Catie O’Donoghue will have many reasons never to forget her debut in the Tri-Counties Cross Country Championships.
First and foremost her startling victory in the senior women’s race may prove to be a pivotal moment in her emergence as a new star in the Bristol & West AC women’s team with the 26-year-old having only recently joined the club.
Secondly the bitterly cold, snow-swept conditions at Bath University will probably be the most difficult the Bristol Children’s Hospital nurse will endure this winter.
But it seems that newcomer O’Donoghue takes these things in her stride.
“The conditions were really grim and initially I thought I wouldn’t want to race in snow and mud like that but actually it was a lot of fun,” said O’Donoghue.
“But I just didn’t expect to win at all and it was such a big surprise.”
With the sport being so new to O’Donoghue she races with a certain fearlessness that can be a great advantage, plus she is clearly a very talented runner.
“Catie has come on leaps and bounds and has a lot of potential,” said coach Keith Brackstone.
The conditions for the Tri-Counties Championships were possibly the toughest ever. Cold, bitter winds and rain greeted the organisers in the morning as they set up the course – at one point the port-a-loos were blown over – and by the time the runners turned up it was snowing heavily with almost blizzard like conditions.
Now 55, Bath-based runner Guy Woods has encountered all sorts of weather in his long and varied running career and admitted this was a day he won’t forget in a hurry.
“They were some of the worst conditions I have ever raced in and I have raced in a lot over the years,” said Woods.
“It was difficult to see as the snow was whipping into your face for a lot of the time, the temperature never got above freezing and it was so muddy that I used my 15mm spikes to stay on my feet and it was just as well as I did as under the covering of snow it was heavy mud.
“Initially you feared the health and safety brigade might call it off but this was proper cross country and fair play to the organisers and volunteers who turned up to make sure the event went ahead.
“They all deserve gold medals for standing out in that weather all day long. It was a great effort to put on the event.”