The Cardiff Cross Challenge (© Johnny Lam)
Some of the UK’s leading endurance runners will be in action when the Cardiff Cross Challenge hosts the first Gold standard meeting of the new World Athletics Cross Country Tour on Saturday (16).
The 2018 European 10,000m Cup bronze medallist Charlotte Arter, 2014 European cross country silver medallist Kate Avery, this year’s Vitality Big Half winner Jake Smith and multiple Welsh champion Dewi Griffiths are among the athletes set for the event at Llandaff Fields in the Welsh capital, which will again host the first fixture in the British Athletics Cross Challenge Series.
Arter was the winner of the women’s race when the Cardiff Cross Challenge was last held in 2019. The Cardiff athlete will return to race over 6400m along with the runner up that year, her training partner Jenny Nesbitt, who won European 10,000m Cup bronze in 2016 and is a European cross country team gold medallist.
Arter has prepared for her season opener with a Welsh record of 15:25 for 5km in Vienna, while 2019 UK Inter-Counties cross country champion Nesbitt has been fine-tuning her winter preparations at altitude in Font Romeu.
Like Nesbitt, Avery competed at the 2019 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Aarhus and is no stranger to Cardiff, having finished second to Denmark’s multiple European U23 champion Anna Moller in 2018.
Izzy Fry is another athlete choosing to start her winter campaign in Cardiff and has previously finished runner up at the English National Cross Country Championships.
They will be joined by Jess Gibbon, who was fourth in Cardiff last time, plus former UK Inter-Counties champion Cari Hughes and Mhairi Maclennan, Philippa Bowden, Hannah Irwin and Imogen Wood.
In the men’s race, Smith – fresh from running as a pacemaker in the London Marathon – will look to turn his road running pedigree as the UK’s third fastest half marathon runner to cross country form over 9600m.
The 23-year-old, who ran his half marathon PB of 1:00:31 at last year’s World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, also finished fourth at the Great North Run in September.
Lining up alongside Smith and Griffiths, who has seven Welsh cross country titles to his name, is Kadar Omar Abdullahi, who competed for the Athlete Refugee Team at the 2017 World Championships in London, plus Tokyo Olympian Zak Seddon and Omar Ahmed.
Zakariya Mahamed won the Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza in 2019 and the English National Championships last March as an U20 but will debut in the senior men’s event in Cardiff.
Hugo Milner, Jack Gray, Jordan Rowe, Luke Prior and James Hunt will also be among those hoping to feature.
The action in Cardiff starts at 11:30am local time and culminates with the senior men’s race at 2:50pm. A live highlights show of the event will be broadcast by Vinco Sport, with fans in the US and Canada able to watch via Runnerspace.
Alex Donald (Welsh Athletics) for World Athletics