Compared to North America or Central Europe, it doesn’t snow much in Ireland and Britain. Until recent years, a few centimetres of snow was enough to close all schools, roads and airports.
But since the extreme winter of 2010, every public authority now has vast stockpiles of grit and salt, and we seem to have got used to wintry conditions. Why, I even went running on snow and ice for the first time last winter. Still, Ireland doesn’t see all that much of the cold, white stuff.
Fair play, then, to Ireland’s women’s cross-country team, who put in fantastic championship-winning performances on the frozen fields outside Budapest in Hungary today. You’d think they grew up running across snow drifts and frozen lakes.
Fionnuala Britton became the first woman to retain the European cross-country title. Leading from start to finish, she powered over the snow-covered 8-kilometre course in sub-zero temperatures to hold off another strong challenge from Ana Dulce Félix of Portugal, the former champion who finished second to Britton in last year’s race.
What’s more, the Irish women also won the team prize, thanks to great running by Linda Byrne in 8th place, Ava Hutchinson (18th) and Lizzie Lee (23rd) as the other three scoring runners. Sarah McCormack (36th) and Sara Treacy (42nd) also ran well to earn their share of the team gold.
The Irish men’s team had less success. Joe Sweeney, fifth last year, finished 27th today, just behind his team mate Brendan O’Neill in 22nd place. The men’s race was won in a canter by Andrea Lalli of Italy, who lapped several runners on the 1.4km circuit.
You can watch Britton and Ireland’s winning performances again at the European Athletics website. European champions!