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  • Writer's pictureSimon Williams

LAC DE GUERLEDAN CELTIC TRAIL CHALLENGE

After the pandemic & lockdown years, Cornish athletes returned to Central Brittany for the Inter-Celtic 26Km Trail ‘Challenge’ alongside the beautiful Guerledan Lake and what a return it was!

Senior teams of four were invited for both Male and Female with three to score for the ‘National’ Regional competition. Due to various circumstances relating to late injuries, work shifts, etc, only Jonny Dry (Cornwall AC), Mark Jenkin (Bideford AC) and Jacob Landers (Tamar Trotters) travelled for the Men and Sophie Street (St Austell) for the Women.

Hopes were still high for a good team placing for the male trio, even after eyeing up the strong Portuguese and Irish teams before the start with the host Bretagne athletes expected to dominate.

At the end of a 4Km loop, before heading out to the wooded banks of the lake, team managers Graham Hodgson and Dave Varney were getting both excited and slightly concerned when Dry appeared out of the lane in the lead, closely followed by Landers then Jenkins in the top ten, with Sophie Street well positioned amongst the female athletes.

The race started in fierce heat and sunshine at 3pm and with limited shade in the woods, there was only access for two drinks/ feeding stations along the route, the last just 2Km from the finish meaning that hydration was essential. When the athletes appeared at the first of the feeding stations, beside the popular beach of Beau Rivage, Dry was still looking comfortable but it was Jenkin that appeared to be the strongest having overtaken Landers, who was looking in some distress, having been unable to take on water due to a mix up at the water tables. Street was holding her own but was also suffering from the heat and terrain. This was no stroll along a lake edge with severe climbs in and out of the woods and through tree roots and broken lakeland path edges, testing both strength and endurance.

The race finished at the lovely Western end hamlet of Abbaye de Bon-Repos where there was a festival atmosphere to welcome the 712 athletes that completed the race. After over 2 hours of gruelling running, Jenkin had progressed to the front of the race, battling with a Portuguese athlete who had the better technique on the rapid downhill stepped paths to go into the lead and out-sprint the Cornish athlete to the finish by just 8 seconds. Dry crossed the line at 12th position and it was jubilation for the team as Landers maintained his top 20 place finishing at 18th.

The Bretagne team took both victories with 3rd, 4th and 5th (12 points) in the Men and the first three places in the Women’s race. Cornwall were second (32 points) and Portugal third (45 points). Sophie Street had kept strong in the second half to finish 25th female, adding to the team scores to give Cornwall the third place overall. On the Sunday, she took up an offer to enter in a female only 8Km race with a suggestion of an easy run but her competitive side came out as she picked off runners to claim the third position, clutching her bouquet of flowers all the way home!

This event will be firmly on the calendar for next year together with the 10K Inter-Celtic road races at Rennes in October 2023


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