Whilst every event lost to Coronavirus leaves is pining for ‘normality’ this weekend it will be felt a little deeper as we miss, but celebrate, the Night of the 10,000m PBs

This weekend would have seen the 8th edition of the Night of the 10,000m PBs. It is telling that of all the cancellations that Covid has wrought on us, this is the one that probably makes the Fast Running team most sad.

From the local spectator (me) to the remote spectator (Robbie), the participant (Hannah) and the commentator (Tom) we’ve experienced the event from all angles, so we’d like to take this weekend to get a bit soppy about it and say why we think it’s so great.

Humble beginnings

Started in 2013 by Ben Pochee and the Highgate Harriers running club the event is now rightly held up as an example of how to engage the wider community with sport and turn track running into a spectator festival. Last year over 8,000 people came to watch the 10k senior races, Strava mile pursuit and various junior events.

Soon enough governing bodies noticed how special the event subsequently hosting England and then British Championships.

It has since gone on to host the Rio Olympic Team GB trials, IAAF World Champs GB trials and from 2018 the wider IAAF community has benefitted from the unrivalled atmosphere as 28 nations make their way to the Parliament Hill track for the European 10,000m Cup.

Take a look back at our interview with Ben before last year’s event.

My highlights

I first attended (as a spectator – I’m not that fast or that crazy) in 2014 and every year has given me something to remember. The first year it was purely the thrill of discovering that Athletics was exciting, that I could support it like others supported football teams.

In 2015 a balmy night, a Ronnie O’Sullivan spot and an Auckland, Piasecki, Dixon triple PB got me fired up as well as adding a little bit of stardust. 2016 upped the ante in entertainment level and had the first women’s only races.

2017 Was when I realised that this event was fun for everyone, not just athletics fans as I dragged family members down to watch Beth Potter rinse the competition and stand aloft the Double Decker bus. 2018 was a special one as I got to meet Jo Pavey at the pre-event seminar and introduce my 2 month old son to the lactic love!

Then, last year I was lucky enough to be reporting for Fast Running and had the chance to step onto the infield and even watch from the bridge as hoards of top notch athletes chased the World Champs pace light round the track. I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a race as hoarse as I did from shouting at Steph Twell as she stormed home.

Photo: Jerry Small

A place to get together and celebrate with friends

Every year I’ve caught up with countless friends and made new ones as we’ve bonded over the pure joy that is watching people give their all and doing our best as spectators to push them on until they cross that line.

It’s not just great for those able to attend in person either, Editor Robbie Britton also rates last year as one of his top memories

“One of my favourite moments was seeing Steph Twell take a fabulous win in the women’s A race last year. The result looked a foregone conclusion when Lornah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel stormed off from the start, but Twell hadn’t read the script.

Storming to a win in 31:08 after an electric last kilometre, Twell was the star of the whole night for me. With Eilish McColgan not far behind in 31:16 it was a fast evening for British women!

Sat overseas watching on my laptop is the closest I’ve actually got to seeing the event, but every year it has me shouting at the screen and last year was no different.

Be it friends in the lower events, or the excitement of seeing British vests battling in the European Cup 10,000m races, I love watching every year and it was certainly missed this weekend.

A community up evolution

One of the key features of the evening is the live commentators who help make it exciting even if you’re not au fait with the people you’re seeing and don’t know who is in form. Fast Running’s Tom Craggs has commentated on all but one of the events.

He had the job of keeping track of who has been lapped, what lap they are on, whether they are on target for the qualifying time and trying to throw in some witty banter. Tom says

“It’s amazing to see how it’s grown out of the ideas and passion of the UK running community, brilliantly realised by the drive and talent of Ben Pochee.

From community roots it’s become a world leading event in endurance sport. Like athletics mix between a music festival and a night of top class boxing the event builds in energy through to afternoon to peak with some of the highest quality racing you’ll see anywhere in the world. Wonderful stuff.”

At the heart of the action

But what is it like to race there? For those of use who dream of being able to hit those qualifying times, the idea of 25 laps in front of that size of crowd is a far off dream.

Fast Running’s own Hannah Irwin toed the line for the first time last year, “after having seen countless videos of the buzzing atmosphere and hearing how exciting the racing environment was. It was also my first ever 10,000m track race so I had no idea what I was letting myself into.

All I can say is, if you haven’t done a 10k track race, try to make sure your first is Highgate. 25 laps of the track is a long way, but the buzz of having such huge crowds shouting at you at every angle of the track really spurs you on.

I didn’t get the result I wanted, but that was irrelevant as I absolutely loved every minute of the event, and that’s really what we do it for!”

Close and personal with the best

Irwin  speaks for many of us highlighting how unique it is to be so close and engaged with some of the UK’s best athletes;

“I was in a race earlier in the evening, so once I had got my race out of the way I was able to watch the men and women’s A races, which were incredible.”

“It isn’t that often you get to see some of our country’s best athletes in action so close up and so many times. Steph Twell was definitely the highlight of the night. Even talking about the night brings a smile to my face.”

This year GB athletes were preparing to fight all the way round those 25 laps for a place on the Olympic 10k team and boy was there a fight to be had.

Whether we’ll be able to see such a well attended competition in the near future remains to be seen and it’s sadly ironic that the success of the evening makes its return likely to be even further down the track, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Photo: Getty Images

Mini virtual roundup

We note that Guernsey Athletics are planning to arrange a socially distanced 800m race over coming weeks and we can’t wait to get back to reporting on real world action. For now though here is a mini roundup of some virtual results this weekend, correct at the time of writing:

Ranelegh Summer Race Series #1

Women’s top three: Natalie Haarer (19:42), Suzy Whatmough (19:47). Sarah Palmer (19:59)
Men’s top three: Nick Impey (16:25), Pat Wright (16:30), Jame Riley (16:36)

Centurion Running One Community winners

Anna Buckingham 20:35 & Robbie Britton (Nice one Robbie!) 16:33

Ali young 40:25 & Ollie Sterme 35:21

Half Marathon
Meryl Cooper 1:24:46 & Andrew Mckillop 1:23:52

Annabelle Stearns 3:41:20 & Mark Gregory 2:49:47 (a very solid solo effort)

Rose Penfold 3:57:54 & Dan Lawson 3:24:12

50 miles
Samatha Amend 6:47:04 & Jack Chennell 5:58:41 (wowzers people!)

100 miles
Claudia Burrough 15:20:15 (wheelchair), Helen Etherington 22:01:45 & Martin Johnson 16:37:30

Cardiff Summer Series 2 Mile winners

Rhys Hardman 9:47 & Bethan Hardman 10:59

London Clubs Mob Match 5 Mile

Georgie Grgec (Herne Hill Harriers) was the women’s winner in 27:11. Amelia Pettitt (Kent AC) was 2nd in  28:17 with 3rd place going to Sarah Hanley of Kent AC 30:13.

Anthony Johnson (Kent AC) was the men’s winner in 24:47 with Paul Martelletti of VP&TH (24:45) and Alex Crossland of Highgate (25:08) 2nd and 3rd.

The team competition (12 to score) was won by Kent A for both the men and women.

The NN Virtual Relay and the Virtual Welsh Castle Relay are ongoing and we’ll update you next week on the winners.

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