Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Chichester Priory 10km incorporating UK and AAA Championships – October 7th, Chichester, West Sussex – an insider’s review (written for Running Fitness 10/07).

The sixteenth edition of this popular and well-supported 10km road race delivered the goods once again with an exhilarating days’ action, in which Kate Reed and Williard Chinhanhu came out on top from over 1000 participants, writes Nicola Bamford.

Covering the primarily flat 6.25mile-course, Reed (Bristol and West AC) put in a dominant display with a seemingly effortless performance, to romp home to victory over defending champion, Hayley Yelling, in a scintillating 32:07 – a personal best by 15 seconds, and eclipsing Yelling’s 2006 course record by 14-seconds to boot.

The 25 year-old European and World cross-country representative did however, have an adventurous journey to her first national 10km road title, after surviving three scares en route; “When the gun went, a massive barrier went up in the air and hit Louise Damen, who was beside me. Luckily it missed me but poor Louise never got started. After 1km, a man went down in front of me and I had to hurdle him. And at about 4km, I smacked my hip on the wing mirror of a car,” recalled the gutsy runner after collecting her £250 course-record winnings and heading off to the post-event buffet, “I think it was fright that drove me to the PB: I just wanted to get to the finish! I’m glad I’m in one piece.”

The outstanding time in this mixed race with spot-prizes, reinforces Reed’s position in fourth in the Power of 10 national rankings behind Mara Yamauchi (Harrow AC), Jo Pavey (Exeter Harriers) and Paula Radcliffe (Bedford and County AC).

Additional testament to Reed’s performance was the emphatic winning margin she held over 2002 Commonwealth Games 10,000m sixth-placer, Yelling; an astonishing 1minute 12 seconds. With 33:19, Yelling (Winsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow) claimed the UK silver medal only one week after finishing fifth in the BUPA Great North half-marathon , in an exciting battle in the final, downhill mile with Vicky Gill of Chorley (33:21).

The South of England honours went to Yelling, Gill and fourth-placer, Birhan Dagne (Belgrave Harriers), with UK team gold going to Winchester and District AC – lead by a breakthrough 33:59 run from Rachael Townend.

Surrey took Inter-County glory, ahead of Hampshire and Lancashire, with the Southern team, consisting of Yelling, Natalie Harvey and Jo Wilkinson, collecting inter-area gold; in a race in which your writer was 16th in 35:47 and all competitors were notified of their 5km split times in the chip-timed race.

The men’s title went to Williard Chinhanhu of Poole Runners in a fine 29:18; three seconds adrift of the Power of 10 National standard. Jermaine Mays (Kent AC) clinched the runner-up spot, with a solid 29:26 run, ahead of Crawley AC’s Gavin Thompson in 29:29 in third. All three took the South of England honours.

Newham and Essex Beagles captured UK team gold, thanks to a fourth-place finish from Moumin Geele and strong runs by Steve Hepples and Dave Mitchinson; whereas Kent took the Inter-County match and the South of England squad claimed inter-area success. Belgrave Harriers snatched the South of England win.

English Cross-Country Association Saucony Relay Championships, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire – November 3rd – an insider’s review. (written for Running Fitness 11/07).

The annual National cross-country relay Championships returned to Mansfield’s Berry Hill Park for an eighteenth year last month and proved a resounding success, as the temperature and senior contests rose to a sizzling level, writes Nicola Bamford.

Athletes sharpening-up for the forthcoming European Trials – and with a view to the European Championships themselves – relished on the lawn-like terrain around the Nottinghamshire course, where the routes were slightly longer than previous years after taking in a downhill finish to accommodate the chip-timing area.

The women’s event, in its eighteenth edition, went to 2006 7th-placers, Havering Mayersbrook AC. The youthful outlet, with an average age of just 22, were the most consistent of the 83 complete teams in terms of stage times over the 3x3km contest, and two of the successful squad registered in the top six marks of the day to boot.

Champions for the past three years, Charnwood AC, had to relinquish their crown by a resounding 40-second margin, but still fought bravely to secure the silver medals ahead of Aldershot Farnham and District AC.

20 year-old Harriet Scott ignited the Havering challenge strongly by completing the first stage in third place (9:51), closely behind Wakefield AC’s Charlene Thomas (9:46) and Claire Entwistle (9:50) of Wigan Phoenix. 2006 World cross-country representative and Durham University student, Felicity Milton (9:52) made her championship return after an injury-plagued summer in fourth on the same stage in which your writer finished 14th, to finish as 27th-fastest (10:18) of the day.

World indoor 1500m representative, Katrina Wootton (9:47) moved 2006 bronze-medallists, Bedford and County AC up five positions on the second stage whilst registering the fastest mark of leg two by twelve seconds. Charnwood moved into the medal frame courtesy of a nine-place improvement from Jane Potter (9:59) and Alexa Joel (10:01) took Havering into second.

Faye Fullerton clocked the fastest lap on the final stage (9:44) by seven seconds to bring the Havering tri home as champions and Aldershot’s new signing, Vicky Gill fought hard by passing four runners to narrow the gap to Charnwood’s Jane Potter in a thrilling finish for the minor medals.

Senior women –
1st (29:38.30) Havering Mayersbrook AC – (Harriet Scott 9:51 (3rd), Alexa Joel (2nd) 10:01, Faye Fullerton (1st) 9:44.

2nd (30:18.60) – Charnwood AC – (Hannah Whitmore (12th) 10:15, Juliet Potter (3rd) 9:59, Jane Potter (2nd) 10:04.

3rd (30:24) Aldershot Farnham and District AC) – (Emily Adams (10th) 10:10, Susie Bush (7th) 10:22, Vicky Gill (3rd) 9:51.

Fastest stages – 1 Fullerton 9:44.55, 2 Charlene Thomas (Wakefield AC) 9:46.80, 3 Katrina Wootton (Bedford County AC) 9:47.55, 4 Claire Entwistle (Wigan Phoenix) 9:50.00, 5 Gill 9:51.60, 6 Scott 9:51.80, 7 Felicity Milton (Durham University AC) 9:52.05, 8 Gemma Miles (Kendal AC) 9:57.20, 9 Jane Potter 9:59.55, 10 Victoria Wilkinson (Bingley Harriers AC) 9:59.90.

The 22nd edition of the men’s 4x5km relay Championship resulted in National six-stage road relay Champions, Belgrave Harriers registering the fifth-fastest mark of all-time to add to their 2003 gold and 2004 silver medals.

National six-stage silver-medallists, Leeds City AC battled to the second-spot once again, with Bedford and County AC fending off a spirited challenge from Midland six-stage road Champions, Notts AC by a mere two seconds for the bronze. 2006 Champions, Newham and Essex Beagles were a disappointing sixth.

World 1500m finalist, Andy Baddeley of Harrow AC (14:49) held on for stage one victory ahead of Gateshead’s Chris Parr (14:51) and Stockport’s European under23 cross-country representative, Steve Vernon (14:52).

Stage two belonged to Blackheath and Bromley’s Mike Skinner (14:33.85), who made up an astounding forty-seven places and clocked the fastest loop of the leg by nine seconds. Leigh Harriers AC’S Pete Riley (14:42) made nineteen places; whilst Harrow AC’s Adam Bowden supported Baddeley’s run with a 14:51 run. Wells City Harriers’ Ben Tickner (14:57) passed thirteen runners, Bedford entered the hunt through Matt Janes (14:58.25); bringing them into second-spot and Ryan McLeod (14:52) moved Loughborough University up nineteen places.
Shaftesbury Barnett Harriers’ M35 man, Dominic Bannister made sixteen places on the penultimate stage with a 14:54 clocking, as Billy Farquaharson (14:59) took Notts AC into the lead for the first time.

Reigning National and Inter-County cross-country Champion, Frank Tickner (Wells City Harriers) sped to a scintillating 14:25, in registering the fastest split of the final stage by fourteen seconds and comfortably attaining the fastest mark of the day. Dave Webb’s useful 14:39 run moved Leeds from fourth to second and Phil Wick’s 14:45 leg was enough to bolster the Belgrave quartet from second to first.

Senior men – 1st (1:00.04) – Belgrave Harriers – (Steve Sharp (6th) 15:05.03, Mark Pollard (4th) 15:08.45, Mark Miles (2nd) 15:04.55, Phil Wicks (1st) 14:45.80.

2nd (1:00.22) – Leeds City AC – (Martin Roscoe (17th) 15:25.10, Adam Grice (10th) 15:15.85, James Walsh (4th) 15:01.85, Dave Webb (2nd) 14:39.65.

