Danny goes the distance as Hawkins leads Great Britain to ultra-running World Championships bronze
Newbury Athletic Club’s Danny Hawkins led Great Britain to a bronze medal at the International Association of Ultrarunners 24-Hour World Championships in Taiwan.
The event really is as challenging and demanding as it sounds – Hawkins covered a staggering 260.8km to finish in the top 10 of the race and rank as the first British athlete.
The stacked field included 138 of the best ultra runners in the world, with Hawkins just missing out on a personal best in testing weather conditions.
Finishing as the leading British athlete, Hawkins beat compatriots including the European bronze medalist and the British record holder, topping the charts in his age category. His average pace was approaching an incredible eight minutes per mile.
“I knew the course and conditions were going to be tough, but on paper we had a super strong team with great depth. The strategy was all about trying to secure the team medal,” Hawkins said.
“I didn’t actually know what position or distance I ran until after the race as the last few hours were just about survival and making sure to keep Spain behind us.”
As well as battling the course and his opponents, Hawkins and his teammates had to contend with challenging weather throughout the event, with humid atmospheric conditions, strong winds and freezing rain in Taiwan making things even more difficult for competitors.
Fortunately for Hawkins and the rest of Team GB, the British athletes spent a vitally important two weeks in East Asia to help them come to terms with the unique climate in the northwest Pacific while Hawkins could also count on the invaluable support of his team.
He said: “My coach, Wendy Whearity, decided it was best to head out there two weeks early to give me time to acclimatise – and it made a huge difference.
“The weather was just under 20 degrees on race day but it was still very humid and the winds were really strong throughout.
“From the start, we used ice to cool us down and then in the night there was freezing cold rain which made for a tough second half of the race.
“As a team, we worked so hard for each other to make sure we secured the bronze. I had the same crew as last year’s European Championships and they play such a big role in the performance of the runner. Without them, none of this would have been possible.”
Hawkins and his teammates knew they were in third with eight hours still to race, and so spent much of the final third of the event protecting their bronze medal place from the pursuing Spanish team.
Having achieved their goal and finished on the podium, Hawkins can look forward to a well-earned rest – but only after he’d endured an 18-hour flight back from Taiwan.
“The recovery has been a bit slow with the lack of sleep and long flights,” he said.
“My legs are still swollen but within the next week or so I’ll be back running, ready for some cross country races for Newbury AC!”