TVH mountain running powerhouse Chris Smith stormed to the English Mountain Running title at Keswick on Sunday. An outstanding result made even more remarkable by the fact that Chris recently celebrated his 40th birthday! It means Chris will will his 10th GB vest at the European uphill running champions in Slovenia on July 8.
Chris Smith writes:
On a warm but windy day in Keswick in the Lake District, starting not far from the town centre, we were to tackle one of the peaks that overlooks the town – Skiddaw and the infamous Jenkins Hill. The marked 11.3km route took us round the bottom of latrigg before taking on Jenkins Hill (the steepest part) before heading up right to the top of Skiddaw with the finish line being the trig point. A climb of 1080m. This was an uphill race. First to the top wins. First four get picked to run at the European uphill running champions in Slovenia on 8th July.
A small select group of runners had assembled. The majority of the top ten that were to finish the race that day had been in a GB mountain running team in the last few years. The field was quality rather than quantity.
My aim was to make the team for Slovenia so I started the race strong, committing myself to take the lead right from the gun. It would be either a gutsy/confident move or headstrong and premature. After the first mile I had a small lead and pushed on making the most of the undulating course before we started the big climb to the top. Andrew Douglas from Scotland and fellow GB runner was never far behind and as we approached the start of Jenkins Hill we were neck and neck. Douglas has been in fine form winning the inter-counties fell running champs a few weeks prior and had more recently got a podium position at a mountain running European cup event. That class showed as he gradually edged clear to 20, 30 then 50m. I dug in for
the next 40 odd minutes of lung busting running. It was about ignoring the quad burn, not panicking and not letting the gap to Andrew get any bigger. The main priority though was staying clear of a chasing pack of three. Made up of a British felling running champ, a 2 x GB mountain runner and one of the best orienteers the UK has.
What kept me going during that time?
I had ran a PB by 5 seconds at the Highgate track 10k two weeks before so I knew I was in good shape. I had also trained at the altitude centre in London that has a chamber with a treadmill in it that is equivalent to running at 2700m above sea level. Having big lungs and working on your vo2 max helps and was paying dividends.
I had also done some good hill training sessions on the South Downs building up over a number of weeks to 10×5:30mins uphill efforts. When I do do hill work I make it count, this session lasts for an hour and a half. The mental and physical stress that you put yourself though in a session like that, particularly in the last few reps is similar to what you feel in a race. Tired and lacking in energy I knew what to do, keep focused, keep my rhythm and form but above all stay positive.
That discipline keep me going ever closer to the top, and my aim to make the team as a V40.
I finished 2nd, 30 secs behind Andrew Douglas and 30 secs in front of Chris Arthur, Chris Farrell and Graham Gristwood.
Job done. The jog down took as long as the run up but this time we got to enjoy the view.