Image: Extract of previous map of the Balmoral Estate
This weekend sees the British Long Distance Championships at Balmoral Estate. The area was previously used for RacetheCastles in 2014 and the Scottish Championships in 2016 and offers a beautiful venue with good technical challenge in a variety of high quality terrain.
Event parking and the race arena are close to Balmoral Castle itself. Thanks go to Her Majesty the Queen and Balmoral Estates for allowing orienteering to use the area and in particular to Garry Marsden, Estate Visitor Enterprise Manager for his great co-operation.
The British Long Distance Championships is the final named race in the selection policy ahead of selections later this month for the World Championships and the World University Orienteering Championships. So there is plenty to run for!
It will definitely be a first time winner in M21E as Graham Gristwood (winner of the last four titles) is not starting, and no other previous winner is on the start list either.
The M21E start list does however have 9 of the top 10 from the JK this year including winner this year Ali McLeod, Sasha Chepelin (M20E BOC winner last year), and last week's EOC bronze medallist in Sprint Kris Jones (also first back on EOC Relay first leg). Peter Hodkinson (JK Middle champion) and Chris Smithard (second at JK Long) will be others looking to challenge for the title. Also on the start list but who did not run JK are Norway-based Alan Cherry (has run WOC Long for GB the past two years), and Scott Fraser (holds GB's best ever WOC Long result of 6th place, but to date has never been British Long champion....) Or maybe others who did not complete the JK will fancy their chances, for instance Mark Nixon and Will Gardner are both also high on the GB ranking list.
In W21E the champion from last year (Tessa Strain) is missing, but three previous champions (Kim Baxter, Jess Tullie, and Claire Ward) are all on the start list. Even if two of them could have chosen to run W40 instead! Also on the start list are Megan Carter-Davies (who currently tops the GB rankings), 2016 and 2017 GB WOC team runner Jo Shepherd (recently a key part of Halden women's third place finish at TioMila weekend), Fanni Gyurko (bronze medallist from last year's BOC Long), Charlotte Watson (recently back from Australia in time to run in the GB team at EOC), and two more young senior athletes in Sarah Jones and Cecilie Anderson (who both placed strongly in the top ten at the JK).
The planner and controller are Steve Nicholson and Brian Bullen, the same team that delivered such excellent Long Distance courses at Glen Affric for the 2015 World Championships. So the stage is set for two competitive 21E races on quality courses and terrain, it will be intriguing to see who takes the medals!