TROWBRIDGE endurance runner Anna-Marie Watson is hopeful of placing highly in this year’s Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) after topping the standings with half the season completed.

Watson, who represents Avon Valley Runners and the French team What An Adventure (WAA), is ranked first lady in the UTWT Series – which this year is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

The gruelling competition is host to 21 events, ranging from the mountainous terrain of the Alps to the beaches of Hong Kong and the Sahara Desert.

Watson’s efforts at the Trans Gran Canaria Ultra and the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert means she tops the annual rankings – which are compiled by awarding points based on the top two performances of competitors.

She said: “It was my goal for this year to place highly, clearly we’re only half way through the year and a lot of things can change.

“But I picked my two races that I was going to do strategically because the points in those races are allocated slightly differently.

“It’s likely I’ll slip slightly but I should be in the top eight overall for 2018. But I am top which I’m very happy about.”

Each race on the tour is categorised differently, meaning a win in one race will earn you more points in comparison to other events on the tour.

Watson, who last year was nominated as a finalist in the Sportswoman of the Year category at the Wiltshire Sports Awards, competed in series bonus and series events – second and third tiered races respectively.

While her strong performances stand her in good stead right now, highly ranked races towards the end of the season are likely to drop her down the standings.

But her dramatic rise to the top of the sport is a result of 10 years of building up her physical and mental strength to compete at the top.

She said: “I wanted to hit a couple of big races – the points I accumulated from those two races were big for me.

“It’s been a very gradual progression for me and I can link it back to my first London Marathon in 2004.

“I love running in the mountains so I moved onto trails – it’s been year by year from then.

“I spend a lot of time in the French Alps, and I saw people competing in the Ultra Trail World Tour and thought to myself it would be amazing to do something like that.

“It’s been a long-term journey for me. I heard about these events and always believed they were beyond my ability.

“I gradually devoted more time to training, nutrition and my sleep – it’s a lifestyle now for me.”