WATCH – Dufftown athlete is champion again at Highland Cross duathlon
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Jill Stephen successfully retained her Highland Cross title as she recorded a new personal best in the 50-mile duathlon.
The 40-year-old personal trainer, originally from Dufftown but now lives in Edinburgh, claimed victory in the 20-mile run and 30-mile cycle in a time of three hours 55 minutes and 41 seconds.
She claimed victory in the race between Kintail and Beauly by eight minutes with Caroline Marwick from Fortrose in second place in 4.03 and Sally Wallis of Deeside Runners in third place in 4.06.54.
Stephen, who won the title in 2019 when the race was last held, says winning this year was sweeter given the time she finished in.
"I am so proud, my only goal was to get under four hours and I am really chuffed, " she said.
"I found the running a lot harder to be honest, Sally Wallis caught me at the end of the run.
"But I managed to win it in the cycling which I thought was amazing.
"The wind wasn't hard, it was more the water and i'm used to running off road, it was deep and I didn't know what was in it which made it a bit scary.
"I was worried about busting one of my ankles, but the winds were fine as it was a tail wind and it couldn't have been any better."
Stephen says putting greater concentration on cycling as part of her training was a factor on her success on Saturday.
"A lot of my training this year has been geared towards undulating longer courses," she said.
"I train so hard on my bike, normally I turn up and hope for the best, but I have incorporated more cross training and it has paid off."
Stephen says she enjoy competing in the Highland Cross, saying the organisers and supporters make it what it is.
"I am good at endurance and long distance events, but the support on the course is amazing.
"Every time I tell people about it I am beaming about it, you run along and all the walkers are shouting for you. Kids on the streets are holding banners cheering for you too, it is amazing."