GB trials winner looks ahead to this weekend’s World Mountain Running Championships in Betws-y-Coed

Robbie Simpson reckons the Snowdonia setting for the World Mountain Running Championships could give the British team a vital edge over their rivals when the competition gets underway on Saturday (September 19).

The 23-year-old won the trial race over in Snowdonia village to earn his place in the GB team, less than two weeks after finishing third in the prestigious Sierra Zinal race in Switzerland. He described his run in Switzerland as “one of the best races of my life”, and his victory by more than a minute in North Wales was another huge boost to his confidence ahead of the global showdown this weekend.

He will be joined by Tom Adam, Tom Addison, Andrew Douglas, Ben Mounsey and Chris Smith for the championships in Wales.

Simpson, a Scotland international runner, is hoping for a lot more wet weather during the championships to increase the chances of the British side when taking on the Africans on the steep slopes above the picturesque tourist hotspot in the heart of the Conwy Valley.

Following his win at the British trials, Simpson said about the course in Betws-y-Coed: “I actually really like it. My favourite part is the single-track section with the slippery stones and the mud.

“That part’s great – I wish it was like that all the way up – but it’s really nice.

“I like the little undulating sections and there’s a few little rocky steps. The descent is super-fast – maybe I’d prefer it with a few more stones, but I still like it and it suits me.”

Simpson, who was victorious in a time of 48:37, opted to bide his time on the first of three laps as his compatriot Douglas settled into an early lead before catching him on the way up the second climb to Llyn Elsi, and controlling his run down the fast descent back to the village before opening up the gap to his rival on the final lap.

Asked about his aims for the championships, Simpson said: “I’d like to be around the first Europeans, that’d be great. The Africans are going to be good, but if you get slippery weather like this it doesn’t suit them. You can’t rule out being in amongst the top guys, but you’re unrealistic to think you’re going to beat guys who can run under 27 minutes for 10km.

“Last year (in the World Championships in Italy) they had the Ugandan national cross-country team, and you can’t beat those guys – you have to be as fast as Mo Farah. So if they come, maybe I can finish top 10, but if they don’t come then maybe top five.”

The men’s World Championship race will be contested over virtually the same course, with the start on the village green adding slightly to the distance to make it a 13km race including 750 metres of ascent.

The British trials showcased the strength in depth of British mountain running with Douglas finishing ahead of England’s Smith and Addison, and Simpson has the confidence that a good showing from the British contingent could well see them end up with a team medal.

He said: “We’ve got a good team. If everybody can run well… Andy and Chris are really, really strong at the moment, and Tom Addison as well, the course suits him.

“We’ve got the best team in Europe I think. The Italians beat us at the European Champs, but on this course I think we can beat the Italians.

“So that gives us the African countries, however many they are, the USA, and the European teams. I think we can be competitive with the USA, but if three African teams come then they’d get the medals pretty much – unless they have problems on this course, which they could.

“But I think we can definitely do it. It’s definitely possible.”

» See the September 17 issue of Athletics Weekly magazine for a preview to the World Mountain Running Championships, while the September 24 edition will include coverage of the event