Britton to bid for gold in Hyères - but not as we know her

Fionnuala McCormack
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Fionnuala McCormack (nee: Britton) leading the 2012 SPAR European Cross Country Championships

If those rivals scanning the start list at next month’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships think life might just be a bit easier because there is no Fionnuala Britton in the race, then they would be wrong.

Ireland’s double individual champion and four-times medallist is gearing up for another bid for glory as she competes for the first time at the event under her married name of McCormack.

Britton tied the knot in the summer with her long-time boyfriend and fellow Irish cross country runner Alan McCormack and now she is looking to end this memorable year by making the podium in Hyères on 13 December.

Her record at the championships is as impressive as they come, having won the senior women’s race in Velenje in 2011 before retaining the title, along with taking team gold, in Budapest 12 months later. Last December in Samokov, she was sixth, a performance which helped Ireland’s women win team bronze.

As she proved when she secured her first track medal, with bronze in the 3000m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Gothenburg 2013, McCormack can adapt to all surfaces.

Further evidence of that came only last month when she was 13th in the Chicago Marathon in 2:33:15, over eight minutes inside the qualifying time (2:42) needed for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio.

But now she is back on the terrain, with her Hyères preparations facing a tough examination this Sunday when she runs in the Inter Clubs Cross Country Championships in Santry Demesne.

There she faces the challenge of Ciara Mageean, who broke the Northern Ireland mile record (4:30.64) in the summer in a year where she missed the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Prague because of injury.

McCormack, 31, who has been training in Font Romeu, beat Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix to gold on both occasions when she won her two SPAR European Cross Country titles.

In 2011, she triumphed by seven seconds in 25:55 and in 2012, it was by just two seconds, in 27:45.