Race walking may not have the prestige or the participation levels that other athletics events enjoy, however the University of Leeds can now boast that it houses the national champion after neuroscience student Bethan Davies finished first at the UK race walking championships.
Davies participated in the 20km race walk, the longest distance women participate in, which is just under half marathon distance. Despite this being her debut at this distance she set the Welsh record with a time of 1:44:15. Davies spent the first part of the race battling against her Welsh counterpart Heather Lewis, but had her safely behind at the half way mark and maintained the gap till the end of the race. Davies commented after saying, “I’m actually a little disappointed with the time, I was going well up to the 10km mark then slowed down, but I’m still happy to have won”.
Davies is a recent addition to the sport and only started training seriously back in October 2011 after filling a gap in the race walking event at the athletics varsity against Leeds Met. This year her training stepped up a level with the help of coach Andi Drake. Davies trains daily and she is in good company as her training partners include Commonwealth gold medallist Johanna Jackson and Olympian Quentin Rew.
Davies is the first to admit that it may not have the glamour or hype of other events, not helped by being dropped from the 2014 commonwealth games schedule. However these athletes have to be at peak fitness and although they may be walking, they complete these long distances in a time that the majority of the population wouldn’t be able to run. Race walking is a very technical sport with every movement being carried out to get the maximum speed whilst abiding by the rules.
Davies’ result has led to her selection for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team for the European Race Walking Cup being held in Slovakia later this month.
In other long distance news Susan Partridge has been confirmed as the winner of the BUCS marathon championships with the results being taken from the London marathon. She has also been confirmed in the line up representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the World marathon championships in Moscow later this year. Fellow student and marathon runner Jocelyn Payne claimed her first podium finish as she came third at the Manchester marathon setting a new personal best of 2:45:58.