This weekend will see a ‘back to basics’ racing double-header, kicking off with the latest – and potentially quickest ever – Podium 5k, followed by the inaugural Summer Speedway 10k.
Friday’s Podium 5k at Barrowford, Lancashire, will include the usual sub-18 minutes A race and the ‘sub-anything’ B race, but this week’s event will be followed by the first ever sub-16:30 minute ‘elite’ race.
Organiser Chris Barnes has offered up a £250 bonus to anyone running fast enough to top the UK rankings in the race, which would see the men breaking Nick Goolab’s 13:50 and Laura Weightman’s 15:25 (set at the Podium 5k earlier this year). There will be the usual winner’s cash prizes too to add extra incentive for fast times.
Top athletes already confirmed for the elite race include (with their PBs in brackets after their names): Becky Rigby (16:13 and winner of the last race), Ben Fish (14:24), Matt Barnes (14:11), Pat Martin (14:18), Karl Darcy (14:49), Marc Brown (14:32), Andrew Challenger (15:03), Jack Turner (15:20) and Dan Kestrel (15:20).
The last edition of the Podium series – which athletes simply turn up on the night to enter, paying £5 in cash and in return have the chance to run on one of the fastest 5k circuits in the country – saw GB international Tom Lancashire break the course record with a superb 14:19 performance, while Rigby took the women’s race in 16:30.
Barnes is well known on the racing circuit for promoting simple format running and encouraging a stripped down racing experience – a fast course, cheap entry, and no medals or t-shirts.
The Ribble Valley Harries athlete and coach has previously spoken to Fast Running about this subject, adding: “I want to encourage the higher end of racing.. it is disgusting what is happening to the sport, with corporate idiots trying to make fast cash at the expense of runners wanting to improve their times.”
Sunday’s Summer Speedway 10k takes place at Beachley, Chepstow, and promises runners a flat and fast course, a slimmed down field, chip timing and a basic £12 entry fee, with any profits going back into cash prizes.
James Blore is organising the event, which will be the first of its kind to rank entrants on their best recorded time since 2012, and only allow entry to the top ranked athletes once the deadline has passed on Thursday lunchtime.
He agrees with Barnes that fast races are more likely to be achieved by simplifying things, adding: “That way you can keep costs low for competitors, and the onus should be on race organisers to make costs as low as possible so the entry price is cheap. Our sport is simple – chuck on a t-shirt, shorts and shoes, head out the door. Why complicate things?”
So far the big favourite for the men’s title of this inaugural 10k is Cardiff’s Matt Clowes, who won the Potters Arf half marathon on Sunday in a 66:53 course record (his PB is 64:38).
Although Clowes’ marathon debut in London didn’t go as well as expected, he has enjoyed success in a number of 10k races this year, and has posted two sub-30 results already.
Bideford’s Shaun Antell ran 31:10 at the recent Vitality London 10,000m but has a 30:04 PB from last year, while Hallamshire’s Tom Bains ran 30:05 on the track in America in March and will use the race as a tempo session.
Cardiff’s Dan Nash has a road best of 30:57 from this year’s Cardiff 10k but ran a far more promising 30:24 at the Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000 PBs, and intriguingly Nash’s club mate and Fast Running’s Class of 2018 member Tom Marshall could be a wild card entry. The 1500m specialist has a 10k PB of 29:50 from when he last contested the distance back in 2013.
Fife AC and Bristol & West’s Helen Sharpe is the leading contender for the women’s title, with a 35:40 PB to her name and a host of local 10k victories under her belt, including the Caerphilly 10k last month.
Sharpe’s closest rival for the top prize could be Chepstow’s Kath Matthews, who, according to sources is capable of a sub-37 minute result and has won the Gwent League cross country series overall in three of the last four years.
Parc Bryn Bach’s Lauren Cooper is reportedly in good shape, has a PB of 37:23 from March’s Newport 10k and recently won the last leg of the Welsh Castle’s Relay.
Blore is also offering cash prizes for the winning men and women in incremental amounts, as well as veteran category and team prizes, with four needed to score for the men and three for the women.
There is still time to enter Sunday’s Summer Speedway 10k here, while entry for Friday’s Podium 5k races is on the night, with more information on the event’s Facebook and Twitter pages.