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Runner from skipton who grew up in the mountains and called it home

Running is very innate. You wear your running gear, put on those running shoes, you shut the door behind you and you run. Although it varies over different terrain, time and distances but the basic principle stays the same.

However, it gets a bit more technical when you are competing at the elite level for over a decade and a half. One has to put in their dues with time, effort and determination before they can proudly wear their national vests. Nevertheless, the simple act still remains simple.

There is a name and face that has become a familiar sight amongst the mountain running elite. The name is Victoria Wilkinson from Skipton. This English athlete has not only made the national team in running but also in Cyclo Cross Championships. She has over the years become a true veteran of two very different sports.

 

                                                           VICWILKINSON(photo courtesy of www.lakelandtrails.org)

Wilkinson did not stumble upon running by shear coincidence. Like many kids, growing in the picturesque countryside of the United Kingdom, she grew up watching her father participate in fell races. She got attracted to running and has vivid memories of her entrance into the sport, “I started running at age 9 with my dad. We lived in a great place for running, when he went out, I would sit on a buffet at the back door, repeatedly asking him to take me with him.”

Not tasting success, as kids, can be a big turn-off when opportunities are plenty and several sports to try one’s hands (or feet) on. But Wilkinson knew that she was in this for the long haul, “I also competed in Cross Country at Secondary School getting chosen for North Yorkshire Schools in my first year, the English Schools Championships was in Taunton that year, and I finished a lowly 223rd! But it must have not put me off because in my final year of that championship aged 15, I was 2nd.”

A nation’s commitment to sports is tangibly represented by the quality of athletes that they produce at national and international levels. The United States have a strong collegiate program. The strong Australian commitment to sports was well documented during the 2000 Olympics down under. Wikinson illuminated on the strong British system for kids, “The school scene is a excellent system as there are races for each level, starting at Inter Schools races, Area championships, County championships and National Championships. I am sure that this scene set me up for life, introducing racing gradually and getting larger and larger competition.”

There are very few in our sport who have been fortunate enough to make a full time living off of running. Majority of the athletes have to juggle work commitments with our passion. Wilkinson is in the later group. A sport masseur by training, she is currently, working full-time at a Financial Service firm in Skipton. She trains earlier in the morning before commencing her day or post-hours after work. She calls it a “happy medium” with regards to work and training.

1997 was good for Wilkinson as she was the World Junior Mountain Running Champion in that year. The last three years have been quite busy for her too. Some of her best results have been 2nd at the National Series Cross Country (2007), 2nd World Mountain Running Overall Series (2007), 2nd Home Country Cross Country (2008), 13th World Mountain Running Championships (2008), 5th Commonwealth Mountain & Ultra Distance Running Championships (2009) and 1st Yorkshire Cross Country Championships (2010).

In addition to hundreds of competitive running races, Wilkinson has also had a top finish in the National Cyclo Cross series (2003) and 5th place at World Cup Cyclo Cross (2004). She has partaken at the World Cross on five different occasions.

Having been part of the national team for so many years, it is natural for Wikinson, to feel close to her teammates. Some of these members have moved up the school and junior ranks likes she has. In this regard Wilkinson says, “I have been lucky throughout my racing career, although a lot of the girls have been close competitors, we have always got on well. Most of the training camps I have been on in the past have usually been with friends/rivals. In the same breath she adds, “ But I think as long as you respect each other when times are good and bad then being good friends and racing closely together brings the good out in each other.”

After speaking with Wilkinson, I can admit, that she is quite humble and modest. She is very competitive but she also understands the significance of a “team”. In this regards, she says, “It is a great feeling when the team gets it right on the day and no matter who has beaten you on that day, you are happy for everyone.”

Being a competitive runner for close to two decades now, Wilkinson realises that, she is closer to the end of her competitive career than the start. She understands that the transition is inevitable and she says, “At 31 my days are pretty much numbered as a fast runner over shorter distance and due to past injuries it is becoming more evident that the training necessary to compete in this is not the best for my body.”

With a great career, comes great maturity and appreciation of the sport. Wilkinson at this stage in her life can look back and appreciate the sport(s). She contemplates, “Both my cycling and running has probably given me more than I will ever be able to list or even be aware of, but both disciplines are in my blood and will be for I guess all my life.” She goes on to say, “I have met lots of great people both locally, nationally and internationally.”

At this moment in time Wilkinson is in no mood to slow down. She will continue to compete at the highest level possible and dig deep to finish at the podium with her teammates. But when she does trade in her “racing flats” for “training shoes”, you can rest assure that the running community will be honoured, to have had an outstanding running student amongst its folds.

 

Nadeem Khan

Media and Communication Officer

nadeem.khan@iau-ultramarathon.org