Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Ben Pochee (October 2017)

Ben Pochee The 'Great Motivator'
With Alastair Aitken

(Talking to Alastair Aitken at the National Men’s Six Stage Road relay Final, where Highgate Harriers came 9th of 83 club team on the 7th of October 2017)

Ben Pochee’ The Great Motivator’ was born 2nd of September 1970 in Hampstead, North West London.

As a young athlete and, much later, as a veteran (Master) was highly rated in the UK.
His Father Ahmed Pochee, competed for Highgate in the 1970’s & 80’s.
Ben’s half brother Brahma Pochee is on the Highgate Harriers ‘A’ team for track, road and cross-country and, was first leg of the winning Highgate Harriers Southern six stage road relay Championships on September 7th 2017.

Ben’s professional career is with the company he founded, called LGN Well Being Ltd. They use his ideas of team building, which has meant he has been able to deliver the combined skills for in house well being support and, his company, have provided that running support to such firms as Unilever, BP, Omnicom Media; Pernod Ricard, Mercer & Investec et all. That is all done with cost efficient run club coaching.

Now for Ben Pochee’s amateur success, which is considerable?

In this country, till Ben came along, there was a sparse amount of 10,000m track racing and in recent times, for the majority, the standard internationally was sliding downwards but Ben came along and, with his ideas tried to rectify the situation, which now others have followed his example.
He decided to put on a 10,000m at his Highgate Harriers home track at Parliament Hill Fields so; people could try and break their personal best times for the distance, which became inevitable in the well structured events. Each year since that first one in 2013, things have really developed a lot. The annual event became a British Championships, a Commonwealth & European Trial, blessed by UK Athletics, and then even bigger to be an Olympic and World Trial, all because of Ben’s good forward thinking and hard work.
The atmosphere with countless personal best times has been achieved, each year, in the annual event.

On the 20th of April, 2017 at the O2 Arena, Ben’s work was recognised and, he was awarded a trophy with this accolade ‘Special innovation in running for the 10,000 Night of PB’s’  
Remembering all the rest of his athletics outside of his job is on a purely amateur basis.

I feel, we should look further into Ben’s whole life in athletics right back, since he was a lad and joined Highgate Harriers, in 1984, not just his amazing skills with selecting his road and cross country teams latterly.
He blossomed out as a junior athlete. Many years later at veteran level, at the age of 42 he was ranked No 1 in the country over 3000/10000 and, from 12/2/11 to 10/10/15 he was first M40 Master/Veteran and, in the highly regarded  Metropolitan League, a dozen times consecutively!
By the way, despite his various injuries I will talk bout later in this article, he managed to win the British Duathlon Championship in 2014.

‘You can’t keep a good man down’

I will just point out here that before that, he won the Southern Counties Veteran cross country Championships M35-49 ‘The Highgate team was the reason I did it. I was persuaded by Ben Noad to do it’. That was at Biggleswade in December 2010.
Going back to before that in 1999, for 5000m on the track, he ran 14:53.36 and in 2003 14:53.12 plus 14.55.0 in 2004.
I said to Ben that I noticed, on the records on the Power of 10’ he was out of athletics from 2004 to 2009. He came back with
“I was out before that’

He first started with Highgate  Harriers in 1984 ‘I got a silver medal in the English Schools 1500 steeplechase; I ran for Great Britain, and cross-country for England, as an 18 year old. I then went to Loughborough University and that was where the injury started 1990/91. I went there with high hopes and was basically broken, on and off, for the entire three years. I kept having small running injures through the 90’s I would come back, got six months training and get a bit of running in but broken’
‘2004 I snapped my ACL and I had to have my knee re-constructed. Then my right leg went and I was in a cast for six months. After that I started running again so, it was really in my early 40’s I had a relatively decent running time again.’

It was interesting to note that from, well before he joined Highgate Harriers he knew Dominic Hall (International and, Inter-County 800 runner for Highgate and, part of the 1994 club 4x400 relay record team).
‘It was well before joining Highgate Harriers, when I was at school, and living next door to Dominic and, Nicky Martyn (Another quality Highgate runner) was also at William Ellis School.’

Ben started with running in the North West young Athletes league so, in those early days in athletics Rob Kennan would ferry them round to the races in a mini van. The North West Young athlete’s league is still important to the younger element in the club in 2017.
Ben remarked “I have got the Under 17 club record for 1500m steeplechase and I am very proud of that and, I coach a young athlete called Terry Fawden and he came very close to breaking that record 2 years ago. It was satisfying, just to coach someone to break your own club record (Ben did 4:25.16 done in 1987).
Chris Rainsford looks after Terry’s coaching currently

How did it all begin for Ben Pochee?
‘It was at William Ellis School, we did an inter-form race in the playground. We ran on concrete, for about 2k. I came 2nd or 3rd in that. Apart from that I had no skills in sport at all so, suddenly, you hang on to it like a life jacket. Something, you can actually be quite good at.’


Ben’s main aim was to try to help people improve their personal Best performances over a rarely run event in the UK and that was the 10,000. He wanted to help raise the standard of the event which had been lacking for sometime. (With the exception of Mo Farah and a couple of others very, recently)

That idea put forward each year by Ben, really impressed the last UK runner to break the World record for the event, Dave Bedford, who did  27:30.8 in 1973. He now lives locally in Highgate).  Every year I talk to him at length on the night; he has nothing but praise for Ben regarding the success of the Night of PB’s.)
The races with standards set was first called ‘Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PB’s’ and the first one was in 2013 and, has been run annualy ever since.