3rd (1:00.29) - (Bedford and County AC) – (Dan Dalmedo (8th) 15:10.95, Matt Janes (2nd) 14:58.25, Darren Deed (3rd) 15:11.00, Neilson Hall (3rd) 15:09.75.

Fastest legs – 1 F Tickner 14:25.80 (Wells City Harriers), 2 M Skinner 14:33.85 (Blackheath and Bromley Harriers AC), 3 Dave Webb 14:39.65 (Leeds City AC), 4 P Riley (Leigh Harriers AC) 14:42.15, 5 P Wicks (Belgrave Harriers) 14:45.80, 6 M Geele (Newham and Essex Beagles) 14:48.10, 7 A Baddelely (Harrow AC) 14:49.00, 8 A Bowden (Harrow AC) 14:51.65, 9 Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers) 14:52.20, 10 R McLeod (Loughborough Uni) 14:52.25

Great Edinburgh Cross-Country International – Holyrood Park, Edinburgh – Sat 12th Jan, 2008. (written for Running Fitness 01/08).

Edinburgh’s dress-rehearsal for the forthcoming IAAF World Cross-Country Championships in March passed with flying colours, as the Scottish capital provided an exhilarating day’s action, supported by superb organisation and entertainment, and witnessed a plethora of first-class performances, writes Nicola Bamford.

The historic Holyrood Park was the setting for race five of the eleven-event 2007/8 IAAF permit series; poised with the traditional amusement of bagpipes and customary wintery conditions. The firm underfoot conditions and testing inclines around the illustrious extinct volcano, ‘Arthur’s Seat’ on ‘Haggis Knowe’ hill, failed to prevent the World’s elite from exerting their usual aptitude and top of the class was Ethiopia’s multiple World and Olympic Champion, Kenenisa Bekele and fellow countrywoman, Geleta Burka. The star-attraction, with an inspired breakthrough performance far beyond her tender 18 years, was Britain’s Stephanie Twell.

Looking comfortable throughout the men’s 9.3km route, the 25 year-old Bekele, waited patiently until the final incline before unleashing a devastating kick on the sharp descent, to leave arch-nemesis, Zersenay Tadesse in his wake – somewhat of a redemption since tasting defeat from the 2007 World road running Champion at the World cross in Mombasa last year.
The ten-times global cross-country victor thus captured his third consecutive win for the Nova International-organised event; indicating his strong capability to take the World crown once more when he returns to Edinburgh for the March 30th event. “It was a fantastic race, a very fast race,” the triple World 10km Champion explained, “I am very happy to win for a third time and now I am confident for the World cross-country.”

The 200-plus enthusiastic Eritrean supporters could not lift their hero to glory, although the Olympic 10,000m bronze-medallist did threaten the lead on several occasions during the gripping contest; eventually coming home a mere second adrift of his Ethiopian rival and fractionally ahead of the World 5,000m runner-up, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. “It was a good race, especially as there were so many Eritreans here supporting me,” revealed the reigning World cross winner.

Such was the fanatical hype surrounding him, the ever-smiling 25 year-old had to be sped away from the finish-line to the safety of the elite athletes’ tent; “It makes me very proud and happy,” said the athlete who had previously admitted that his fans cause him to feel more pressure than his illustrious competitors.

Kipchoge meanwhile; the 23 year-old Olympic 5,000m third-placer, voiced his disappointment; “I felt ok – I’m happy with the result but I wanted to win.” Kipchoge headed a group of five after the mid-point followed by Joseph Ebuya, Bekele, Tadese and American Dathan Ritzenhein.
At the bell, the four lead African runners took contention, with Ritzenhein a couple of metres adrift. Tadese was the first to make a move; powering away to the front in a downhill section, however Bekele ominously ghosted alongside, before quickly opening up a five-metre lead, as he floated down the hill and into the finish.

In spite of finishing the men’s 9.3km route just over a minute behind the king of the mud larks, Britain’s Frank Tickner showed no fear around his African rivals to throw himself into the mix of such rare, high-calibre company; crossing the finish-line in ninth-place overall and becoming the top European.

The 24 year-old Wells City Harrier thus celebrated the finest achievement of his young career to date, following several national domestic victories; “I’m absolutely ecstatic! I executed the race well and had a great finish,” the reigning English cross-country Champion, “Top 10 – I’m very happy! I had a good passage of training over Christmas but now I’m back at work (in foreign logistics), so it’s a different story. I’ll do the World cross trials and see how I go,”

2012 hopeful, Steph Twell flew through her master class of senior international competition, to scorch to an outstanding fourth-place overall; destroying her older, continental counterparts. The 18 year-old Aldershot, Farnham and District runner; with two European junior cross-country titles to her name, made light work of the toughest race of her young life and even momentarily took the lead against an established world-class field. “I really enjoyed the race! I thought it was superb. I got a lot of inspiration from the race, as I had visions of racing Championships on the track when I’m older,” exclaimed the delighted youngster.

The confident, modest teen challenged 2006 World short-course cross-country Champion, Geleta Burka for lead at the mid-way stage and ran strongly to the line; missing the podium by inches, behind World 5000m silver-medallist, Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya. “It was good to get the experience and learn from their tactics,” explained the European junior 1500m runner-up, “It gave me a huge boost being so close to them!”

Burka and the World junior cross-country Champion, Linet Masai – 18 - comfortably strode away in the final two laps, before the 21 year-old Ethiopian charged ahead to cruise to a 15-second victory – her third in as many consecutive attempts.

Now, evidently over an Achilies injury, Burka appears a serious contender for World cross-country glory this year. “The cold is different,” she said of the icy weather faced in Edinburgh. “The injury is okay, and it is good to be a three-time winner.”

The ultra-consistent Aniko Kalovics of Hungary showed her arduous marathon training was no barrier to the speed required in the 6.7km test, as she strode home in 20:38 to place fifth overall. “It was a very undulating course. The field was very strong and I really wanted to be first European; I really fought for it,” recalled the 2003 European cross-country bronze-medallist from this Edinburgh course.

Liz and Hayley Yelling (GBR); the established marathon-runner and 2004 European cross-country Champion, respectively, took the third and fourth European spots, ahead of France’s Saadia Bourgalih Haddio. “I’m quite pleased – I felt good,” revealed Liz; Running Fitness’ very own Women’s Editor, “I’ll have a break now before the marathon training.” Hayley – an impressive winner of last weekend’s IAAF permit event in Belfast admitted “I didn’t feel my best but it was nice to run the World cross course.”

The men’s 4.4km was an entirely British affair, with World Championship 1500m finalist, Andy Baddeley taking the honours, ahead of European under23 cross-country third-placer, Andy Vernon and track specialist, Tom Lancashire.

Baddeley secured victory with a powerful late burst, after stealing the march in the final furlong. “The crowd was really good and I thought I ran well,” the Harrow AC British metric mile Champion recalled, “The last hill was really treacherous and they almost got away from me but I managed to finish strong. Next, I’ll do an indoor mile in New York, followed by a 3km in Boston before eight-weeks’ training in South Africa.” English under 23 5000m Champion, Vernon started conservatively and reacted diligently as the pace increased; “I got in a good position then just went for it! I knew Andy had a good kick so I sprinted as fast as I could. I hoped for top-5, so second’s a surprise!”

Gateshead international cross-country races incorporating the UK Cross Challenge – November 10th – an insider’s review (written for Running Fitness 10/07).

After a ten-year absence, the North-East city of Gateshead made a triumphant return to the cross-country calendar, when it successfully hosted the inaugural 2007/8 UK Cross Challenge fixture on the infamous and testing Riverside bowl course, writes Nicola Bamford.

Although the event failed to live up to the ‘international’ tag; with few overseas athletes in attendance, it did impress with its superb organisation, course and spectator marking and thrilling domestic competition.

Poised to be later televised on Sky Sports television and with its lung-bursting hills and undulating terrain, Gateshead provided a first-rate endeavour to be considered for future Cross Challenge fixture selection.

Success was not just resigned to the organisers, though; with former European cross-country Champion, Hayley Yelling leading the charge of victorious athletes.

The diminutive, yet gutsy Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow runner’s change of heart on the eve of the race as to whether or not to compete due to a knee niggle was justified, following her fearless, front-running display.

Over the five laps, totalling 7.3km, Yelling destroyed a top domestic field with consummate ease, by taking the race by the scruff of the neck and extending her lead over the sharp hills, in a race in which your writer finished 15th.

A star-studded pack including British 3000m steeplechase record-holder, Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers), Helen Clitheroe (Preston Harriers), Louise Damen (Winchester and District) and reigning European junior cross-country Champion, Steph Twell (Aldershot, Farnham and District) assembled in Yelling’s wake, some 15 metres adrift.

