Leamington athletics clubs boasted the first and third women at the Anglo Celtic Plate home international on Sunday with Leamington C&AC’s Sue Harrison winning the 100k and Spa Striders’ Mel Venables coming in third.
Both athletes, who were going head to head for the first time over the distance, were representing England in the event at Patrington, near Hull, which also incorporated the British 100k Championships.
Harrison clocked 8hr 1min 22sec to place her second on the 2017 women’s world ranking list and said the win was a particularly special one.
“This was for my parents and family who made the long trip here today to support me,” said Harrison.
“It was the first time they have seen me run for my country and I am so happy to have done this for them.
“Without their love, support and encouragement none of my long career in this fantastic sport would have been possible.”
Run over four out-and-back laps of 25k on flat, narrow roads through farming communities just to the north of the Humber Estuary, strong crosswinds and long straight stretches of the country roads devoid of shelter made the already demanding distance ever harder.
Harrison and reigning champion Venables, who are both coached by Les Barnett, had pre-race plans regarding pace and fuelling and neither was distracted when several of the less experienced athletes set off at what appeared to be a reckless pace.
After the first lap of 25k, Harrison was in sixth and Venables seventh, with three England ladies, one Scot and an Argentinian in front of them.
By the 40k point, the other three England ladies, Sam Amend, Susie Chesher and Sophie Carter were over two minutes in front of Harrison who had now moved into fourth, with Venables a further two minutes back in sixth.
The complexion of the race changed dramatically over the next 20k with Chesher withdrawing as Harrison eased into second spot, a minute down on Amend, with Venables now up to fourth.
At the 70k-mark Harrison moved into the lead from Amend who was to drop out shortly after, promoting Venables to the bronze medal position.
With one 25k loop to go, Harrison had a commanding 15-minute lead over second-placed Carter, with Venables struggling in third and considering retirement.
She was not the only one suffering, with big gaps having grown and most runners now on their own battling the elements.
On target for a 2017 world best time at 90k, Harrison was forced to dig deep to maintain her rhythm and despite missing out on top spot, her winning time was the second quickest by a British women in the 21-year history of the Plate.
Carter came home in 8:11:38 for silver, with a determined Venables crossing the line in 8:25:52 to complete an England one-two-three.
After the race she said her determination not to quit had come from Spa Striders chairman Rich Bicknell who died in the lead-up to the event.
“I remembered all the support I had been given by my very good friend and the Spa Striders chairman Rich Bicknell, who sadly passed away a week ago,” said Venables.
“So I gave it the 110 per cent I had promised him and pushed on.”
The men’s race was won by Lee Grantham in 6:42:42, helping England to a team double, with Harrison and Venables finishing 11th and 16th overall.