GB team, left to right Lizzy Apsley, me (Georgia Malir), Heidi Davies and Catriona Graves. Photo by Heidi Davies.
After winning the European Mountain Running Championships in Gap last year over an up and down course I flew out to Madeira with the GB mountain running team determined not to give up my title easily. Due to the uphill only format at this year’s Championships I knew it would be difficult, but my preparations had gone well so I felt that a top 10 finish would be a realistic target. I had been doing consistent long hill session, plenty of hilly runs and thanks to the Jack Bloor Fund I had the opportunity to do an extra uphill only race in France called Grand Ballon. This race went well, I finished 1st junior girl and 2nd overall in the junior race so going into the European Championships I felt in better uphill only form than I had ever been in before.
Unfortunately, on race day things didn’t go to plan. The race started on a road with a sharp right turn after about 10m onto a flat trail for about 300m before we began climbing on narrow paths through the forest. As we set off an unexpected shove left me on the left hand side of the road making it impossible to get into a good position as we turned right. I tried not to panic and told myself I could overtake a lot of people on the flat section before the climb began, but with the narrow path and the added complication of two bridge crossings, which acted as bottle necks, I could see that the leaders were a long way ahead as we started the climb. I tried to overtake as many people as possible but the paths through the forest were windy and narrow and I found myself getting stuck in the rhythm of the runners ahead of me making it impossible for me to run at my own pace. Occasionally the path would widen out and I tried to push on in these sections, but they were only about 100m long leaving little time for much overtaking. As we entered the last kilometre the course widened out onto an open field. At this point I felt way too fresh for this stage in the race so I picked up the pace and made one final push for home. Unfortunately it was too late and I finished the race in a disappointing 22nd position. I was gutted especially because I believed I should have done so much better, but I wanted to enjoy the rest of the day and encourage Team GB. It was a great trip and watching my training partner Emma Clayton win bronze in the senior women’s race was my highlight.
The quote “some you win, some you learn” sums up my experience at this year’s European Championships. Although I didn’t come away with the result I wanted I learnt some valuable lessons and I will never make the same mistakes again.