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The rise of great single-event athletic meetings: the MK5000

I have said elsewhere (when writing about the Golden Stag Mile) that events like the Night of the 10,000 PBs at Parliament Hill have shown that concentrated single event evenings are great fun, AND produce great results for the competitors as they are graded races. The success of Highgate Harriers’ Ben Pochee at organising the 10,000m event has caused a brilliant ripple effect, and other such events are following on from this great work, and coming soon is what promises to be a great event for the 5000m.

posterheaderThe details of the inaugural ‘MK5000 PB Special in association with the BMC’ on Saturday 11 August show how clubs like Marshall Milton Keynes AC are gearing these events up to meet the athlete’s needs, and very much putting them first:

  • a day/evening of high quality 5000m races at the track in Milton Keynes. ‘A’ races are BMC Gold Standard; races leading up to that will be graded based on PBs.
  • put on by club runners for club runners; everything will be geared towards helping fellow athletes run as fast as possible.
  • on track support, a food and drinks festival as well as music to help inspire you.

trackOnly 500 places are available, so enter as soon as you can.
BMC Gold Standard entry (14.40 for men / 17.35 for women):
UKA club entry (Currently 17.59 for men/ 20.59 for women:

One of the organising team, Elliot Hind, commented:

It’s great the BMC were so keen to be involved and we are able to take a step forwards giving club athletes the platform to really push themselves.

He also confirmed that, ‘we will be providing pacers, taking official results at 3000m, and have got clocks every 200m and are looking to get predicted finish times on the screens too’.

SO, if you are looking for a 5000m PB, want to try a track 5k for the first time, or just want to watch athletics close up (for free), MK14 6DT is the place to be on Saturday 11 August 2018.

Run a mile, the classic distance

The Golden Stag Mile is back at Finsbury Park on Friday 6 July 2018. Re-arranged for Fri 20 July 2018 [entries still available], because of a:

clash with the huge Wireless Festival in the park, a potential England WC Quarter Final (jinx), and electonic timing being no longer available on the 6 July date

Come and try the greatest track distance, the mile. Events like the Night of the 10,000 PBs at Parliament Hill have shown that concentrated single event evenings are great fun, AND produce great results for the competitors as they are graded races.

The Golden Stag Mile is open to all clubs/individuals, but entries are filling fast. Entries:

GSM-LOGO-2018smallerNow in its fifth year, The Golden Stag Mile will always be for athletes of all abilities, from ten minutes or more to four minutes or less. The races are graded so that you get to race people of a similar ability as we love a close finish! Previous editions have seen British, European, and even World age group records, with a large crowd cheering our athletes on from lane three of the track.


The races start at 18:45 and the pace of each race goes up as the sun comes down. At the end of the night the final races will decide the Golden Stag Mile titles for 2018. We hope you will come for the whole evening to cheer on all of our milers.

Entries for the Golden Stag Mile will remain open until 30 June, or until the races are full. Races will be seeded based on your predicted time.  The time you put will determine which race you go in, so please be realistic.  You can change your predicted time as many times as you like, but no changes will be accepted after 30 June.


New for 2018 – Our final two races will be for elite men and elite women.  We are pleased to offer the following prize structure for these races:
1st  – £100 cash,  2nd – £50 cash,  3rd – £25 cash

Link for full results for the 2014-2017 races.

Golden Stag Mile roll of honour

2014 – Michael Wright, 4:29.76 – Jo Kent, 5:28.47
2015 – Michael Wright, 4.24:69 – Claire Elms, Dulwich, 5:04.93
(1st B&DAC – Kath March, 5:26.17)
2016 – Thomas Butler, 4:41:36 – Claire Elms, Dulwich, 5:13.08
(1st B&DAC – Kath March, 5:44.52)
2017 – Thomas Butler, – 4:24.9 – Kelly Thorneycroft, Heathside, 5:21.8
(1st B&DAC Nina Atherton, 5:45.4)

The marathon: unrelenting beast

Watching some athletes I coach, and some that are good friends, running the London Marathon was tough. Now don’t get me wrong, I was sitting on the sofa at home watching the TV coverage and tracking them online, while they were negotiating the warmest day ever for a London marathon.

