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14th Jun, 2023, Hannah Viner

Highgate Harrier Lauren Russell finished a fantastic 5th on her British debut at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Austria on Saturday, picking up a team Gold in the process.

In only her third ever mountain race, the 16-year-old was the third scorer for the Great Britain team that won gold in the Junior Mountain Classic race.

Lining up alongside athletes from France, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Ecuador among others, the Muswell Hill native showed that North London can more than hold its own as a mountain-running training ground.

“It was a fantastic experience for my first GB race. To come away with a gold medal is amazing!” said a delighted Lauren.

“I loved the uphill section of the course the most. I felt a real boost in my legs just when the route opened up into a wider section so was able to pass quite a few girls at that point.”

Starting on the tarmac in the centre of Innsbruck, the 7.5km course crossed the river and wound its way up the mountainside, taking in 374m of vertical elevation.

Lauren found herself in second at the top of the climb, drawing on her recent experience representing England in Annecy, France.

“I had a taste of international competition last month for England in Annecy but this was a real step up,” said Lauren, who qualified for the Championships in Austria courtesy of her second-place finish in the trials last month.

The English Schools Cross Country bronze medallist flew down the descent and back into town, where she then negotiated the man-made ‘City Trail’.

The specially constructed 400m section through the centre of town featured rocks, gravel, wooden beams and water, and was the final challenge before the slingshot into the finishing chute.

“My feet were burning on the way down and I managed to keep my composure even though the marshals sent me the wrong way!”

Lauren, who celebrated her 17th birthday on Monday, closed hard and finished right behind her teammate Amelie Lane, and just over a minute behind another GB teammate, and race winner, Rebecca Flaherty.

“I’m looking forward to celebrating with my family and friends when I get home – after my exams though!” she beamed.