KATIE Brough struck gold at the European Cross Country Championships on Sunday, the perfect end to week she later described as a ‘dream come true’.
The Vale Royal Athletics Club star claimed 27th place in the senior women’s race over 8km in Belgrade, fifth counter in a Great Britain team that topped the collective standings.
“Our goal was to win a medal and it’s brilliant to have one in my hand,” she said.
“I’ve lived off adrenalin for three days during my time in Serbia, but to come home as part of a winning team after racing at that level for the first time is something I’m so proud of.
“It’s such a big occasion, and I didn’t want to let anybody down. But I tried to stay focused and worry about the part I had been asked to play.”
The 31-year-old said the speed of her rivals around the fast, flat course had been a surprise.
But she kept up with them, knowing every place gained was a point towards the team’s total.
She said: “I expected everybody to go our hard and fast, just not that hard and fast! It was relentless from the start.
“We’d talked a lot the night before about what our strategy would be, so I kept calm and ran my own race.
“I’d never raced at the Euros before so I couldn’t be completely sure what to expect until I was out on the course.
“You’re told to try and treat it as just another race, though that’s difficult when you’re aware of the level of expectation on the British team because of their previous success. I wanted to make my own contribution.”
Brough’s teammate Gemma Steel scooped a silver medal at the Serbian capital’s Park of Friendship, eclipsing her performance in Velenje two years ago.
She held off Portugal’s Dulce Felix and Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton, last year’s winner, to clinch second place with France’s Sophie Duarte taking the title.
Britons Julia Bleasdale, seventh, Lauren Howarth, 11th, and Steph Twell, 15th, crossed the line inside the top 20.
Brough is planning more races at events in Europe to help further her progress in the coming months.
“I’ll change my plans a little after this experience,” she said.
“It’s important to get a feel for different competition, so I’ll look at how I can do that next year in order to keep getting better.”