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gemma steel in the limelight

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Gemma Steel

31 October 2013

Having consistently impressed on the cross country circuit for a number of years, Gemma Steel (coach: John Nuttall) is now building a reputation as a world class road runner, underlined by her dominant half marathon win at the recent Bupa Great Birmingham Run.

Steel took victory by two and a half minutes on the streets of Birmingham, completing the challenging course in 1:10:19. In what was the biggest win of her career so far, she was delighted with her performance.

“I could have done with a few less hills but they didn’t bother me too much,” she said. “I just took them in my stride and I felt really good.”

“The Kenyan (Purity Kimetto) was a last minute entry in the race and she went off really fast so I hung back a bit at the start and then on the fourth mile when there was a bit of a hill I made my break and pulled away, she seemed to fade there and I never looked back.”

It wasn’t long before the 27 year old had built up a big lead but she was still able to concentrate and get the best out of herself.

She continued: “I had to run my own race because I was out on my own. I knew the hill was coming at 11 miles so I had to get quite a bit in the bank before I hit the hill and I carried on pushing on at my own pace as fast as I could. When I came off the hill I still felt strong.

“I felt really comfortable - there wasn’t a lot of pain and I felt really good; I was surprised. After the hill I thought my legs would be dead but they weren’t. In the last few miles I felt like I hadn’t even run up the hill which was a bit of a weird feeling but it just shows how fit I am at the moment.”

The Charnwood Harrier was seventh at the World Half Marathon Championships last year and following another successful half marathon in Birmingham she admits that a marathon debut is now on her radar.

She said: “The hill at 11 miles kind of replicates hitting the wall in a marathon; it’s where you don’t want it and where strength comes in. I felt comfortable off the hill and was speeding up over the last couple of miles. I said that I felt like I could go round again but I could have carried on and it gives me a lot of confidence thinking towards the marathon after that performance.

“I don’t have concrete plans but I’m looking at within the next year and a half. I don’t know about London yet or New York in the autumn, I’m not sure yet. I want to get my half marathon time down a bit more yet because I know that I can potentially run a lot quicker on a flat course.”

Steel has consistently mixed it with the world’s best distance runners and now insists that she will have no fear when she takes on the might of the East Africans on the world stage.

“I won’t hold back now. I’ll try and keep with the Kenyans now and do whatever it takes. I’m not really one to run for second place so I’m looking at potentially getting a medal at the World Half Marathon Championships in March after finishing seventh and being the first non-African there last year. I can compete with the Kenyans so I won’t be scared of them.”

Having honed her talent on the mud and hills of cross country, Steel isn’t ready to move solely to the road yet and is looking forward to getting stuck into another cross country season this winter.

The 2012 National and Inter-Counties cross country champion said: “I’ll hopefully run a full cross country season. I definitely want to do the European Cross Country Championships and the trials but I’ll have to speak to my coach John (Nuttall) and see what races I’ll need to do to build up to that.

“I really enjoy cross country, it gives you a bit of a break from looking at your watch all the time. There are good things about it like not having to worry about your time and having to contend with the elements and obstacles so it’s a different mentality to running on the roads. I think cross country is really what suits me.”

For more information on the British Athletics Cross Challenge, click here.