ATHLETICS: Milestone triumph for Tromans

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The Independent Online
GLYN TROMANS is a good advertisement for cardiac surgery. Since undergoing two operations in 1996 to eradicate an extra valve in his heart, the Coventry Godiva runner has made what he describes as a "major breakthrough", and on Saturday he picked up his first British title to earn himself a place at next month's World Cross-Country Championships in Belfast.

The 29-year-old Tromans ran clear of almost 300 other athletes on an undulating course at Wollaton Park, Nottingham to win the Reebok Inter- Counties Championship which served as a trial for the world event in Northern Ireland on 27-28 March.

Behind him, Andrew Pearson and Dominic Bannister claimed the other two automatic qualifying places to form half of a team that will be completed with discretionary choices and announced today.

Britain's leading cross-country runners, Paula Radcliffe and Jon Brown, chose to miss the trials in order to prepare on the other side of the Atlantic. But Tromans, one of four new champions the trials produced, would not have missed the event for, well, the world.

"I felt really good out there today," he said. "I came here knowing I was going to win, even if some others didn't expect it." One of the main reasons for his confidence was the extra time he has had to devote himself to training, having given up his job last September as a lecturer in marketing at a further education college.

"It has made all the difference," he said. "It means I don't have to get up early every morning and fit sessions in around work." Lottery funding has enabled him to maintain his pursuit of a potential that was compromised for most of the Nineties by his heart condition.

"I had the problem since 1991, although I only had it diagnosed three weeks before the first operation," he said. "When I was out running, four or five times a week I would have to stop and recover from oxygen debt, because my heart rate would go from around 140 a minute to 220 or 230 within a couple of seconds.

"It could happen at any time. It didn't matter how hard I was running. The only thing I could do was to lie down where I was - on the track, or at the roadside - and wait for it to pass. It was more scary for my family a lot of the time, because I would be late coming back from runs while I waited for my heart rate to stabilise." Two minutes before his operation, it got scary for Tromans too as he was asked to sign a disclaimer form giving the surgeon the right to put in a pacemaker in the event of any problem. "They had to do a welding job to close the extra valve up and it was in the centre of the heart, so if they had burned too deep there might have been permanent damage," he said.

Less than a year after his second operation, he qualified for the World Cross-Country Championships with fourth place in the trials, and in last year's world event at Marrakesh he was the top British finisher, in 38th place.

Now he returns - as Warwickshire's first inter-counties champion since the 1970 Commonwealth 10,000m bronze medallist, Dick Taylor, who retains his links with Coventry Godiva and was present in the early spring sunshine to see Tromans - who trains with Taylor's son, Richard - earn his gold.

Tromans needs to be one of the top 10 European finishers in Belfast to maintain his current level of Lottery funding, but the pounds 2,000 he received as runner-up in the Reebok Cross-Country Challenge, and an extra pounds 1,000 as winner of the Puma Road Rankings, will have helped with the preparation costs.

In the women's 8km event, Angela Mudge produced a strong, front-running display which won her a first British title - that is, if you do not count hill running.

Mudge, a 27-year-old adopted Scot who is working on a PhD in chemistry at Edinburgh University, has twice been British hill-running champion, but her victory on Saturday, ahead of Tara Kryzwicki - daughter of the former West Bromwich Albion and Wales winger Dick Kryzwicki - and Lucy Wright surprised everyone, including herself.

Last month, after taking part in a cross-country race within the grounds of Stormont Castle, she was not included in a group of 35 likely British contenders who were shown around the world championship course in another part of Belfast. Instead, she went for a two-hour training run.

The inclusion of shorter races at the world championships offered opportunity to two other new champions, Helen Pattinson and Dave Heath, who won the 4km events to earn their Belfast trips.