The Elgoibar International cross-country race is a permanent fixture in the first week of January each year. It is a strong test of both endurance, strength and speed and is a popular race on the European circuit for athletes from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. Rather than the typical European courses it is a fine mix of steep hills and flat and fast grass sections rather typical of a good course here in the UK.
England regularly select senior and junior teams to contest this fixture. Our own Kate Holt was selected to represent England for the third time. Competition was typically strong with no fewer than 8 high class African women in the senior field. Race day was not typical Spanish weather as the rain in Spain fell mainly on Elgoibar all day turning the grassed areas of the course into mud. The African women set off at their usual brisk pace with Kate leading the England team and European contingent in the chasing group. Asked about tactics Kate replied, “When I realised how muddy the course was in the grass sections, I knew I had to use the other elements of the course to my advantage, whilst trying to keep my shoes on through the muddy sections.”
Making the decision to break away from the rest of the English team and the leading Spanish women after the first of the three laps and using the hills and track to increase her advantage Kate pulled away from the leading Europeans to complete the 7.62km course in 28:16 finishing in 9th place first European and first English woman.
Asked if she was pleased with the result, Kate replied, “Yes I am, it was a tough race in the conditions and to finish first European and first English women was always my target. It is a tough race and well worth the effort to be a part of. The Africans were always going to be favourites but to be a part of this race was fantastic.”
Having personally attended this race for a couple of years it shows by careful course selection and bringing the competitors back into the stadium on each lap, spectators can engage with the race and give fantastic vocal support to the athletes, something we could perhaps learn in this country.