That lead was stretched to 50 metres at the completion of the second lap, with only Twell, Dean and Damen capable of withstanding the pace.

Disaster for the leader was averted on the second steep incline on lap three, as Yelling lost a shoe; “I glanced back quickly as I hit the top of the hill, and realised I had time to put the shoe back on,'' revealed Yelling.

With Yelling storming ahead to victory, the fight for the runner-up spot proved a titanic battle between Dean and Twell in a cat and mouse affair on the final circuit, before the Hampshire teen confirmed her participation in the senior rather than junior event as a wise choice, by pulling away in the final kilometre to show resilience and strength beyond her eighteen years.

Yelling was delighted with her victory saying; "I'm glad that I did decide to start, that was a great beginning to my season.''

Twell, who planned to run the junior race at the European trials a fortnight later despite being pre selected for the continental championships, said: "I'm delighted to finish second to Hayley. The over-distance race is just what I wanted before the Trials and the European Championships. The course was a proper cross-country course with the hills in it and I really enjoyed myself.'

1 Yelling 25:43, 2 Twell 26:08, 3 Dean 26:13, 4 Milton 26:19, 5 Clitheroe 26:28, 6 Damen 26:34

The senior men's race turned into a gripping contest between Burundi-born, Jean Ndayisenga of Birchfield Harriers and Cannock and Staff’s Tom Humphries.

Following his Birmingham cross-country victory a fortnight earlier, 26 year-old Ndayisenga sat on Humphries' shoulder throughout the contest before easing to the front midway through the last of the six laps in the 8.7km clash.

The victor recalled his achievement through an interpreter; "I'm always confident running behind someone especially if the pace is good. It was a good race but the hills were extremely tough.''

The pair had opened up a sizeable gap by the midway stage to pull clear of the challenge of English National Cross-Country champion Frank Tickner (Wells City), Portugal's Vitor Reis, Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley), Lee Merrien (Channel Isalnds) and Billy Farquarson (Notts AC).

Fast-finishing Tickner took third place, just two seconds behind 23 year-old Humphries.

Humphries delievered his post-race analysis; "I tried a few surges to get away but every time I did he just followed me. I knew he was in good form but couldn't do anything about it when he went ahead. It was a really strong field so it gives me confidence going into Liverpool. My target is to make the team for the Europeans and hopefully the Worlds next year.''

1 Nadayisenga 27:32, 2 Humphries 27:37, 3 Tickner 27:39, 4 Skinner 27:47, 5 Farquaharson 28:11

The men's international one mile race earned the biggest cheer of the day with local favourite Chris Parr (Gateshead) tasting a one second victory over Gavin Massingham (Sunderland).
Parr, who has completed his studies at Loughborough, celebrated his 23rd birthday early by building a lead which Massingham just failed to haul in at the line.Welsh trio Chris Moss, James Thie and Stephen Davies (all representing Cardiff) finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

BUPA Great Yorkshire Run – an insider’s review (written for Running Fitness 09/07).

Thousands of runners from all over the UK and of all abilities took part in the inaugural BUPA Great Yorkshire Run, as the event made its debut in the heart of Sheffield’s vibrant city centre on Sunday, 9th September, writes Nicola Bamford.

The undulating 10km city centre route proved a fabulous addition to the Great Run calendar of events and was an overwhelming success.

John Kibowen and Benita Johnson confirmed their status as pre-race favourites by claiming the titles at the elite end of the field, as the world-class stars took their respective races by the scruff of the neck from the outset.

Two-times World cross-country champion, Kibowen of Kenya outclassed the opposition with a lead of 150 metres, clocking an impressive 28:40 over the 6.25 mile route. The runner-up spot went to Australian marathon runner, Andrew Letherby with 29:04, followed by a 29:19 performance from former Ethiopian refugee Tomas Abyu of Salford. Two-time Olympic marathon fourth-placer, Jon Brown, who, despite being based in Canada, belongs to City of Sheffield AC, claimed an encouraging fifth-place position on his return from injury. The run marked a significant improvement for Brown in his fight to regain full fitness; as he ran a useful 29:28 in only his second serious race since a breathing problem caused his withdrawal from the Flora London Marathon in April.

Brown, 36, is hoping to recover full fitness before next year's Olympic Games, after which he may retire. "I think my performance today indicates my breathing problems are finally over and at least much better," said Brown, who was forced to miss the recent World Championship marathon because of the illness. "Today although I'm still not fully 100 per cent, went a lot better and I was much more competitive." Brown is hoping to achieve the Beijing qualifying standard by the end of the year, and is targeting the Fukuoka marathon in early December to tackle the mark. His next outing will be at the BUPA Great North Run in September, in a step up to the half marathon distance.

Australia’s Johnson scored a runaway win to lift the women's title by over a minute, with an impressive time of 32min 55sec on a course with some testing inclines. Johnson, preparing for next month's Chicago marathon, finished comfortably ahead of Brits, Birhane Dagne and Vicky Gill who recorded marks of 34:02 and 34:06, respectively.

"That's a good comeback after the World Championships where I fell in the 10th lap," said Johnson who was involved in a pile up during the 10,000m event in Osaka, subsequently finishing a disappointing 17th."It's good for my confidence to come back and run such a good time after what happened. The win is pointing me in the right direction and shows I'm well prepared, before I go to the USA. I felt so strong, particularly in the last 5km, although I was running on my own,” claimed Johnson on a race in which your writer finished 11th on her 10km debut.

Following the organised BUPA crowd warm-up, the mass race lived up to expectations; with a 4,500-strong field descending upon the city on a mild, sunny Sunday morning. The atmosphere was buoyed by substantial crowds and energy-lifting music along the course, which included a television screen situated at the half-way mark and a thoughtful run-through shower to cool the competitors ahead of the uphill finish into the picturesque Peace Gardens, in the welcoming city centre ambience. The BUPA Great Yorkshire Run Business Challenge and Tesco Junior and mini Great Yorkshire Runs attracted hundreds of businesses and children alike, as the competitors on the day received a Great Run t-shirt, finishers medal and goody bag.

The Steel city strider (written for Athletics Weekly 09/07).

World 1500m semi-finalist, Abby Westley describes her emotions to NICOLA BAMFORD following an unprecedented summer that has made her hungry for more.

The year 2007 will be highlighted as a breakthrough season in the diary of metric-mile wiz, Abby Westley, for the Loughborough Students AC runner has this summer propelled herself from top under-23 to joining the world’s elite in the senior ranks; irrespective of her tender 20 years of age.

The Sheffield-born middle-distance star’s meteoric rise, although unexpected so soon, is no surprise to keen followers of the sport, as the George Gandy-coached ace had made steady progression over the years before establishing herself as a key protagonist for senior Great British selection. Her achievements of late are a million miles away from her days as a 12 year-old novice at Hallamshire Harriers, yet, keen to praise those who contributed to her successful teenage years and rise to World-level, Westley credits her former coaches; “I’d like to thank Keith Whitelam and Ian Wainwright for the work, friendship and support they provided for me while I was at Hallamshire Harriers – I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.”
Initially a swimmer for the Dronfield Dolphins, the secret recipe behind Westley’s eye-catching achievements has appeared to coincide with her collaboration with the Director of Athletics at Loughborough; George Gandy. Frequently referred to as the ‘guru of endurance running’, Gandy’s work, which incidentally has landed him a place in the SportsCoach UK Hall of Fame, with the psychology undergraduate has bore fruition this summer, with further success indisputably heading their way.

The 2006 European junior cross-country 10th-placer began her 2007 track campaign with an emphatic 2:04.14 800m victory at the British Universities Championships, improving her best by over a second and thus showing glimmers of her forthcoming prowess over the her specialist, longer discipline. The 2005 World junior cross-country and European under20 800m-representative then dramatically stamped her authority on the UK middle-distance scene by scorching to a sensational 4:08.74 1500m triumph at the Loughborough International; obliterating her personal best by nine seconds in the process and catapulting herself to second on the outdoor British season’s list.

Consolidating her sudden superlative form and refusing to rest on her laurels, the World-Class Development funded –athlete subsequently impressed on her Great Britain senior debut by claiming 1500m victory in the European Cup First League. Rising spectacularly to the occasion at the televised event, Westley unleashed her trademark scintillating finishing-kick to triumph in a tactical 4:21.12 at the Finnish venue. "I really enjoyed competing in my first senior international. It was a huge honour to be selected and I was pleased to win maximum points for the team," recalls Westley.

A comfortable win at the Luzern European Permit meet in Switzerland soon afterwards, guaranteed Westley went into the European under23 Championships brimming with the confidence and expertise required of an international gold-medal contender.

