IT’S been a long, painful 15 months out of action – but Hook distance runner Charlotte Purdue marked her return with an impressive third-place finish at the Great South Run.

The 22-year-old spent more than a year away from competitive running after suffering a series of three unrelated stress fractures – but she returned with a bang in Portsmouth last Sunday.

Purdue overcame strong winds to complete the 10-mile race in 56min 57sec and claim an unexpected place on the podium, behind Kenyan duo Florence Kiplagat and Polline Wanjiku.

Purdue said: “I’ve waited so long to get back into racing. I’ve missed it so much.

“I was very happy with the way I ran and the position I finished in. I did not go into the race with any expectations – I just wanted to run, so I was shocked to finish third.”

Three unrelated stress fractures, the first in her knee, the next two in her back, kept a frustrated Purdue on the treatment table and off the road for more than a year – but she never contemplated quitting the sport she loves.

“Giving up never came into my mind,” she said. “I just wanted to get back healthy so I could run.

“The three injuries were totally unrelated and it’s just bad luck – but it has been very frustrating. I am just so pleased to be back running. It feels like I have been away for so long.”

Having made her comeback, Purdue is looking forward to the cross country season, with her first aim to secure a place in the British under-23 team for the European Cross Country Championships in December.

The trials take place in Liverpool on November 23 – and Purdue believes she is in the right shape to earn a place on the plane to Belgrade.

“I am still an under-23, so my next aim is to do well at the European Cross Country trials,” she said. “I am not training as much as I was a few years ago but the good news is that I can start stepping it up now, so I should be able to get even faster.”

Purdue sees her long-term future in marathon running – but having had so many injuries, she plans to concentrate on the track and cross country for the next few years.

“My long-term aim is to run marathons but I will not step up to that until after the next Olympics at least,” she added. “I would like to run in the world half-marathon championships next year but, having had so many injuries, I do not want to move up too quickly.”