But before looking at yesterday though, I would like to reflect back to the other two big marathons this week. Firstly the Commonwealth Games marathon which took place in the Gold Coast on 15 Apr 2018, and was notable for temperatures around 27c with the men’s race hotter, as it was later in the morning. As the race panned out Callum Hawkins kept chipping away at the lead pack, which included several East Africans (admittedly second or third tier ones as big city marathons are often a money magnet for the very best). Eventually he pulled away strongly and looked set for a clear win, so I went to bed as it was very late and I was sure he would get it.

callumhawkinsFor some reason I was still awake at the time it should be finishing so I turned my phone on and started watching under the bedclothes, like some rebellious schoolboy. Just then the whole thing unwound with the wobble, the fall, the carrying on and finally his collapse, hitting the barrier. It was distressing seeing no water being offered him by the crowd, and even worse no first aid arriving for ages, as he was obviously experiencing considerable distress.

An ambulance came and he was eventually looked after, but not before several other runners had come past him lying forlorn in the side of the road. Just as the winner Michael Shelley came by Hawkins’ arm symbolically had reached out and Shelley almost had to jump over it. I was interested to see if Hawkins had taken adequate water on board, so the next day I re-ran the TV coverage and watched closely at the water stations. He seemed to take loads of water both to drink and to cool himself, and also had a novel plan to be given an ice-cooled baseball cap at each drink station which he replaced the one he was wearing with. Without further info it is difficult to say exactly what happened, but let’s hope Callum can learn from the event, and never experience that again.

SteveJonesI do wonder, given that he had a 2 minute lead with 2 km to go, if he had not pushed on so hard and instead relied on outrunning the other leading contenders in those last couple of kilometres, whether things might have panned out differently. Having said that there is a certain similarity in race approach between Hawkins and Steve Jones, who is now ‘advising’ Callum apparently, and it wasn’t unknown for Jones to set an unbelievable pace, which he couldn’t always sustain. Just saying.

Side note: when I was training hard and was having a good run, I used to imagine I WAS Steve Jones! I admired his work ethic.

20180416_150457Move on a day and we come to the Boston Marathon. As I was sofa-bound rehabbing a new knee I was able to watch that on the Red Button, and boy was that a contrast to the Gold Coast. Temperatures were just above freezing and driving rain in Hopkinton saw the elite athletes wrapped in waterproofs, hats, buffs and gloves, and not just warming up but DURING the race.

There was a strong field in both the women’s and the men’s races and large lead packs set out at a cautious pace in both categories. Mamitu Daska was leading the women’s field after Shalane Flanagan peeled off for what the (very poor) American commentators called a ‘potty stop’.

LindenI didn’t notice at the time but later found out that fellow American Desi Linden had slowed and stopped when she saw this, then helped Flanagan back to the lead pack, in a similar way that a domestique will do for their team leader in cycling Grand Tour races. Eventually this domestique went on to win the race though as others faded or lost interest in running in the atrocious conditions. Linden was quoted afterwards as saying that she held back to help her team-mate because she was thinking of dropping out herself, but revived to finish strongly, and win by 4-10 in a slow time of 2-39-54.

kawauchiIn the men’s race Geoffrey Kirui seemed to have the race won as he took a big lead, but in a parallel to the ladies race he faded, was overtaken and came in 2-25 later. The strong man that overtook him turned out to be Yuki Kawauchi (whom the commentators had dissed for having the nerve to test the field early on by twice taking the race on), who strode on through the sodden roads to win in a slow 2-15-58. In his post-race interview he came up with the classic tough-guy line that the weather was just perfect!

