautiful the course was and how much they were enjoying the event.

Jo surprised herself, but maybe not team management with how strong she felt as she worked her way gradually up the field. As the distance and heat both increased, with temperatures reaching 27 degrees, she found the support en route from locals, family, friends and other teams absolutely fantastic and marvelled at how Peter Hutchison seemed to cover more of the course than the runners as he appeared everywhere with encouraging words (and camera!).

A slight niggle meant that Jo could not push on quite as much as she hoped in the final stages of the race, but she was well aware that every second counted as the team results would be calculated on cumulative time. Even though she'd already run 76km, she gave her all on the final kilometre of road, (half of which was steep downhill, then a flat run to the finish), to close down a 70 seconds gap to 3rd place to only 26 seconds by the end. Jo's efforts paid off as not only was she 'over the moon' with an individual 4th place but led the British ladies home to claim a World Team Bronze medal!

She found it hard to express herself in a finishing interview (probably due to the all out sprint) but said that she had loved the course, the race, the support, and the whole experience, being amazed and grateful for the confidence that everybody had in her ability to recover from Comrades and perform well when it mattered most.

Coverage of the race will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 7:30am on August 4th.

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