Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
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Night of the PBs and Olympic Trials - May 2016 (Part 2)

Somehow, because of the atmosphere generated for every one of the 25 laps covered by the athletes, in all six races, there appeared barely enough time to notice, near the start of the back straight, stunning Brazilian Samba dancers, swaying to Brazilian carnival music. It is unusual, even for sports fans, to ever concentrate on every lap of a 10k or for the BBC to show a 10k from start to finish, at any level, but the excitement engendered by Race Director Ben Pochee, helped by his team of unpaid Highgate Harriers and officials, with the support of the City of London Corporation, made it all possible.  

Portugal’s Salome Rocha and, her partner found the atmosphere so unique and thought there was nothing quite like that, at athletics meetings in Portugal.
Rocha’s time in the elite Race 6, when she came in 4th in 32:05.8, was inside Portugal’s Olympic qualifying time and so, off to Rio she goes!

Jessica  Andrews of Aldershot, Farnham & District AC, who won in 31:58.0 was inside the UK Olympic qualifying mark of 32:15, as was Beth Potter of Shaftesbury Barnet, who ran 32:05.4 in 3rd but regarding a possible third choice, at the selectors discretion, would be between Kate Avery of Shildon, who was 5th in 32:11.8, but had already done the qualifying mark and European Champion, Jo Pavey, if she found a 10k to do it in but more likely Jo will try to qualify for the 5000 for her fifth and final Olympics. It was so sad to see such a lovely person and ‘Great’ runner as Jo Pavey, down in 10th place in 33:28. She was determined to run, although she had been ill recently and had not got the strength in the last half of the race to be in contention. It was still very surprising that the hot favourite, the long striding, Linet Masai (32:02.05) the 2009 World Champion and in the frame on another two occasions, opened up a sizeable lead at a late stage of the race, only to be caught and overtaken by Jess Andrews in the final lap.

European Champion Jo Pavey of Exeter, who was a modest 10th of 23, had a very good reason for her performance.
“It was a gamble running!’’
‘A couple of weeks ago I got flu and a chest infection and, a couple of days ago, I could not make a decision whether to run or not. I thought I may as well gamble on it because if I don’t run I am in the same position anyway. I came off the antibiotics. I felt a lot better a couple of days ago. I was going to make the decision whether to run or not.
I felt a lot better to-day. Yesterday I was travelling up and thinking ‘Shall or shan’t I.’ you feel bad to make excuses because, all the girls ran so amazing and good on them.
I thought I may as well give it a go. If I don’t run I am in the same position and got it all to do. It does not make any difference in a way. As I felt a lot better but It has been two weeks and I thought could I get away with so little training, having three days off, trying to get some training in and then try and hit the track, and still feeling ill. Not ideal but I hate sort of excuses. I felt things were moving in the right direction but everyone gets ill at some point, you just don’t want a bad timing for it.”

You have had such a wonderful life as European Champion and third in the Commonwealth that in itself was good.
“I have been fortunate.’
Being an athlete over the years, I know the difference between being right or not for races is a very slender margin.
“A fine line. The thing is I went off on the qualifying time, thinking I may as well, as I have to get the time. At the end of the day, in hindsight I was not up for it to-day anyway
The thing is, even if I had like run a bit better and, come second and then not doing the time, I would have had it still to do.
Obviously I would not have been able to come second anyway. In the race I have to sort of go off trying to get the time, because I have not got the time, where as the other girls have. It was a gamble to run but at the end of the day I would have been in the same position ‘wouldn’t I‘ It  was a good race and people were running well but it was a gamble, I wanted to finish, even though I was getting slower and slower.’
‘I am still not going to give up trying to get in the team. It is hard to know where to go from here. I know the girls have run exceptionally well.”

Amazing to think Jess Andrews ran 33:21.53 for 10k back in Portugal in April and at Parliament Hill did a PB with 31:58.0 but at this meet she beat Masai, a World class runner in the process. Jess found she loved racing and running again recently and, is getting married after the Olympics. Regarding her current coach she said “He believes in me and makes it fun and if, I am feeling tired or feeling good he recognises that”
“I started running when I was about 15. Once she had been to the Europeans Under 20 Championships she moved to Mick Woods and trained with him for a couple of years.

Her outstanding memories for her “Probably running in the Europeans for Great Britain, that was amazing (She was 16th in the Under 23 European cross in December of 2013) and I ran a 10k two weeks ago on the road and that was when I started to feel really good (33.33.45 at Masai in Portugal on the 24th of April. She won the race).

What did she love most, the road, cross country or track running? “As I have just made the Olympics, the track I guess I just know that now.”
It was very encouraging she was able to deal with Masai, as Masai has a terrific reputation as a World Champion and been a silver medallist too?
“I think it is down on the start line and you don’t think of anything like that. You are in the same boat when you are on the start line and, I had nothing to lose so, I am here and I will try and beat them. I think the confidence comes. I think this is my best ever race.”
“Did she find the race exiting?”
“The crowds were amazing, really incredible. An amazing experience.”

Beth Potter regarding the race “I felt really good. The running only hurt with a mile to go“
She started running when she was 14/15. What then had given her the pleasure in achieving so much “Perseverance?”

First 8:- 1 Jessica Andrews (AFD) 31:58.0; 2 Linet Masai (Kenya) 32:02.5; 3 Beth Potter (Victoria Park City of Glasgow/Shaftesbury Barnet) 32:05.4; 4 Salome Rocha (Benfica, Lisbon) 32:05.8; 5 Kate Avery - coached by Tony Simmons, 32:11.68; 6 Krzina Papp (Hungary) PB of 32:32.5); 7 Laura Deadman, coached by Bill Foster (Havering/Loughborough students) 33:05.6.PB; 8 Sophie Duarte (France) 33:11.5.                                                        

HELEN CLITHEROE (Born Preston 2/1/74. From 1998 to 2009 inclusive was placed in first three homes in either AAA’s Championships or Trials. She competed also in the Olympics, World, European and Commonwealth Games. Coach Trevor Painter and her husband Neil has been a good influence on her running)

Helen Clitheroe, Regarding the 10k in the Night of PB’s she did the pace making for some way.
“I did what I was asked to do, it helped.”
What race did she feel had given her the most pleasure in her long career as an athlete?
“Probably winning the European Indoors is a big favourite (8:56.66 in Paris in 2011, when coached by John Nuttall. She did run her best time of 8:39.81 indoors, before she married)
‘Early on in my career, winning the European Cup in Gateshead, back in 2000, which I was not expected to do. It was a turning point really those two.”
She Started Running “At primary school. I guess I was a late developer with International stuff in my mid-20, I did not train hard in my early 20’s but I did train.’
She has had a lot of good races over the years and mentioned as a popular runner on television over those years so, what then was her favourite surface
‘Track. It’s track & road but not cross-country’
She had a go at the steeplechase?
“I did. That was not my favourite but I enjoyed good events and, it kept me in the sport a bit longer than with the 1500 but a hard event.”

Alastair Aitken

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