OLYMPIC silver medallist Iwan Thomas added the Sedbergh Gala Fell Race to his list of athletic achievements – and vowed to return again next year.
The 400-metre runner finished 90th out of 100 and admitted to tackling part of the race on his hands and knees but praised the ‘amazing support’ of his fellow runners and spectators.
BBC cameras descended on the opening fixture of the British Fell Runners’ Association (BOFRA) season to film Thomas’s efforts for flagship programme The One Show.
A former European champion, Commonwealth champion, World Cup winner and current British record holder, Thomas sprinted off but found the going very tough and finished towards the back of the field.
He crossed the finishing line with Boff Whalley of the hit rock band Chumbawamba, who is a keen fell runner. The pair shook hands in the final moments of their run.
The race was won by Staveley’s Rob Jebb in 19 minutes 44 seconds while Thomas clocked 35-35.
After taking on the steep slopes of Winder, he said, “The organisation, the crowd and the fellow runners have been first class.
“I’m very unfit to be honest – I’m not going to make excuses but I haven’t trained for six months and it showed because on that first hill I thought I had got to the top and then realised there were three more.
“In the end I had to go on my hands and knees but I thoroughly enjoyed it - all the runners who overtook me were patting me on the back and being complimentary.
“I just think it’s a lovely event – whatever size or fitness level you’re at you should try fell running because I will definitely do it again.”
He helped Sedbergh Gala enjoy its ‘best year ever’, according to secretary Neil Kernahan.
“The day went fantastically – it was really well supported and having Iwan Thomas and the BBC there boosted our numbers dramatically.”
The U12s race was won by Kendal’s Fraser Sproul (7-05) followed home by Ambleside’s Harry Bowen. Helm Hill’s Mia Walsh (14-11) was first girl home in the U14 race ahead of Imogen Burrow (14-32).
In the U17 race Helm Hill’s Katherine Lawson (16-22) was first girl with her team mate Mia Senior (18-30) in second place.
The event, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, was attended by around 2,500 people and featured a fancy dress and float procession through town and a host of on-field attraction.