Indeed, the birthday wish came true for likeable Yorkshire lass, who lives with fellow athletes, Chris Warburton and Tom Settle, as she celebrated her 20th birthday in style, by claiming the European under23 1500m title in Debrecen, Hungary. Despite entering the championships as only third-quickest on the age-group 2007 rankings, Westley used her international racing experience and trademark finishing kick to devastating effect, to triumph in 4:15.48. In a tactical affair, Westley waited patiently on the shoulder of the long-time leader before unleashing a scintillating final 100m to seal the best birthday present she could have wished for; the gold medal. “I’d waited all week for my final - it was quite slow with a bit of pushing, so I thought there’d be more people with me at the end. I was so pleased to win; it felt like it was meant to be, as it was my birthday. The GB team sang ‘happy birthday’ to me when I was on the podium!”

The European title was the icing on the cake for the baking enthusiast until World Championship selection beckoned. “I was delighted, especially as I was ill and didn’t run in the World Trials. I didn’t know if I’d blown my chances and what to expect from the selectors,” Westley explained. “I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t expect it, as I only got the development qualifying standard. I rushed to tell my mum, dad and boyfriend, and George was really pleased, especially as he coaches Lisa (Dobriskey – my training partner), too,” she recalled of her excitement, despite having to turn down the chance to compete in the World University Games in Bangkok.
Continuing her outstanding vein of form, Westley gave herself a superb farewell present ahead of flying out to the GB acclimatisation camp with two commanding displays at Stretford, Manchester in the BMC 800m open and BMC Grand Prix 1500m, respectively; clocking 2:03.24 to rank 12th on the British senior lists and another confidence-boosting 4:08 performance.

Aware that her winning streak was undoubtedly nearing an end, the baby of the GB squad in Osaka, Japan drew reminiscence of a young Steve Cram, making his global debut at such young age. World-ranked 51st heading into the cauldron of top senior competition, Westley passed her baptism of fire with flying colours; to establish herself amongst the World’s elite and cope admirably by making it to the semi-final stage. “I wasn’t nervous - I got used to running with a camera in my face back at the European Cup. I was just so excited – I’ve worked so hard so it’s nice to get a reward; it’s a big boost,” asserts the mature runner.

Ranked 11th out of the 13 athletes in her heat, Westley brushed aside the 35-degree heat and eighty-percent humidity to produce a fine 4:09.67 sixth-place finish in her heat to grab the last automatic qualifying spot. Then, starting her semi-final as the seventh fastest of the twenty-eight qualifiers, the young British Lioness bravely fought her way through a extraordinarily tactical race to finish a credible eighth in 4:16.21. "I hadn’t raced with a pace that slow all season," revealed Westley, evidently frustrated. "It took me by surprise because I thought the first lap alone would be ten seconds quicker. It changed the race and unfortunately I wasn't in the right place at the right time and they got a jump on me that I couldn't close. There was quite a bit of bumping and pushing but these are world-class athletes and they are not going to give you an inch. It was all good experience for next time."

Her Osaka experience proved a steep learning curve for the talented teen, yet Westley refuses point-blank to say a permanent sayonara to World-level competition; "I’d love to go to Beijing but I’m not going to take anything for granted. I can't imagine what it will feel like to miss the Olympics or another major championship now. I'd hate to watch it on TV and not be a part of it but I need to keep working hard and improving,” divulges the determined Westley. “It was great in Osaka. When I got to the stadium I almost had tears in my eyes. I was warming-up with people like Sanya Richards and Jeremy Wariner; people I've watched on TV and admired for years. It still feels a bit unreal that I'm actually part of it.”

Westley must now become accustomed to the senior elite environment however, as she looks set to be a part of it for many years to come. "This season has been such a learning curve. I'm really proud of what I've achieved but I'm not going to rest. This is where I want to be and it's given me such a taste for it. I'm loving what I'm doing and I'm showing that I can beat some of the best girls in the world. I'm still young but I don't see why I can't be one of the big names in a few years."

Further ensuring the bubbly battler is firmly situated on the athletics radar and can look back on her remarkable 2007 campaign with pride, is her nomination for the inaugural Waterford Crystal European Athletics Rising Star award; the result of which will be announced in October.

Reflecting on her remarkable summer, Westley, who cites fellow Sheffield-born athlete, Becky Lyne as her inspiration and role model, states; “My season’s been quite surprising, as I was injured between January and March. But everything started to click, and then I got stronger and made a big step up.” Paying tribute to the man instrumental in achieving her extraordinary form and to those who have supported her; “I must say a big thank-you to George; he’s brought me on a lot and came out to Macou and Osaka to support me; and also to my parents and boyfriend, Tom.” Should her athletic achievements stall, however, Westley harbours hopes of specialising in clinical psychology.Evidently level-headed, Westley plans to resume her studies in the autumn on a part-time basis, in order to capitalise on her outstanding progression. Only a second off the Olympic qualifying standard, one could forgive the 1500m starlet for being brash but no; “There’s no reason I should change just because I’ve gotten faster!” the Steel city strider exclaims.

Becky returns to Steel City for international comeback (written for Athletics Weekly 07/07).

European 800m bronze-medallist Becky Lyne is set to make her competitive return to the athletics arena this Sunday at Sheffield’s Don Valley stadium, in the Norwich Union British Grand Prix, writes Nicola Bamford.

The televised international will represent a baptism of fire for the 25-year-old, as the Hallamshire Harrier has had to endure a lengthy injury lay-off since her last race six-months’ ago. The Sheffield meeting will provide a homecoming for the British middle-distance star, and a stepping stone to a potential return to international class.

On the forthcoming event, at which she will contest the 800m, the former Tapton school pupil commented; “I’m sure I’ll be really nervous when it comes to it, as I’ve done very little 800m-pace work. I’m anxious but as it’s at my home track, there’ll be lots of support and a good atmosphere.” On her aims for her season debut, the Stockport-based runner is reluctant to predict an immediate return to world-class performances; “Last season I would have hoped to win, and although I’m a very competitive person, I’ve got no target time in mind and won’t let myself feel pressured.”

It is unsurprising that Lyne is hesitant to forecast a performance akin to her 2006 form. The 2001 European Junior and 2003 European under23 800m champion has had to contend with a difficult and frustrating pre-season’s preparation, which would test the patience and determination of any athlete. After picking up a calf strain whilst training in Australia, Lyne then experienced Achilles troubles, followed by a reoccurrence of the calf injury. A three-month-long spell of rehabilitation proceeded, consisting of swimming and cross-training, which Lyne described as “soul destroying – I didn’t run between mid-February and mid-May; it was so frustrating.”

Fortunately for the Dave Turnbull-coached athlete her agent, sponsor and coach respectively, stayed loyal to her during these testing times. “Dave’s been fantastic; he’s got a family and a job yet he measured trails for me to run on and cycled alongside me in training – he nursed me back well,” Lyne praised. “I’ve been with Nike (her sponsor) since 2003 and luckily they’ve kept faith in me by renewing my contract and Nic (Bideau, her agent)’s been great, too.” Doing presentations and motivational speaking in schools, as well as practising her Spanish helped keep Lyne sane during those challenging months.

The support of her team has undoubtedly ensured Lyne remains in the sport and maintaining her place on the World-Class Performance Lottery Programme has enabled the Loughborough and Indianapolis University graduate to access free medical back-up and train full-time without financial worries; a contribution which was pivotal to her athletic return. “My physio; Alison Rose, was fantastic, absolutely phenomenal,” Lyne recalls

Never one to concede defeat and surrender her fitness, Lyne is eager to retain her status as Britain’s number one over the two-lap distance. Her current personal best from her breakthrough 2006 season of 1:58.20 puts her third on the UK all-time 800m lists, though a plethora of British women are fast making headway on this mark.

The next stop after Don Valley will be Manchester’s Sport City for the World Trials; it is here that Lyne hopes to book herself a ticket to join the Great Britain squad at this summer’s World Championships in Osaka, Japan. Of the July 27-29th event Lyne explains, “I can’t hide away but I haven’t decided if I’ll do the 800m or 1500m yet. My 2006 season should hopefully put me in a good position with the selectors possibly giving me more time to get the qualifying time. The event’s progressed with lots of great girls now so I won’t spit my dummy out if I don’t get to go.”
Regardless of whether Lyne attains the qualifying time of two-minutes and finishes highly at the trials, she intends to compete shortly afterwards at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace and possibly tackle the European circuit to continue her quest in returning to world-class status. As the athletics community eagerly awaits her return since overcoming such adversity, Lyne will most certainly hope to capitalise on her talent and experience and show everyone she’s back with a vengeance.

