CHARLOTTE Purdue was the first British runner home at the Antrim Cross Challenge in Northern Ireland on Saturday.

The Hook distance runner completed the 5.6km course in 18min 28sec to finish fifth overall in a high-class field, 21 seconds behind the winner, Mimi Belete of Bahrain.

However, Purdue saw off the challenge of main domestic rival Gemma Steel, who beat her at the European Cross Country Championship trials before Christmas.

Both runners were in a leading pack of seven early on and while Steel was ahead of the north Hampshire runner after 4km, Purdue rallied to move past her. She held on to finish as the top Britain, 15 seconds clear of Steel.

“It was a really fast race,” the 22-year-old said. “It was only 5.6km and for me that’s quite short. I definitely think that the longer courses suit me but I’m pleased with the way I ran today.

“I just sat in and then on the last lap just went with the group. I got a bit detached and it was really hard to get past people but I gave it my best shot so I’m happy with the result.”

Purdue is in cross country action again this weekend, taking on another high-quality field at the BUPA Great Edinburgh XCountry at Holyrood Park.

The 6km senior women’s race will be shown live on BBC1 at 2.15pm – and Purdue is looking for another good performance.

“I did not taper for the Antrim race and I’ve done a massive block of winter training,” she added. “Hopefully, that will help me in Edinburgh at the weekend.”