Saucony English Cross-Country Relays; Sat 31st October, Berry Hill Park – Athlete Feature: Charlotte Purdue

One athlete with aspirations of providing a Halloween ‘treat’ for her coach, team-mates and supporters this Saturday, will be middle-distance starlet; Charlotte Purdue, as she looks to speed to individual and team glory at this weekend’s Saucony English Cross-Country Relay Championships; writes Nicola Bamford

The 18 year-old Aldershot, Farnham and District athlete has had a superb start to the 2009 winter season; with a plethora of personal bests and outstanding performances. Firstly, the Mick Woods-coached athlete registered a 5km road best of 16:17 at the BUPA Great Capital Run in London’s Regent’s Park last month; followed by a 10km road best of 33:07 in the BUPA Great Yorkshire Run in Sheffield (finishing a fine fourth in classy senior international field) and a eye-catching international 2-mile win at the Great North City Games in Newcastle.

Evidently on a phenomenal early-season roll, the bubbly and mature young runner then clocked the fastest legs of the day at the Southern and National senior English Road Relay Championships, respectively; before sensibly withdrawing from last weekend’s BUPA Great South Run with illness.

Now, with a clean bill of health and bundles more enthusiasm and determination beyond her tender years, the ‘On Camp with Kelly’ (Dame Kelly Holmes) star, is hoping to make yet another impact on the national scene; with a storming leg in the under20 women’s race around Mansfield’s Berry Hill park.

The European junior 5,000m and cross-country silver-medallist will be tackling the third and final stage of the 3×2.5km relay race; in which the Aldershot girls start as red-hot favourites amongst the 55-starting teams.

In the 2008 edition, Purdue clocked the second-fastest split of the day (8:05) behind team-mate Steph Twell (the Olympic and World 1500m representative and three-times European junior cross-country Champion) and now with Twell in the senior ranks, the World cross-country Championships 14th-placer will be set for individual glory.

Using this weekend’s race as a stepping stone to hopefully going one better this year, by capturing gold at the continental Championships this December in Dublin, Purdue explained; “Every race I do is important to my season, other-wise I would not do it. But I think the Mansfield relays are important, as it shows the rest of the country the standard of our club and it’s an enjoyable race to compete in. It’s a good race to use a speed-work for the Euro’s, as that’ll be a fast race!”

Purdue continues; “I think that they’re a good race for younger athletes to compete in as they are fun and there is not much pressure. I think for older athletes it is a good opportunity to enjoy racing as well as maintaining the competitive atmosphere.”

On her favourite memory of the event, she divulges; “Every year I have raced at the relays except for one and each time the race is different – I love the course and the fact that it is shorter than most cross-country races, as it feels like a track race, except with up hills and it’s always really muddy!”

With the aim for one of Britain’s arguably most promising distance-runners “to make sure I race well and to win for my team!” there will certainly be no ‘tricks’ up her sleeve to succeed; just good, honest hard work and willpower.