Catch yourself a sponsorship deal (written for Athletics Weekly 06/07).

The arduous, daunting and even embarrassing task of searching for sponsorship is now a thing of the past thanks to a website set up by sports promotions and consultancy agency, Catch Sport, Writes Nicola Bamford.

Promising athletes of all ages and from all sports can now complete specifically designed forms which highlight their sporting profiles and sponsorship criteria, in order to attract the funding of potential organisations in their area.

Managing Director, Karim Bashir; a former international fencer reveals, “By focussing on athlete funding, my goal is to establish, build and maintain the UK’s largest online database of elite athlete profiles. My aim is remove the financial burden that hampers the UK’s most promising young athletes as well as those who already have an established reputation in their sport.”

The focus of the initiative is to provide an online communication tool to bring sports people and their funders closer together, by enabling athletes to post their online profiles and funding needs for free. In turn, sponsors will be able to complete the sponsorship criteria pages and use Catch Sport services to identify the athletes who fit their requirements.

Sponsors will be able to subscribe to use Catch Sport services for a fixed annual contract fee of £495.00. Each organisation will be able to add their contact details, complete the sponsorship criteria pages and search for athletes on an anonymous basis, who match their requests.
In order to encourage long term and multi-athlete funding, discounts will be offered for longer term contracts and when more than one athlete is sponsored by a single organisation. Catch Sport will match individuals or groups of athletes corresponding to each organisation's needs, with tailored and innovative packages put together for each interested party.

“I know from my own experiences as an international fencer that most sports funding is provided on an ad-hoc basis. Whilst this funding is valuable and useful it is not conducive to producing successful international athletes for years to come,” explains Bashir.

Taking a long term view to athlete funding Catch Sport will target:-
- promising junior athletes for performance related long-term sponsorship contracts;
- established senior athletes for “major championship” related medium-term sponsorship contracts;
- UK selected (or equivalent) junior and senior athletes for “major event” related short-term sponsorship contracts and
- junior and senior athlete funding grants (one-off payments).

Once registered, an athlete’s information will remain confidential and secure, courtesy of the ‘blind search’ facility on the website. So if a sponsor was looking for “athletics” and/or “London” and/or “under 23”, an athlete matching this criterion will be automatically matched to them.

Urging athletes to take this valuable opportunity and to regularly update their profile, Bashir adds, “Sport in the UK needs long term investment so that we are able to compete for medals at major events in the future.”To register your profile or search for an athlete, log onto for further information and see if you can catch yourself a sponsorship deal.

Anorexia nightmare for Frost twins (written for Athletics Weekly 09/07).

Former Great Britain steeple-chasing duo, Bryony and Kathryn Frost have revealed the heartbreaking reason behind their sabbatical from the sport at the tender age of 21 – their agonising battle with anorexia; writes Nicola Bamford.

The disappearance of the two promising athletes was sudden and somewhat of a mystery until now. But, at aged 23, the Isle of Wight pair are finally ready to reveal the angst behind the decline in their athletic performances and expose the devastating health effects they faced, in an attempt to prevent other athletes from sliding down the same slippery path. The Frosts hope their revelation will act as a warning.

Tipped as potential 2012 hopefuls and dubbed the ‘Kournikova’s of running’-thanks to their striking blonde looks, the Hampshire girls explained how chasing their Olympic dream lead to a intense battle with the eating disorder; which subsequently saw their diets and track times spiral out of control; “We were determined to be the thinnest and the fastest on the track and soon became obsessed,” explained Bryony. “We went through phases when we’d eat just one thing at a time. We were caught up in our own little world.”

Studying at Loughborough University, away from the watchful eye of their parents, enabled the twins to continue the strict eating habits they had previously devised. The plan initially bore fruit, with Kathryn experiencing significant improvements in her favoured discipline; the steeplechase, and, inspired by her sister’s success, Bryony soon followed suit.

However, despite achieving considerable immediate athletic success, including appearances at the 2003 European Junior Championships, where the former Adidas-sponsored pair reached the semi-final stage in the 2000m steeplechase, their weight soon plummeted to just over 6st for Bryony and an alarming 5st for Kathryn.

Unsurprisingly, their performances then began to suffer as a consequence but the twins remained oblivious to the danger they were putting themselves under. “We were really determined and we shared the same ambition to run in the Olympics. We wanted to do the best and we’d do anything to get there. I thought if I were thinner, I’d run quicker, so I decided to diet,” Kathryn divulged.

The ultimate wake-up call for the 2002 u20 5000m gold and silver-medallists however, was when a bone density test discovered that Kathryn, at just age 21, had developed osteoporosis in her spine and Bryony had a stress fracture in her back. Evidently not eating enough and training too hard during their teenage years, their GP subsequently diagnosed the girls with anorexia; and their worst fears were confirmed-they’d have to give up running or face being paralysed.

“The doctor told us that if we carried on we’d end up in wheelchairs. We were devastated,” recalled Kathryn. “We must thank Bill Foster and a team of people at Loughborough University, who helped us get better.” Having not competed since 2004 in order to improve their bone density and regain their health, the ‘Frosties’ harbour hopes of returning to the sport which gave them so much joy and success; “We’ll never go back to being completely normal, but we have now accepted there’s more to life than running. It’s not worth risking our health for,” revealed Bryony.

Upbeat Ellis undeterred by knee injury (written for Athletics Weekly 07/08).

European 800m bronze-medallist Sam Ellis is refusing to lose his faith and sense of humour, despite having to undergo diagnostic surgery on his left knee this week, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 25 year-old Sheffield City and Barnsley AC member, who has not raced since last September when on team GB duty at the Norwich Union international, was experiencing his best training to date up until Christmas when, shortly after the New Year, he developed a sharp pain in his knee during a routine training run. The Alan Hasty-coached runner has since endured a catalogue of unsuccessful attempts to cure the ailment, but insists on staying in a light-hearted mood. “I’m sure when the knee’s clear, I’ll be back. I was depressed at first especially because of my last summer and was looking forward to this season, but I’ve now lightened up and realised I’m not going to be racing this summer.”

Further emphasising Ellis’ buoyant attitude to adversity, Hasty proudly states, “It’s great how positive he’s been; it’s just so frustrating for him after such a successful breakthrough summer.”
Ellis’ positive frame of mind does not reflect the outlook expected of an athlete who has had to go through many ineffective ultrasounds, MRI-scans, cyst-draining, epidurals and numerous cortisone injections. “I’m probably half-full of cortisone now!” joked Ellis on his extensive list of treatment , “I’ve been through various doctors and physio’s and still no-one really knows the cause of the injury – that’s why I’m having surgery. It’s been a stop-start past 5 months, every time the cortisone numbed the pain and I’d get excited and try to run, then pain would come back again.”

Fortunately, as part of the World Class Performance Programme, Ellis at least doesn’t have to take the financial strain of his treatment, but adds, “It’s annoying to get injured now after trying to get the funding after all these years, but I’m really grateful for the help.” Ellis plans to utilise the medical support from the Sheffield and Loughborough English Institutes of Sport, for regular treatment and advice in his battle to regain his health.

Playing down the seriousness of his injury woes, Ellis continued, “I’m trying to do whatever I can without crippling myself. At its best, I can do 60m sprints, but at its worst, I need help pulling my trousers on! I normally like walking in the Lake District but I can’t walk anymore than a mile and a half right now; I need to hop back.”

The 2004 AAA 800m champion, whose personal best of 1:45.67 last summer catapulted him to number 44(?) in the World Rankings, has however, refused to concede defeat by maintaining his sprinting, gym and weights routines. Despite the injury preventing Ellis from doing any cycling work and also inhibiting his running to a high degree; the Sheffield Hallam University architecture graduate explains, “I’ve kept sane by doing lots of part-time jobs – mostly from a seated position of course! – book illustrations and teaching in the local junior school, but I’ve also done a couple of outward-bound cycle trips with the kids.”

Eagle-eyed athletics fans may have even spotted the likeable Yorkshire lad turning his hand to javelin competitions of late; for such is his desire to keep involved in the sport and be part of his team’s exploits, Ellis has earned valuable points at the last two British Athletics League matches, launching the spear into the respectable mid-50m range. Could we see a change in event for the two-lap international? “No,” Ellis laughed, “I’ve always thrown the javelin for various clubs; I don’t train for it, I just pick it up and throw it!

On his charge’s future, Hasty asserts, “the target’s still the Olympics next year; we’re hoping to start normal winter training in September.”Evidently a team player and survivor, the optimistic Ellis has continued to go to almost every session during his lengthy injury lay-off in order to stick to routine and maintain his enthusiasm for the sport; a decision which is proving pivotal in his mental state during these testing times. Regardless of his recent misfortune, Ellis is unmistakably a tough nut to crack and injury-permitting, will most certainly make his mark once again if his mentality is anything to go by.