Ben Pochee comes in “I think the atmosphere is such a valuable part of running faster and enjoying stuff; when you are a spectator or an athlete. Trying to make it more fun, more atmosphere, for people to come and be part of it.
‘It has grown. Also, when you let people buy into that, they become part of the success. You tell them that. It then becomes organic growth and people want to assist at the event, when they realise they are part of the success. It snowballed“

It was over 100 years since Highgate Harriers had won a National Road Relay title or any English title of any great significance but, they won the 12 Stage National Championships at Sutton Park in 2016.
That must have given the Manager of the Highgate Harriers team Ben Pochee a kick as; he managed that team that ran in the high calibre event?

‘That gave me such a buzz because, all the years I have been managing the team, has always been about getting a bigger base of runners. The real sense of being part of something that is why, the Met League is so important.’

You are definitely the motivating force for people who run road or cross-country, as to when they decide what event to do or not. I would like you to comment on the fact on why your specially selected ‘Beacon Races’ are the one’s to go for. To a few it is a surprise, when it does not include the County Championships or the London cross country Championships. What do you say to that?
‘What makes the Beacon races is there are not many of them.
The whole point is that you can’t keep asking everybody to run every weekend, which is what we used to do. In the winter there is almost a race every weekend. You can’t say, with any legitimacy, everyone needs to come to the race. Eventually then, no one listens. 10 years ago people were not coming to the ‘National’ as there was no focus on any particular race. We have to pick a selection of races. To me the County Championships do not fall as a club priority outside the Met League’
‘You have got to be really careful. We have got 10 Beacon races this year, which goes all the way from September 2017 up to April 2018 (As a pure matter of interest The Beacon race One was the South of England six stage road relay Championships at Crystal Palace which Highgate Harriers won) Ben continues ‘So, if you are a club runner and you have got a family’ (Ben comes up specially to the races, even though he has a family and lives down in Cornwall, not just round the corner in North West London) - you know then, it is a Beacon race, there are going to be as many as 30 to 40 men from the club there and there is a social afterwards. So then, something is going to peek your interest. Previously, you never knew when you were going to race and, there might be only one other person at the venue you have chosen to run at.’

Your motivation goes much further. You have got a job and, you are Founder member of LGN
‘I am grateful to running to give me the opportunity of a business idea to pay the bills. We put running coaches into big companies. We have running clubs in the companies, to get them to do running like I enjoy running. That is what they do.’

Coaching & running has meant an awful lot to you. What do you feel it has given you?
“The club has given me my personal running, when I was a little narcissistic and looking at my own times, but then I started coaching and team managing’
‘Being just a part of a family of people who share a passion for running (talking at the National six stage relay in October 2017) just having you, these guys, & Mark Driscoll down to support us etc.
Terry Driscoll (Twice President of Highgate Harriers) and Martin Howard (An incredible worker behind the scenes and been the ECCU President, amongst many other international and UK official Amateur jobs and, a hard worker for Highgate Harriers). Those people have been invaluable in the sport for Highgate Harriers but sometimes it is a thankless task for them
Ben then comes in “That is the trouble sometimes, it is literally thankless. People don’t realise what is involved. Everyone has their own life and have issues and yet come and do stuff for the club.’

In recent times Ben Noad (Ex-International and ran in the World cross country) He has been a help to you.                
Ben Pochee comes in “Ben has contributed a huge amount to our Highgate resurgence, from being a scoring rock the first season we won the Met League (2012/2013), he ahs helped inspire others, he coaches a few of our athletes and importantly his role as an official has been hugely helpful when I am organising Night of the 10,000m PB’s.”

Could you pick out a race that is a really outstanding memory for you?
‘2004 National road relay six stage. My first proper race after the reconstruction surgery at 34 and it was for the team. I was 3rd on the opening leg at that National road relay in 17:28. I loved that, because I thought my proper racing was done and dusted with 1½  years out with my knee surgery. That started the resurgence of being involved with team managing, trying to build it all.’
Ben also pointed out that he had a favourite personal best time.
‘It was the 2000m steeplechase best of 5.51 in 1989. It was in 1999 I ran 14.53.36 for 5000m’.
‘I have had many good moments, like winning the overall title of Metropolitan League in 2013. Something that had not happened since the league was first formed and the race was run in 1966. (Terry Driscoll & the writer of this article Alastair are witnesses to that, having run in the first one in 1966 and attending nearly all the others, particularly in Terry’s case) - It showed we had depth if you are going to win anything or going to go places you need to have depth. We had that.

Regarding cross country Ben Pochee added “I think my most memorable run was at the Met League in February at Northwood in 2013. I finished 11th, and was happy with my run, even though I finished behind Ryan McKinley, this race was amazing as I knew when I finished that we had won overall Met league Championships for the first time since it started in 1966 and, for me this meant that we, as a team had changed beyond recognition and now anything was possible.’


“It is always the team stuff. Regarding my individual stuff I ran alright for a few years. I got more satisfaction being the team manager when we won the 12 stage more than in any race I have ever won.”

Alastair Aitken

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