By Samantha Amend
Well what can I say; it was a pleasure to be crowned British 100k champion at the end of March this year with a new PB of 7.53.57 and to finally recover from a disastrous 2017 plagued by glandular fever.
Some months later I found myself waiting with baited breath for the selectors to announce the GB squad for the World 100k Champs in Croatia. As they decided to wait until after Comrades in June, I decided to focus on a 24hr race in Belfast to work through my nerves and get the selection criteria for 2019. When the news finally dropped that week and I saw I had been selected, I cried. Overcoming illness, fighting strong to win the Anglo Celtic Plate and getting my second GB vest, the feeling of joy was all just a bit too much to handle – ‘over the moon’ doesn’t even come close especially as I am reaching my 40s and always dreamed of representing my country in athletics.
Then reality sunk in… Christ, now the training really starts! The 100km was and still is most challenging event due to the pacing and the fact that the race is 62 miles on tarmac. At this stage, my coach and I didn’t know the course, we just knew it was in Croatia: the place I had long wanted to visit but “earn it” first. We decided my training would target a few races before the big day and very specific long runs on top to make the endurance would be there.
Fast forward several weeks of blood, sweat and tears. Without dwelling on the details, we flew out on Thursday 6th September which wasn’t great with my son going back to school but I managed to make it up to him with a Croatian football shirt (too soon?). My teenage daughter was more interested in her new college and an upcoming Arctic Monkeys concert, she just wanted me to bring back chocolate. The travel wasn’t without its bumps/hiccups, but everyone eventually made it to Sveti Martin. The South Africans were already jogging around when we got our first glance at the course. Yes, it wasn’t flat, but hey! We all had to run it and it’s not like we Brits had never seen a pothole. Clapham Chaser Carla (who had an amazing top 10 finish at Comrades) and I ran the course a few days prior and pretty much vegged out until race day.
The high temperatures and high humidity levels meant a 7am start, which was definitely our saving grace on the day. A few minutes before the gun, team GB ( Ant Clark, Rob Turner, Lee Grantham, Carla Molinaro, Sue Harrison and myself) gathered in the call room, nerves firing with the stress of the commitment and knowledge that D-day had finally come.
My plan was always to run my own race. My coach and I adapted my planned paced to the course and I was rolling though up to 40Mi. With the humidity and rolling hills, the last 22Mi became very challenging. This was the same for many apart from the Japanese who started to work through the field and ended up with winning both team prizes and a host of individual podium spots. As my performance dipped in the latter stages, so did my chances to PB. I decided to change my strategy to finish the race and aim for a top Brit spot. I ended up crossing the line as 15th woman in the world and first British woman with a time of 8.01.11. I won’t deny I craved to make that top 10 list, but I am delighted with another World Championship under my belt and to still have the top British 100k and 50k time for 2018 to my name. I felt my race nutrition, minimal aid station time and proper toilet stops all worked to my benefit. Next time around I would put in more hill training, strength work, and heat acclimatization, which is all hard to predict until the actual weekend of the race. Back home now, I can’t help but want more and wonder: what’s next? Apart from recovery, of course. I’ll need a lot of that!