Edwards makes tentative return to training (written for Athletics Weekly 09/07).

World junior cross-country and 5,000m track representative, Sian Edwards is cautiously returning to light training, following a four-month-long spell on the sidelines, Writes Nicola Bamford.

The 18 year-old Kettering Town Harrier suffered a stress-fracture of the right foot shortly after the World Cross-Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya last March and has subsequently, had to endure a lengthy rest period. To further exasperate matters, the injury remained undiagnosed until May, leaving Edwards on crutches for six agonising weeks. An extensive rehabilitation programme of aqua jogging and cycling thus commenced, in an attempt to obtain a swift recovery for the 2006 World Junior Cross-Country 10th-placer.

The Neville Marshall-coached runner recalled her recent testing times; “It was really frustrating not being able to run, as this year is my last junior year, so I hope things get better for the cross-country season.”

Fortunately for the World-Class Potential Programme member, frequent physiotherapy sessions with UKA physiotherapists, Mark Buckingham and Alison Rose, in Northampton and Loughborough respectively, have gradually helped Edwards to walk pain-free again; although, as Marshall stressed, “The physio’s wouldn’t let her do any weight training or go on the cross-trainer, to take the pressure off the foot, so she’s lost a lot of speed and strength.” On her steady recovery process, the former English U20 5,000m champion explained, “Training in the pool wasn’t too bad, as I had company from other injured runners. I’ve been following a plan from Alison – I’m not sure how long it’ll take to get back running properly, but I hope to be doing 20minutes jogging every other day next week.” Edwards was understandably full of praise for the help she has received; “Mark and Alison, as well as my doctor, Nick Pierce were really helpful in getting me back to training and Neville’s kept me motivated and involved, as I’ve been keeping in touch with my training group by watching them train.”

The once-tipped future Olympic star has even received an occasional email from World marathon record-holder, Paula Radcliffe, who, like the entire athletics community, is keen to see Edwards make a speedy recovery. Aware of how her rivals are progressing, Radcliffe’s ‘Athlete of the Month’ for March 2005, says without a hint of jealousy, “I’m really pleased the girls are doing well, it’s great to see.”

Marshall too, appears to have faith in his protégé; “I can’t put a timescale on how long it’ll take her to get back but Sian’s a very tough lady – very determined and intelligent. She’s managed to stay fairly cheerful and, although obviously very disappointed, at least she was able to focus on her studies.” The enforced break from training may in fact turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the 2006 European junior cross-country 6th-placer, as she was able to fully focus on her A-Level exams. Edwards is hoping to attend Loughborough University to study psychology and link-up with distance coach John Nuttall and rival, Emily Pidgeon in the autumn.

Refusing to look on the bleak side, Edwards and her team remain adamant that they have encouragement to look to the future. The 2006 British Athletics Writers Junior Female Athlete of the Year is no longer experiencing pain whilst walking and jogging and appears refreshingly upbeat. Focusing on making a competitive return in time for the forthcoming cross-country season and not taking her health for granted, a realistic and cautious Edwards insists “I’ll have to see how things are going; how quickly I can get back to full fitness. I hope to do the Euro cross-country Trials in November and I’m fairly confident of getting back to my best.” Reluctant to predict an instant return to form, the 2006 Daily Telegraph and Norwich Union School Sport Matters Awards Female Pupil of the Year, believes “The Euro Cross is ideally the target, but at the moment, it’s just nice to get back to training.”After overcoming such adversity, the runner who was unbeaten on home soil in the 2006 winter season will surely be content and relieved to first make the start-line this autumn, as she begins her patient journey back to the sport which has brought her so much success.

England international distance runner, NICOLA BAMFORD grilled Sheffield’s very own ‘awesome foursome’ about life, athletics and dealing with pressure on the eve of the World Championships. (written for Re:Play magazine, 06/07).

It is somewhat extraordinary that Sheffield will boast not one, but four representatives at the recent World Athletics Championships, in Osaka, Japan. The unique situation will occur when 1500m runners, Abby Westley and Becky Lyne, steeplechaser, Hatti Dean and heptathlete; Jessica Ennis all say a cheery ‘sayonara’ to the Steel City, as they embark on their Japanese sporting adventure. As the quartet flew out to Asia a fortnight early to acclimatise, the girls were quizzed before their global challenge. Poised to take on the World’s elite at the average age of just 23, the ‘awesome foursome’ kindly took time out from their preparation to provide Re: Play readers with an insight into their daily lives, future aims and what they think of each other.
There are three endearing attributes which link these talented young women; dedication, passion and modesty. Each athlete has gradually developed into an established international whilst keeping their feet firmly on the ground; here we outline their rise to fame and athletic success.....

For baby of the bunch, Abby Westley; aged 20, the World Championships will represent her senior Great Britain Championship debut. The Loughborough Students AC metric mile wiz (and former Hallamshire Harrier) turned down the chance to compete in the World Student Games in favour of the August 25th-Sept 2nd event, and has experienced a breakthrough summer season. The George Gandy-coached athlete has catapulted herself onto the athletics radar in 2007, with emphatic victories at the British Universities Championships, Loughborough International, European Cup First League and on the European circuit in Switzerland. But the icing on the cake for the former High Storrs school pupil, was storming to the European under23 1500m title in Debrecen, Hungary on her 20th birthday.
The 2005 World junior cross-country and European under20 800m-representative is understandably excited about the 1500m in Osaka, an event in which her training partner, Lisa Dobriskey will be joining her; “I’m not nervous, as I got used to running with a camera in my face back at the European Cup. I’m just so excited – I’ve worked so hard so it’s nice to get a reward; it’s a big boost,” reveals the Loughborough University psychology student. “I don’t want to be an also-ran and I’ll respect the other competitors. I’d like to reach the semi-final stage and run that as my final to see where it gets me. I’m confident I can run a personal best time out there and give it my best shot. I want to learn as much as I can so I can come back again in a few years to challenge for medals.”

Currently ranked 2nd and 50thon the British and World lists respectively, with a sensational 4:08.76, Westley has come a long way since her first competitive outing; winning a 300m cross-country race as an 8-year-old in Endcliffe Park. Initially a swimmer for the Dronfield Dolphins, the 2006 European junior cross-country 10th-placer joined Hallamshire Harriers at aged12 and quickly went on to achieve substantial success. The support from her family, friends and boyfriend, Tom; a national-standard 1500m runner, has undoubtedly ensured Westley’s achievements continue. Her disciplined approach to training and recovering has additionally aided her vast improvement.

The likeable Yorkshire lass was keen to praise those who contributed to her scintillating form and rise to World-level; “George’s been great – he’s coming out to the training camp and the Worlds to support me. I’d also like to thank Keith Whitelam and Ian Wainwright for the work, friendship and support they provided for me while I was at Hallamshire Harriers – I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.”

Now as part of such a formidable athletic team, Westley explains, “I used to train with Becky; she’s always been a role model and inspiration – it’s nice to see where dedication can get you. Hatti’s incredible, she used to give me a run for my money in training and it’s really nice to see her improving. Jessica’s been on the same teams as me since school - her winning performances have made it seem achievable. They’re all such nice girls; it’s so nice to be around such a great team.”

Evidently level-headed, Westley plans to resume her studies in the autumn on a part-time basis, in order to capitalise on her outstanding progression. Only a second off the Olympic qualifying standard, one could forgive the talented teen for being brash but no; “There’s no reason I should change just because I’ve gotten faster!” she exclaims.

No stranger to pressure and attention, City of Sheffield AC multi-events star, Jessica Ennis heads into the Worlds as a genuine medal contender. The Diminutive 21 year-old’s exploits this season (as detailed on her website;, have took the athletics world by storm, with many touting her as a potential star of 2012. But, like the other three girls, the Commonwealth Heptathlon bronze-medallist, refuses to focus on the daunting attention or succumb to the immense pressure; “It’s nice to have people talk about me but I try not to think about it, and focus on bettering myself,” the Toni Minichello-coached athlete explained. “In Osaka, I hope to get a personal best, and if that gets me a medal, it’ll be great.”