IMG-20180422-WA0006Ever since I stopped running I have watched the London Marathon live (ie on the streets). We have evolved a plan to move to multiple watching points, which currently are 9m, 15m and 20m with a one-stop tube ride from Canada Water to Canary Wharf (and jog) for the first move, and a swift walk/jog for the second. This year though I was housebound, so was setup with TV on, App loaded and a personalised chart to track friends and their predicted finish times. The forecasters had been saying it was going to be a hot day and it was, reaching around 24c. The App gives times for each 5k section for the athletes you have loaded, in my case nine of them. This was supplemented by comments, photos and videos from our WhatsApp group dedicated to the day. We watched Mo Farah having his drink bottle issues, and the 5k splits were rattling in to the App. By the time folk went through 10k we had a reasonable idea who had a chance of achieving their ambitions and who might well be destined for a very tough trip.

maraAppSome people handle heat better than others, and some cope with setbacks better than others. On this day ‘my’ nine athletes suffered varying degrees of pain and pleasure. One pulled out at 15m as it ‘just wasn’t his day’, and he wanted to be able to take his big training to another marathon later in the year as he coveted a sub 2-30 time. Others stuck to pre-determined targets, which in some cases were ‘on’ nicely until after halfway, but drifted away from them. Of the eight who finished, none had negative splits – I wonder who did in the ever-increasing temperatures? Their first half to second half differentials ranged from 2m 23s to 35m 29s. That last one was an athlete who had trained really hard, yet suffered from about 5 miles in, and who finished some 90 minutes or more later than I had expected. The decreasing pace is clearly shown in the splits, and the athlete showed HUGE strength and determination to guts it out and finish the race.

The two who probably had the best experience had both had disrupted training builds and had decided that a PB was not on, lowered their target, set a pace that was sustainable and came through relatively unscathed and in one case admitting to having:

 Really enjoyed the day, high fives and hugs with family en route included.

marathonmanIn my marathon days I had a range of experiences: a dropout in Sheffield, also a mega-hot day elsewhere that did not go well, one where everything seemed to go perfectly, and a PB one which I remain proud of to this day (which actually wasn’t perfect, as it was slipping away towards the end, and took some serious hard graft to complete). So, I feel I know what these guys were going through, and can appreciate the ups and downs they will have experienced, and the massive achievement dragging a screaming body over that line must have been.

[Image: first London Marathon 1981]

What is particularly pleasing is that having spoken to several of them, their spirits remain high, and I am sure they will all learn from the day. One has for a while now had an ambition to beat my 2-34-53 PB, and surely will be back, and is eminently capable of doing so. Another, who probably had the toughest day of all (on their debut marathon too), which could have put them right off the event, sent a message to me after the event, saying:

Proud of myself for finishing but obviously not a good day. Time for a break and then I’ll be back. Next year! Unfinished business.

I will be there to support them both, work with them on their training, and hopefully be on the streets of London to witness the personal triumph that I so hope they achieve. What all the above does show is the marathon is a tough event, even when it goes well. When it doesn’t it is an unrelenting beast.

Only GB Gold in Portland

MastersThe results by the British team in the World Indoor Champs in Portland, Oregon were disappointing.  In fact the only Gold medal won was by Barnet and District’s Dave Wilcock in the v60 invitation 800m race. The top v60 800m runners in the world were invited to compete. Dave once again proved that he is still the man to beat on the Vets track scene. Not only that but he was involved in probably the finest race of the champs, and certainly the most dramatic finish. What follows is a brief backstory to this fantastic achievement.

Dave Wilcock lost to Joe Gough twice in finals at the European Vets Indoor Champs in Gent in March 2011. First in the 800m by 1.26 seconds (2-11.51 to 2-13.17) and then in the 1500m by a mere 36 secs. As it was so conveniently located, Moira and I had taken the Eurostar over there to support Dave. That 800m defeat hurt, and in the 1500m Dave had decided that Joe was going to have to work darned hard if he was going to beat him.

This marvellous photo shows mild-mannered Dave giving Joe a thousand-yard stare on the start line. In the race he sat in for a while and then took the race on with a lap or so to go, actually surprising the field (and Joe Gough in particular, who for a moment seemed to have missed the break). However, as Dave strode out for the win Joe seem to open up his stride, eat up the ground between them, and then drift past for victory. The raised arms and smile showed what it meant to him to have beaten Dave. It is pleasing to know that Dave arranged to go out for a meal and some craic with Joe that evening.

So, on last Saturday Dave reversed the positions in the Invitation v60 race at the World Indoor Champs at Portland Oregon. I am certain that he will be very proud of that result, but knowing him won’t see it as any sort of ‘redemption’ for the earlier performances, where the fitter man had won the day.

