IT PROVED to be an England debut to remember for Spa Striders’ Melissa Venables who produced the best performance of her career to win the British 100km road running championship title in Scotland.
While the majority of people were enjoying an Easter lie-in, Venables and the England team travelled north of the border to Perth where Britain’s top ultra-distance runners competed for the annual Anglo-Celtic Plate.
The event was held in North Inch Park and involved 42 laps of a 2.38km course to make up the 100km (62.25 miles).
A cold, chilly breeze and overcast conditions greeted the runners for 7am start and the host nation, Scotland, put out a strong team, including winners of many Scottish long distance races on road and fells.
England’s women’s team, who were the defending champions, included Venables and last year’s winner Katie Samuelson from Cambridge but from the gun it was England’s Edwina Sutton and Scotland’s Sophie Mullins who went out in front.
By the end of the first lap Venables found herself in seventh position but her pre-race plan of running each lap inside 12 minutes soon paid off.
Being able to eat and drink on the run is an essential element of ultra-distance running and, having practised this in training, Venables was able to do this throughout the race without losing pace.
With all four Scottish and two of her English team-mates in front, the Kenilworth runner continued to run a her sub-12 minute lap pace a did not panic.
By lap 13 she was over nine minutes behind the leading duo, but had moved up one place in the race and she continued to slowly move through the field.
After three-and-a-half hours of running Venables had progressed up into fourth and with the fast starting pace of others beginning to tell, she moved up to second place on lap 31, still four minutes behind leader Edwina Sutton.
But Sutton was now starting to suffer and six laps from the end Venables eased past her team mate before opening a nine minute gap at the front to win the women’s race in a new personal best time of 8:15.54 to become British 100km Champion for 2016.
“I can’t believe it,” said Venables. “12 months ago I had never run 100km and now I have gained international honours and am British Champion.
“I had a plan and I kept to it and everything worked out better than I could possibly have hoped. Running 100km is a team effort and I would like to thank everyone who has helped me achieve this dream.”
Sutton held on to take second place and help England win the women’s international team race, while the men’s race was won by England’s Paul Navesey in a time of 6:58.52 which was a Scottish All-comers Record.