The Adidas-sponsored Northerner, in only her second senior season, is in the pinnacle of her career to date. Ranked third in the World Heptathlon rankings, the 2005 European junior heptathlon Champion has had an unprecedented 2007 campaign. Building on an impressive winter in which she finished 6th in the European indoor pentathlon Championships, the British number one started the season in familiar victorious style. The World-Class Podium Lottery-funded star, set out on a British record-breaking spree, as the 2006 European heptathlon 8th-placer equalled the 25-year-old high-jump mark of 1.95m and 2000 Olympic heptathlon Champion, Denise Lewis’ under23 heptathlon record, with a superb 6388-tally at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge in Italy. Next on the agenda for the 2005 World University Games bronze-medallist was a scintillating 13.04 100m hurdles clocking, when claiming gold in the England Athletics under23 Championships; eclipsing 1992 Olympic 400m hurdles Champion, Sally Gunnell’s Championship record in the process.

The most eye-catching performance by the versatile athlete however, was her gold medal-winning display at the European Cup Combined Events Super League, in Poland. Leading team GB to an historic victory, Ennis’ 6399 score improved her 2006 best by 112points and subsequently shot her to third in the global rankings; establishing herself as a key protagonist for medals in Osaka. Never one to rest on her laurels however, Ennis went onto claim European under23 hurdles bronze, national double glory in the hurdles and high-jump and finished 1st and 4th in the long-jump and 200m at the Celtic Cup.

Introduced to the sport via the Star:track athletics scheme at Don Valley stadium; a venue where, in addition to Sheffield’s EIS, she regularly trains, Ennis appears to have the World at her feet and have found the perfect formula for success. Ennis’s website manager, Phil Parkin revealed; “She’s been with Toni since she was 13. They have a very respectful relationship; purely business. They have the ultimate goal in mind and Dave Collins, UK Athletics Performance Director, has highlighted them as ideal role models.”
A prodigious youngster, seemingly winning numerous national titles for fun, the 2003 World Youths 5th-placer surrounds herself with a close-knit network of friends and family. Her father, Vinroy; a schoolboy sprinter in Jamaica and boyfriend, Andy are just two of a large fan-club who help the Sheffield University psychology-graduate keep a healthy balance in her life. Training twice, even three times a day, with massage, promotion and press duties, Ennis knows all too well the stresses and strains of being a world-class full-time athlete. Nevertheless, her regimented training and commitment is bringing those well-earned rewards.

The 2007 season has also witnessed the re-emergence of 800m runner, Becky Lyne. The European 800m bronze-medallist was forced to endure an injury-riddled winter, which would test the patience and determination of any athlete. After picking up a calf strain whilst training in Australia, Lyne then experienced Achilles troubles, followed by a reoccurrence of the calf injury. A three-month-long spell of rehabilitation proceeded, consisting of swimming and cross-training, which Lyne described as “soul destroying – I didn’t run between mid-February and mid-May; it was so frustrating.”

Fortunately for the Dave Turnbull-coached athlete her agent, sponsor and coach respectively, stayed loyal to her during these testing times. “Dave’s been fantastic; he’s got a family and a job yet he measured trails for me to run on and cycled alongside me in training – he nursed me back well,” Lyne praised. “I’ve been with Nike (her sponsor) since 2003 and luckily they’ve kept faith in me by renewing my contract and Nic (Bideau, her agent)’s been great, too.” Doing presentations and motivational speaking in schools, as well as practising her Spanish helped keep Lyne sane during those challenging months. The support of her team has undoubtedly ensured Lyne remains in the sport and maintaining her place on the World-Class Performance Lottery Programme has enabled the Loughborough and Indianapolis University sports science and Spanish graduate to access free medical back-up and train full-time without financial worries; a contribution which was pivotal to her athletic return. “My physio; Alison Rose, was fantastic, absolutely phenomenal,” Lyne recalls.

The 25 year-old Hallamshire Harrier made her eagerly-anticipated comeback at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix at Don Valley Stadium. In a baptism of fire for the former Tapton school pupil, Lyne had a less than ideal homecoming, as she trailed home last. However, the Stockport-based runner kept her patience and continued to progress to finish a respectable 5th in the 1500m at the World Trials and British Championships.

Then, showing glimmers of her former self, the 2006 British Athletics Writers Association Athlete of the Year finished 5th overall and fourth Britain in 2:00.86, in the second leg of the British Grand Prix at Crystal Palace. The 2001 European Junior and 2003 European under23 800m champion had an anxious wait as her global championship fate was decided by the GB selectors; who luckily, put their faith in her by giving her the final 800m berth for Osaka. "It's weird as I'm not really celebrating, as the aim at the start of the year was to run well in the Worlds not just to qualify - I really want to get the job done," responded Lyne to the news of her selection. "I had inkling after Crystal Palace that I'd get picked - I showed the progress I'm making and I hope to repay the selectors' faith by continuing to go from strength to strength."
On her sensational return to Great Britain duty, the 2006 World Athletics Final 5th-placer says, “If I stay injury-free and continue to train well, anything's possible. I've got a good training base behind me." World-ranked 46th on the season’s 800m rankings, Lyne is reluctant to predict an instant return to medal-winning form; "I'm not taking anything for granted or making predictions - I've learnt how quickly things can be taken away from you."

A member of Hallamshire since aged 13 and a former child ballet enthusiast, the 2006 World Cup 4th placer contributes the 1991 World Student Games, held in Sheffield, as a source of initial inspiration. “It gave me my first taste of athletics and left a great sporting infrastructure in the city-something that all four of us have benefitted from,” revealed the 2005 World Student Games 1500m 5th-placer; who additionally revealed that athletes never get to see much of the countries they get to visit, although “it’s nice to meet new people, but I prefer racing in England anyway – for the home support.”

Ranked 3rd on the British all-time lists with 1:58.20, the promising two-lap specialist explained that despite no longer residing in Sheffield, she still likes to regularly tie in visits to the EIS with catching up with family and friends and if she wasn’t an athlete, Lyne would go into exercise physiology to encourage healthy living.

Billed as the next Kelly Holmes, Lyne appears to cope admirably with the pressure she constantly faces; “I’m not going to dwell on my past achievements. I try to keep it simple and not get distracted,” explained the humble Northerner; who rarely reads about, or watches herself. “My motivation is about proving to myself I can do it. Every day’s a test and I want to succeed in those tests. I do enjoy what I do; the more success I’ve had, the more determined I’ve become.”

On her British counterparts, Lyne adds; “Abby’s a big, big talent; I’m so pleased she’s realising that now – all credit to her; she’s battled on and got recognised. It’s weird almost, as she’s now a rival. She used to be the little girl behind me in training. I don’t know Hatti well, as she moved to Sheffield when I left but it’s good she’s progressing well. Once when I volunteered at a schools league, Jess won by the high jump by miles – that’s my claim to fame-measuring her height! I sometimes see her out clubbing (very rarely of course) and we’ll say to each other – you shouldn’t be in here!”

Further proof that elite athletes are just like any other ordinary people, is another Hallamshire Harrier, 25 year-old Hatti Dean. The Oxford and Sheffield University maths and statistics-graduate, combines full-time training with 32.5hours of work per week, as a civil service statistician. Although the Bud Baldaro-coached steeplechaser enjoys her job, it is a far cry from the lifestyle expected of an athlete of her calibre.

Having thrice broken the British 3000m steeplechase record this season, Dean understandably goes into the World Championships brimming with confidence. The Puma-sponsored runner, who has improved her best mark by 13seconds this year, began her track campaign with double victory at the Yorkshire Championships, over 1500m flat and 2000m steeplechase respectively; the latter performance lifting her to no.2 on the UK all-time lists, with a scintillating 6:30 clocking. The 2007 World cross-country 10th-placer then further impressed during England representative duty at the Loughborough International, by front-running to a comfortable 9:51 3000m steeplechase victory.

Next on the agenda was the British Miler’s Club Grand Prix in Manchester on June 9th; a meeting where Dean’s performance cemented her place in history, gaining her national recognition in the process. Floating over the barriers to a swift 9:43.11; it was here where Dean notched up her first national record. The former England international Lacrosse and regional-standard tennis-player, then excelled in the international arena at the European Cup First League in Finland with an impressive emphatic twelve-second victory, this time stopping the clock at 9:42.66; bettering her own British record. Continuing her spectacular vein of form, Dean progressed to a sensational 9:38.56 clocking at the Don Valley leg of the British Grand Prix, and was thus awarded $2500 for her efforts. Honing her speed with a ninth-place finish over 1500m flat at the World Trials and British Championships, the PACE-Management signed-athlete then stormed to a scintillating 8:58 3000m flat clocking at the Crystal Palace Grand Prix.

Ranked 28th in the World over the barriers this year, Dean was keen to praise the help of her coaches during her stellar track campaign thus far; “Bud’s been so good for my confidence; he’s always motivating me and really makes me believe in myself. Simon Richardson, my hurdles coach, has really helped my hurdling, too.”