What the result in Oregon does show are three essential characteristics of Dave Wilcock’s make-up as an athlete, whom I have worked with closely over the years. First he is unlike anyone else that I know in his ability to use races to get fit. When he received the invite to compete in Oregon he naturally upped his training in the weeks available. But also he found a series of races to test his increasing fitness, and also finesse his racing tactics. On 14 Feb he ran 2-16.76 in an indoor race at Lea Valley, and followed that with three more 800s in similar times in the next few weeks, plus three 1500s which brought his time for the longer distance down by 22 seconds. In all these he was untroubled, including the British Vets Champs just the weekend before Oregon, and was able to try fast starts, long runs for home and other racing variations.

The second characteristic is a proven ability to take something positive from all these races and build a superb confidence level as he goes through, which he was able to take forward to the race that really mattered. During this time Joe Gough had become the de facto race favourite for the race as he had already run faster than Dave this year. But Dave had an unshakeable believe in his own fitness and ability to rise to the occasion.

The third trait is one that I have witnessed on so many occasions. That is Dave’s commitment to racing. Hard. For him this often means taking it out hard and making others work that bit harder to beat him. There are no easy victories against him. I have seen rivals wilt under this pressure, and others take him out. But interestingly, for someone who can run so well at the shorter distances he hasn’t so often sat in and out-sprinted his rivals, although physiologically he is quite capable of doing it to most of them. I think that deep down he wants to both win and run as fast as possible. The ‘Ovett-kick’ tactic may win races but may come off a slower mid-race pace and not be so satisfying time-wise for him.

So, to the Oregon race. I was not able to be there, and have yet to find a full video of the race [one subsequently surfaced]. But from Matt Treasarden’s phone video of the first 550m or so and from the online clip of the last few metres I think I can talk you through it. For the first 200m Dave sat in in third, with Joe just in front of him, as they hit 34secs. The same positions were held for the second lap, which was reached after another 36 seconds. 70s for 400m was too slow, so Dave took it on down the back straight to open the field up and get a more respectable pace. Joe surged to the front just before the bell and entered the final straight with a narrow lead. Now the race was on, and it was there for whoever wanted it most.

goughofirelandThe video of the finish shows Dave (with his surname mysteriously spelt wrong thoughout) taking it in what must have been the last 2 metres, to win by just 0.11 seconds (2-15.90 to 2-16.01). In his effort Joe crashes to the track as he crossed the line, and Dave raises his arms in triumph. A brilliant win, just shy of the World best – which is 2-14.06, by (you got it) Joe Gough, in 2014.

Dave was very eloquent when interviewed afterwards, saluting his fellow competitors and the vocal, supportive fans, saying: ‘You know the guys gave a good competitive race and the crowd, that Portland crowd down there, really lifts you. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It was a good time. That is what it is about – to entertain the crowd and just give it a 100%.’

On many levels Dave Wilcock is a class act, and one that his club and country should cherish.

Now watch the video of the full race. The build-up, the race developing, and the denouement. It is a classic:

Round Latrigg fell race and other Lake District activities

rickylightfootWent to watch the Round Latrigg fell race as it fitted in with our plans whilst in the Lake District. A reasonably low profile Keswick AC organised race held from Fitz Park on a gorgeous sunny evening – unlike some of the other days in the week. 185 entries, headed home by Ellenborough’s Ricky Lightfoot in a new course record of 29-21. Was kindly allowed to take some copies of ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ along – a few of which were snapped up by runners in the football clubhouse after the race. Good to chat with fellow running blogger Rob Morris at the event, and to meet @jonny5unt3r (who pleasingly bought a copy of the book).

Some other random things that happened in the week will be blogged on in later posts. This included having a good day in Kendal library’s excellent and helpful local history section, researching for Book II, and also visiting Barrow House to look through their archive of relevant material. I also set up the launch for the paperback version of the book, with the help of Lucy at Bookends in Keswick and Andy at the Saddleback cafe.

splashmapBGRIn the surprisingly quiet Travellers Rest I had a very productive meeting with David Overton (of Splashmaps) to finalise details of our map of the Bob Graham Round, which will be available later next month in good retail outlets near you, and online at Splashmaps.

