If you are reading this you will probably know about the event. It’s one of very few events that I wish had existed for me to toe the line in when I was running – and yes, I would have been towards the back end of the E race, the slowest men’s race, which was won this year in 31.59!
It’s curious that with all the truisms about everyone having an iPhone-influenced short attention span and the supposed need to keep adjusting the basic nature of track and field athletics to make it more accessible, the real primal basics of running faster (plus jumping and throwing further) are still more than exciting enough if the atmosphere and presentation – and admittedly, level of competing- is pitched correctly. In this case, most of the best 10k runners in the UK, and at the sharper end a smattering from other European nations, tanking round 25 laps, race after race – 7 in all.
Being right at the trackside – indeed on the track as the crowds are based outwards from Lane 3 once the races unfold – gives greater vibrancy and demonstrates just what swift running even a 31 minute 10k performance is, let alone heading down to 28 minutes at the national champs medal zone. You also get to see how damned hard the effort is to keep this swift pace going. 5 min miling – 75 per 400m lap – looks no big deal on TV but stood up close, in the context of 25 laps with no recovery at any point, it’s relentless stuff, as the runners’ grimacing faces and laboured breathing illustrates.
On the self-indulgent side, my mother’s 80th birthday lunch was held the same day just up the road in Hampstead so this was the first and last time that I expect to arrive at the National 10,000m championships wearing brogues and hydrated by champagne and Cote de Rhone, but not enough to make the lap split calculations go awry.
So it was a real pleasure to see PBs bashed out by John F – 31.34; Will G – 31.35; Xavier G 32.32 and new coachee Chris O 32.20. All thoroughly deserved, fruits of some very tough long term training and at no stage did any of these guys ever consider that the quicker they closed the race, the sooner they could pitch up at the beer tent.