What’s the most competitive race in the world that an amateur runner has a chance to compete in?

You could make a case for one of the big city marathons – London, New York, Tokyo etc. But while they will feature the very best marathon runners on the globe, the vast majority of competitors are ‘the masses,’ as Brendan Foster insisted on calling them.

So how about the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc, and its sister event the OCC, which is a shorter version of the main event, although that just means the athletes run at a higher intensity. It is 55km of incredibly demanding trail running, at altitude, featuring many sections that are tricky to ski down let alone run. To even have a chance to take part you have to qualify by doing several other long-distance races, and perform at a high level, and then every single athlete that does make it, drawn from nations across the world, is a serious and dedicated ultra-runner.

Huge congratulations to Nick Williams therefore for a monumental effort to come a fraction outside the top 100 in the men’s event. He was the 5th British runner to finish, and many of the runners ahead of him would be professional or semi-professional athletes. Nick looked to be in good form judging by his wins at the TRC club 10k championship, and at the mob match, and it was fantastic to see him put it all together on his favourite trails.

Round 4 of the Pete Mainstone challenge took place at the Severn Bridge 10k. This was an excellent event, organised by the company that still operates the Severn Bridges, and must be the only race in the UK where you get to run on a closed motorway. I was very impressed with the quality of the tarmac. Cut above what you get on the A38.

Compared to what Nick put himself through in the Chamonix Valley, this event was a doddle. However the old Severn Bridge is still deceptively steep, especially as the route took us up and down the slip roads which made the total elevation much more than we’re used to for the shorter 5k parkrun. In fact, there was barely any flat section at all; it was all up or down hill, plus you’re very exposed to even the lightest wind on that bridge, which had a cumulative impact when having to run the first three miles into a headwind. So not a PB course. Yet the race organisers made it a very special event, even if they snuck in a horrible lung-busting 200m climb up a footpath just yards before the finish.

I could tell we were getting close to the finish as you could hear the music from the loudspeakers getting ever louder. Katy Perry was insisting I was a firework – and to be fair my arms do resemble a malfunctioning Catherine Wheel when I get tired. Freddie Mercury was adamant that no one should stop me – oh, but please do!- as I was having such a good time. But that was no longer the case by the 10th kilometre!

TRC recorded some excellent overall results. There were more than 500 runners in the race, and yet we had two runners in the overall top 10, and two age-category winners. Phil Blackburn was the star performer once again, and his time of 37:27 was close to his overall 10k PB which suggests this was an exceptional run even by Phil’s meteoric standards. Hopefully he’ll find a flat 10k on a cool autumn day and go well under 36 minutes. Phil was fourth overall, and only narrowly missed out on a podium place.

Paul Harrod was 9th overall, and first VM45 in 39:57 which was some way off his best. Kevin Wood had an excellent run, cheered on by picnicking family members on the grass verge – a less salubrious al fresco location when the articulated lorries are thundering past, but a lovely spot on Sunday. Kevin was 66th in 47:01 and the clear winner in his age category, and he also took the honours in the age-adjusted rankings for this event. Chris Foley was 113th in 51:34 which is a really fantastic time on that course.

Hugh McPherson was inside the top 200 in a time just outside 56 minutes. Karen Carr just missed out on breaking the one hour mark, but did duck into the top 100 in the women’s race which is an excellent achievement. Liz Baird finished in 63 minutes, and beat 150 runners on the day.