But most exciting of all was finding out that I have been nominated in a list of 41 books for the Boardman Tasker Prize for mountain literature. A massive honour just to be listed.

Pen y Ghent: first fell race for some

teamPYGWe travelled to Yorkshire in fine weather, had great weather while there, and returned in good weather. UNFORTUNATELY, the heavens opened whilst we travelled to the race, obscured the hills during the race, and put a serious damper on the Horton gala (and rather stuffing my plan to try to sell some books!). Perversely, it cleared up soon after and was bright sunshine again, and we had a fine sunny evening walk to the pub for a well earned meal.

willArriving at Horton we registered and tried to prepare for what was coming (not that any really knew) around the car in the parking field. Not much warming up took place, possibly to the detriment of subsequent performances, but it really was quite manky. Bumbags packed with standard FRA kit, the athletes assembled for a quick briefing from the race organiser. Pen y Ghent was completely clagged. Some worried faces showed the uncertainty in how the summit navigation was going to go. For some a basic compass lesson was required that morning, emphasising the line of first descending, but I was confident that the summit marshall ought to be keeping an eye on folk. I saw the field over the first bridge and then moved up to just under Whitber Hill to await the return from the gloom.

joPYGThe leaders came through looking good, with M50 Craig Roberts taking victory (his 10th). Soon Derwent AC’s Rob Morris strode down the hill, having soundly beaten the club’s first athlete (his brother Will Morris, see photo above – at 3rd check point). Not long after our first lady came through, eventually sealing 3rd ladies position in her first fell race (Jo Kent, see photo  – descending Whitber Hill). The winning time was 50-46. Our nine athletes came in with times ranging from 1-01-28.– to 1-24-41, which was none too shabby for first timers [results]. Comments afterwards varied from “Never again” to “I would do another one next week if I could”.

physioWe were staying for the weekend in Bishopdale (at The Rookery), and had a great evening meal and a fine (pint of) Black Sheep in the Street Head Inn. The next day there were streams of club cyclists out reccying that part of Le Grand Tour route (a sprint finishes at the pub). Seven gallant athletes went out for their Sunday ritual run, of varying lengths over my recommended route – that I had not noticed having little black arrows on (yep, very steep rises!). Luckily we had Ontrackhysio on hand. Varying degrees of stiffness ensued in the next couple of days, but by Thursday I expect all will be back on track at the Midweek Road League race over the familiar training ground of Trent Park. Will we be back? I am sure some will, some won’t. But I am very sure that all will now have a healthy respect for fell runners/races.

Note: if we thought those conditions were tough, on the same day the Ennerdale Horseshoe race (a FRA champs counter) had to be shortened and brought off some of the tops because of lightning warnings, and the danger that posed. We also heard later that one athlete there had taken a bad fall and badly smashed up their knee.
[Credit: photos 1 & 3 Stuart Slavicky]

Pen y Ghent race preview, and another great book review

PenyGhent-200x200This coming weekend I will be at the Pen Y Ghent  fell race, in company with several runners from my club. For some it will be their first ‘proper’ fell race and it will be intriguing to see how they fare. The race is an FRA category AS race, 5.9 miles long with 1850 feet of ascent. Last year’s times ranged from to 47-25 to 2-14-38. We have accommodation booked for the weekend, and have been through accumulating the necessary kit requirements (where some didn’t have it all), and all are now properly worried about the event – which I am sure will go fine, as they are all experienced distance and trail runners. I shan’t be running unfortunately, but will be there in full support mode, probably from a vantage point on the side of Whitber Hill. I will also have a few copies of the book with me at the race, so if you are there and want to buy a (signed) copy just look out for me. I will be in my white book advert top (see photo in right margin of this site), and hopefully findable in the finish/gala area afterwards.

AWreviewFollowing on from the last post I was really pleased to finally see a review in Athletics Weekly (click image to enlarge) last week. I particularly liked the comment about the book being “beautifully produced with great photographs and images” – which ought to also please Sandstone Press. But mostly it was the “must-buy” verdict that made it worth the wait, and hopefully will have got the book to the notice of a new audience. So, now I am hopeful that a Compass Sport review will follow shortly, and also that Fellrunner will finally give it some space.