In 2016, it was a Swedish domination of the Middle distance, taking the titles in both the Men’s and Women’s courses. Neither Lillian Forsgren nor Oskar Sjorberg were in attendance to defend their titles, so two new champions were guaranteed to be crowned.
Runners were met with hot conditions once again as temperatures crept over 30 degrees, and it could have been that heat combined with the technical forests which caused some of the big mistakes which we saw out on courses. The courses were as expected; a combination of vague but visible forest, with low visibility sections to put the runners under pressure, and with 2.5m contours, it would always be a challenge to have a good feel for the terrain.
The first British athlete out into the terrain was Nathan Lawson, who posted solid splits throughout the first half, being the only man to match the pace of the Finnish runners. Some mistakes crept into Nathan’s run towards the finish as he began to tire, with the runners he was catching possibly providing a distraction from some of the tricky navigation in the final section.
Next up it would be the first two British women out in the forest: Sarah Jones and Fay Walsh. Both made early mistakes on the technical slopes around the first 5 controls, stabilising towards the end but clearly, the forest was incredibly demanding. Ben Mitchell was next into the forest and started positively. Stable throughout he made no major mistakes until the final controls, but didn’t seem to be on the pace of the leaders, and was just pipped by Nathan at the finish.
Chole Potter started well, hitting the first 5 controls cleanly and overtaking all 3 of the runners who started before her. A wide safe route to 6 didn’t lose her time, before again the middle section of the course in the green, low visibility section saw her race came unstuck. Joe Woodley suffered a similar fate, coming unstuck early in the course. There was initial speculation of an injury, but it seems that he retired to save his legs for the Long Distance (possibly a good choice with the state of some runners by the finish).
The last two starters for Britain had it all to play for, with Sasha Chepelin and Megan Carter-Davies both the best chances of a top British result. Megan had a fantastic start, running at the same pace as the eventual winner from Sweden Emma Bjessmo. As happened with so many others, the long leg across the vague terrain into the green (arguably the hardest control on both the courses) cost Megan dearly, and although she worked hard to regain the time, another mistake on the 14th pushed her outside the top-10. Bjessmo would go on to take the win in an emphatic day for the Swedish women which saw them have four runners in the top-6. Sasha managed to put together a fantastic run, performing stably throughout, just gradually slipping back from the leaders. The smallest of errors on the 10th control would cost him a 5th place at the finish by a handful of seconds, but he was safely back in the finish with a good run under the belt. It was then a waiting game to see what the final positions for the Brits would be. The Medals in the Women’s race seemed set, but it was all up for grabs with the Men, with Aleksi Karppinen (FIN), Paul Sirum (NOR), Jens Ronnols (SWE) and Tim Robertson (NZL) all fighting for a medal. It would be the Fin though, that held together the best, taking the first medal for the championships for the host nation.
In the end, Sasha would hold onto the 8th position, 5 places better than the 13th place of Will Gardner at the 2016 championships. Megan’s result gave here 13th in the end, 6 places higher than the best 2016 championship result of Lucy Butt in 19th.
Other results are as follows:
Men: Nathan Lawson – 29th, Ben Mitchell – 34th, Joe Woodley – RTD.
Women: Fay Walsh – 40th, Sarah Jones – 43rd, Chloe Potter – 46th.
The Sprint Distance:
Thursday sees the runners return to the urban discipline. If the Mixed Sprint Relay is anything to judge by, it will be an extremely fast race. It is again urban, with parkland sections interspersed. With expected winning times of 13:25 and 13:20 for the Women and Men respectively, be prepared for some tired runners by the end of the day, particularly if the heat reaches the same levels as the Middle Distance. It again all starts at 08:00 UK time.
At the 2016 championships, the British dominated the sprint discipline, with a gold medal and 3 other men in the top-12 and 2 women in the top-8. Let’s hope that the team can pull off something similar this time. With the team rotations involved, out go Joe Woodley and Ben Mitchell and in come Matthew Elkington and Jonathan Crickmore, whilst in the Women’s race Katie Reynolds and Cecile Anderson come in for Megan Carter-Davies, Fay Walsh and Sarah Jones.