EUROPE’S elite athletes are going to have to run very fast to catch Darran Bilton – after the Pickering runner was selected for a major championship at the age of 43.

Bilton will represent Leeds City Athletics Club in the 10k European Champion Clubs Cup Cross Country, which takes place on February 1 in Istanbul.

It is a major coup for the guest-house owner, who will be competing against some of the best athletes on the Continent at a time in his life when many competitors have already hung up their spikes.

But Bilton has defied his age to consistently post strong performances in top races and, last April, was the winner of the veterans’ title at the Flora London Marathon.

In 2007, he ran the fastest 10k by a veteran in the country when his time of 30 minutes 56 seconds at Melmerby put him at the top of the national rankings for the marathon, half-marathon and 10k.

“I have been selected in the open category,” he said. “I am such an out and out marathon runner and I think it reflects in my approach to the sport.

“You become more intelligent in your training and it is more than pleasing to be selected. I am still holding on and every selection is another bonus in my running career. I had experiences most people would dream of and to continue to be running with the best in the world – on the same field – is an absolute honour.”

Bilton is part of a stellar line up for the 26th York Brass Monkey half-marathon tomorrow, where he will once again go head to head with 2008 winner Steve Hepples.

It is the next stage in his preparation for the European race, which is followed by Leeds AC’s attempt to retain their Yorkshire Cross Country Championship title.

After finishing third to Hepples 12 months ago, Bilton is confident he can put on another good show in a race he admits he “can’t refuse to compete in”.

He added: “The Brass Monkey is always a tough race and it’s a very sharp field. The race is always very high profile but it doesn’t fall too well in my calendar.

“It’s such a fantastic race I can’t refuse to compete. It is important race for me and it’s nice to see the same friendly faces. I am quietly confident and am looking forward to it. I am not there for a job. I am there to compete. If anyone is going to finish in front of me they are going to have work really hard.”