IN HER first race since completing the Masalu Mountain Ultra Marathon in Nepal Holly Rush won the senior women’s title at the Wiltshire Cross Country Championships – and in a borrowed pair of spikes!

The Bradford on Avon-based marathon international admits it had taken time to find her feet again after last month tackling her first ultra race, the inaugural seven-day Manaslu Mountain Trail Race covering 212k and rising to 5,100m.

In Nepal Rush finished a superb third overall and second woman in the event – only 12 of 40 starters finished the full course and eight runners were taken off the mountains by helicopter – despite the extreme terrain, effects of altitude and struggling to get enough sleep and rest in sub-zero temperatures.

As the European Championships and Commonwealth Games international admitted, having survived that sort of ordeal, a 6.6k trot around the grounds of Bath University wasn’t going to faze her, even if her preparations were less than ideal.

“I was a bit poorly when I came back from Nepal and had a raging fever which I had to get checked out so haven’t done a lot,” said Rush.

“It was nice to have a run-out on Sunday but that is the fastest I gave run for six weeks and it was a bit short for me.

“I didn’t even realise I had won the Wiltshire title until I got back to the Team Bath tent so that was a nice surprise.”

Rush won using clubmate Imogen Wolsey’s spikes – which had already helped the Warminster-based runner to an emphatic victory in the combined U20/17 women’s race – as she couldn’t find her own.

“I think my last cross country race was in January last year and I reckon I must have left my spike shoes there,” explained Rush.

“So I borrowed Imogen’s and had to make do. That’s how laid back I was feeling about the race!”

Michael Towler of Avon Valley Runners made light work of the climbs to secure his first senior men’s cross country title.

The 23-year-old, who lives in Trowbridge, conceded he started too aggressively and paid for that in the closing stages of the tripartite event that also included the Avon & Somerset Championships.

He was still far too strong for his county rivals as he finished 49 seconds ahead of Swindon’s Chris Reade.

“I would have liked to have finished higher than sixth overall in the race but I am pretty pleased to win my first senior title,” said Towler.

“I have had a few better races but that is up there with my best.”

The combined U0/17 men’s race saw a good tussle between Winsley’s Alex Carter and older rival Will Christofi, of Dauntsey’s School, as the pair broke away early on.

Christofi pulled clear in the closing stages to lift the U20 men’s title with Carter claiming the U17s title.

“I was happy with that,” said Carter. “I didn’t have the strength to hold onto Will but that was a much better performance than my last couple of races.”

Youngster Rory Howorth was imperious in the U11 boys’ race, the St John’s Junior RC School pupil, from Hilperton, dominating the race overall.

Other overall county race winners who also beat their Avon and Somerset rivals included Gemma Shepherd of Marlborough & District Juniors (U15 girls), Team Bath AC’s Wolsey (combined U20/17 women) and Devizes’ Jacob Platt, of Andover AC, (U15 boys).

  •  LOREN Bleaken earned herself a tasty Christmas bonus after being named female athlete of the match in the opening Cardiff Met Indoors Grand Prix.

The 17-year-old Hardenhuish School student, from Marshfield, won both the 300m in 40.46secs and 600m in 1: 32.08secs, the latter a new Welsh All-Comers record and personal best.

“I won two Christmas puddings and a box of chocolate fingers so I am well stacked up with Christmas goodies now,” said Bleaken.

“I was really pleased with my times and for my first indoor meeting of the winter it went really well.”

Kevin Fahey