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Steel leads UK to 4th

Gemma Steel in Kavarna, Bulgaria

Gemma Steel in Kavarna, Bulgaria

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland women’s team finished an impressive fourth place at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria.

Despite hot and humid conditions, Gemma Steel (coach: John Nuttall) clocked a personal best 71:09 to finish seventh whilst team mate Caryl Jones (George Edwards) was just three places back in tenth, also running a personal best of 71:52, and Susan Partridge (John Montgomery) finished 22nd with a time of 73:55.

Steel, beaten only by three Ethiopians and three Kenyans, gradually moved through the field from 16th at 5k, tenth at 10k and ninth at 15k to eventually clinch seventh place in a sprint finish ahead of Japanese athlete Tonomi Tanaka.

This result builds upon a breakthrough performance at last month’s Great North Run where she also finished seventh in a time of 70:46.

“I enjoyed it, I timed it to perfection with the sprint,” said Steel. “I ran it differently to usual; I didn’t chase a time but raced it. I settled in with Caryl and managed to chase the two Japanese runners down at the end.”

Jones has made rapid progress in the last year, including an improvement of five and a half minutes from her previous best half marathon time, and ran a consistent race today to cap an excellent international debut for the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team.

“It was a good run,” she said. “I felt that I closed the gaps a bit too quickly but I’m really pleased and looking forward to having a great cross country season.”

Although not thoroughly satisfied with her performance, Partridge recognised the positive aspects of the experience as she continues to prepare for next month’s New York Marathon.

She said: “I’m disappointed, I expected it to go better. I found it tough but it was my best finish in a World Half Marathon Championships.”

Team Leader Martin Rush was delighted with both the collective performance on the day and the team’s prospects going forward.

“I’m really pleased with the team performance,” said Rush. “There were two great leading finishes to take two top ten places. It shows the strength in depth that we’ve got and all three can use this to kick on to winter performances.”

Meseret Hailu outkicked her Ethiopian compatriot Feyse Tadese to take the women’s title by just one second in 68:55, a personal best for Hailu. Kenyan Paskalia Chepkorir Kipkoech, who led for most of the race, was third in 69:04.