Britton keen to defend her Great Edinburgh title for Europe
ATHLETICS:Some people like to start off the new year on a different footing, others like to resume exactly where they left off. Even if Fionnuala Britton was remotely tempted to partake in any festive indulgences – and she most definitely wasn’t – there was the early-year date with tomorrow’s Great Edinburgh Cross Country, which she won in such superb style exactly a year ago.
This year, of course, Britton also lines up as now two-time European Cross Country champion, having brilliantly defended her title just four weeks ago, on the snowy ground of Budapest, and that’s exactly the sort of form she’s looking to bring to Edinburgh tomorrow.
Like last year, the event is run as an international challenge between Britain, Europe and the US, with Britton thus leading the six-woman European team. She’ll actually be joined by Irish team-mate Linda Byrne, who finished an excellent eighth in Budapest, and with that also helped the Irish team claim European gold.
Live on BBC, this is a race Britton won’t like to lose, especially as the main opposition is set to come from the rest of her European team-mates, who she beat in Budapest, including Portugal’s Ana Dulce Félix (who won silver) and Adrienne Herzog from the Netherlands (who took bronze).
“Having won in Edinburgh last year, I definitely feel as though I’m going there to defend another title, just like at the European Cross Country,” said Britton. “Also running in a team competition, and representing team Europe, makes this race a bit different and special.”
In fact Britton has already underlined her excellent form since Budapest, another boldly determined run rewarded with a second-place finish at the IAAF Brussels Cross Country last Sunday week, two days before Christmas, where this time she left some of the world’s best chasing hard behind. Only Ethiopia’s latest young talent, Ruti Aga, managed to get the better of Britton.
“I was very pleased with my run in Brussels, just before Christmas, so I hope I’ve still got that sort of shape after the holidays. Although I probably wasn’t the best prepared going into that. After winning a second consecutive European title, training doesn’t get the focus that it usually gets.”
Tomorrow’s race at Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, features a highly undulating course (6km) which should suit Britton.
If anything, her run in Brussels was even more impressive that Budapest, as among those she left well behind was Almensh Belete (ninth) and British runner Jess Coulson (11th).
Coulson leads the British team tomorrow and should present a bigger threat this time with her team-mate Freya Ross.
Also being run is an international 3km event featuring two-time Olympic champion Meseret Defar and Vivian Cheruiyot.
For Britton, however, tomorrow’s race ultimately leads to the World Cross Country in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on March 24th.
“That will actually be the big race for Fionnuala this season,” said her coach Chris Jones. “Whether it’s top 10, or first non-African, she’s got to keep improving; has got to be competitive there as well.”