Dodging snakes and dogs to help GB to gold

Running 50km is already a tough task for any professional athlete because of to the distance alone. But what about in temperatures of 30C and 100% humidity?

Team GB endured these conditions at the IAU 50km World Championship in Hyderabad in India earlier in November.

GB’s men sealed a podium finish while the women won the event, with Carla Molinaro taking individual gold, Sarah Webster claiming bronze and Anna Bracegirdle and Rachel Hodgkinson finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

Speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside, Liverpool’s Hodgkinson talked about Team GB’s achievement, dodging snakes and dealing with the tough conditions.

Snakes, dogs and cars

Hodgkinson, 31, arrived in India having never represented her country before and found that the event was something of a baptism of fire.

A seasoned marathon runner, she still had to adapt to the distance of the event before she jetted out but she still had to pace herself to deal with the conditions.

“For myself and Anna, we’ve never represented GB before, so it was a privilege to have that opportunity to go and compete,” she said.

“Because Anna and I are marathoners, we played it quite safe and when the pace picked up we dropped back a little bit just to conserve some energy for the last few laps, but it was really hard to do that.

“I had done a couple of slow 50ks just to psychologically know I could cover the distance but it wasn’t in heat like that.

“It’s true it’s only five miles longer than a marathon in distance. But when you’ve done a marathon, telling somebody to do another five miles is not easy.”

But it was not just the heat that was causing problems for the competitors.

“There were cars cutting in front of runners. We saw that the first three men nearly got run over at one point. There were some wild dogs that were casually walking around the course,” Hodgkinson explained.

“I didn’t see the snake but apparently it slithered across the road. It must have waited until the British women ran past.”

‘I started to lose consciousness’

Having finished fifth – itself a remarkable achievement for her first competitive attempt at the distance – Hodgkinson’s euphoria was short-lived as she felt the immediate effects of running in the difficult conditions.

“It was the humidity more than the heat that got to us,” she added. “I didn’t find out until we got back that it had been nearly 100% humidity when we started and then it was in the 90s for the rest of the race.

“We finished at 29C but then it went into the 30s. We were just glad to have finished.

“Crossing the line there was a relief but also I did start to lose consciousness, so it was just about trying to make sure I was safe.

“I sat with an ice bag on my head for about 10 minutes until I could see properly again and then we could start to celebrate a little bit, but we were all just knackered.”

With both Team GB’s women and men finishing on the podium, it was an impressive return, but in particular for Hodgkinson and Bracegirdle who had not had the experience of competing in such events before.

“For our team, I am so proud of Team GB because we came first, third, fourth and fifth in the worlds and the men got third place out of the team competition, so they did amazing to get bronze,” said Hodgkinson.

“It’s incredible because myself and Anna, we’d never raced for GB before or raced a 50k, and we’re really proud to say that we both come from Liverpool, so of course we were going to do something amazing.”

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