A talented runner as a youngster, Dean swapped national athletics titles for revision; as injuries and competitive academia environments contributed to her quitting the sport at 18. Luckily, for the athletics world, she found the pressure and nerves in her other favoured sports, too much – therefore, the 2006 national steeplechase Champion has achieved such fascinating success, off only three years consistent training.

Eighth in her heat at the 2006 Europeans in 9:52, Dean claims she now copes with pressure much better than she used to. “I do get really nervous still, though,” she reveals, “I find it hard when I’m expected to beat people. On her motivation, Osaka aims and the remaining three-quarters of the ‘awesome foursome’, the former Radley Ladies athlete divulged; “Running gives me confidence, it makes me happy. My aim for the Worlds is to get to the final. I never intentionally go for the British Record, but we’ll see. The other girls have all done amazing in their own ways. Abby’s matured so much; I have real confidence in her when I see her run; she looks so strong. Becky’s done very well to get back and improve – she could peak for Osaka and Jessica’s just amazing in everything she does.”

So there you have it; a sneaky peek into their lives of four of Britain’s most promising athletes. Feeling inspired? I am!

To see how the ‘awesome foursome’ faired in Osaka, see and

FLORA LONDON MARATHON REPORT (written for England Athletics 04/08).

Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of marathon running in London, the twenty-seventh Flora London marathon celebrated with two of England’s finest distance stars; Liz Yelling and Dan Robinson both running personal bests to book their Olympic spots for Beijing later this summer.

Yelling; the 33 year-old Bedford and County runner, capitalised on her outstanding recent form that includes 15th place in the World cross-country Championships, by scorching away to a 2:28.33 clocking; thus obliterating her personal best by over two minutes in the process.

"I'm delighted to break the two-and-a-half hour barrier," explained Yelling, who finished three places and 45-seconds ahead of second Brit; Hayley Haining of Kilbrachan.

Both figured in the leading group at six miles but it was Yelling; the Athens Olympic marathon 25th-placer, who risked going with the international pack, whilst Haining took a more cautious approach and fell away behind the leading pack.

"Before the race I had my own plan but decided to go with the field as the early pace wasn't so fast," said Yelling. “I'm not sure I ran the best tactical race but I decided to just race and see how much I had. There was a lot of pressure, and it was just a case of trying to keep it in perspective and not let it get to me."

Reflecting on the tussle to join the Beijing pre-selected Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi, Yelling added, "It really was hard work between 13 and 18 miles and looking back I could see Hayley in the distance. It was becoming hard work but then I looked back and saw Hayle

y which gave me a big kick up the bottom.”
“I told myself if Hayley is going to get this, I'm going to make her work for it and if she does she will deserve it. It made me pick up and run faster but the last six miles were really hard."

Haining also set an impressive PB of 2.29.18 in finishing 12th and admitted after her sighting of Yelling, it did occur to her to that there was still the possibility of closing down a gap which wasn't too large in the closing stages.

"At 18 miles I could see her and we were getting closer. But there was still a long way to go so I decided to sit tight and be conservative," said the full-time veterinary pathologist at Glasgow University.

"At 19 miles I was going into a roundabout as she was coming off it and we just looked at one another. But I'm delighted with breaking 2hr 30min and my performance."

Other Brits to impress included Britsol’s Lucy Hasell in 15th with 2:40:31, Scot Susan Partridge (2:4140) in 17th, Telford’s Kim Fawke (2:42:08) in 18th, Sale’s Amy
Whitehead (2:45:38) in 19th and AFD’s Andrea Woodvine (2:45:49) in 20th position.

Yelling, Hasell and Fawke took the England Athletics Championships gold, silver and bronze medals, whilst Reading Road Runners took team gold, ahead of St Albans Striders and Belgrave Harriers.

Robinson ran a fine time of 2:13.11 - more than 40 seconds better than his previous best - to finish in 12th place, just behind Olympic champion Stefano Baldini and increase his Beijing aspirations.

The 33 year-old Stroud runner spoke of his delight at missing it with the global elite; "I'm quite satisfied, I can only do my best. It's mind-boggling when the leaders are running 2:05 but my job was to finish top Brit, to run a PB if possible and try to confirm my Olympic place which I think I've done, so it's a case of job done."

Thomas Abyu faded in the final stages after being leading Brit for the early part of the race and came home in 2.15.50. The Salford runner had hoped to improve on his spectacular 2:10.37 from last year’s Dublin marathon, when his Olympic dreams were dashed following the news of the race being held on an uncertified course; but had struggled of late, following a untimely bout of flu.

Other domestic highlight included Leigh Harriers’ Pete Riley’s 2:18:21 for 18th place, Swaledale’s Tony Lambert (2:18:40) in 19th and Cardiff’s Richie Gardiner (2:20:28) in 21st position.

Robinson, Abyu and Riley took the England Athletics Championships gold, silver and bronze medals; and Leeds City AC took the team honours, ahead of Thames Hare and Hounds and Winchester and District AC.

The top English athletes from this year’s race will be considered for selection to represent England in the Toronto marathon on the 19th of October, against the USA and Mexico.


The England women’s team scored a close victory at the 50th anniversary of the Loughborough International, whilst the England men’s squad finished second during a nail-biting and exhilarating day’s action at the Loughborough University track, writes Nicola Bamford.

Scoring an impressive 90 points over runners-up; Loughborough University Past and Present with 87 points, the England ladies wrapped up the tight triumph at the wire, as the 4x400m relay outfit narrowly helped the squad to the title in the final event of the day. The England men meanwhile were left to lick their wounds, as they lost the match to Loughborough due to a disqualification in the final relay race.

Amina Ceesay and Joice Maduaka both finished second in the 100m and 200m, with 12:08 and 24.04, respectively and Perry Shakes-Drayton scored an impressive and emphatic 400m flat victory, with a superb 53.76 clocking.

Jo Ankier notched a useful l 10:21.09 for the runner-up placing in the 3,000m steeplechase, whilst Zara Hohn took seventh position in the 100m hurdles, with 14.70.

Sophie Morris took the 5,000m with a scorching 16:20.88 and Faye Fullerton scored a 1500m third-place, with 4:10.45.

Susan Moncrieff dominated the high-jump with an impressive 1m82 leap, whilst Phyllis Agbo took fourth in the long-jump with a 6m07 leap and Zoe Derham finished runner-up in the hammer, with a 64.81 throw.

Eden Francis took the second-place spot in the shot put, with 15.43, as Emma Carpenter also placed runner-up with 54.82 discus throw. Lauren Therin was third in the javelin, with 45m64 and triple-jumper; Nadia Williams took second with 13m45.

The 4x100m squad took the win by over a second, in a notable 43.65 clocking, whilst the 4x400m team taking the top spot with 3:38.98.

On the men’s side, Richard Hill ran imposingly to take the 800m in 1:47.47, whilst Glen Comish ran away with the 3000m steeplechase to win by over 10-seconds, with a fine 8:57.91. Phil Nichols ran strongly to dominate the 5000m; registering 13:58.28.

Eli Winn placed fourth in the 200m with 21.67, as did Nick Gayle in the 110m hurdles, with 14.46 and Neil Speight in the 1500m, with 3:44.47.

Andy Frost dominated the hammer, with a winning 66m15 throw, as Martin Lloyd leapt top third-place with 2m15 in the high jump. Jonathon Moore was prevailed in the long-jump; registering 7m74.

AbdulBuhari placed second in the discus with 57m64, as Mervyn Luckwell was runner-up in the javelin, with a useful 72m throw. Julian Golley jumped to second with 15m12 in the triple-jump, before the men’s 4x100m relay winners sped to a 39.46 victory.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

WITTY ANECDOTES FROM THE WORLD OF RUNNING (compiled for UK Athletics 06/08).

A major benefit to training and competing in this crazy sport we so love is that it brings us plenty of amusing anecdotes, along the barmy route of our journey to fitness and success. Run Britain editor, NICOLA BAMFORD researched into a few comical tales and would like to invite readers to submit their favourite stories, too! Go on – give us a laugh at your expense!

The following accounts are extracted from Geoff Wightman and Dave Bedford’s hilarious book; “Funny Running Shorts”...

· DAVE BEDFORD (1960’s) – When Jim Hogan ran in one of the International cross-country races, which were the forerunner of the World cross-country Championships, he did not care for the fact that the organiser had included a couple of manmade barriers of each of the laps. He ran around the outside of each and every one of them, blaming the congested approach. When the results appeared it said ‘Hogan, England DQ’. Jim was not happy about this and marched over to the referee.
“Why the feck have you disqualified me?”
“Because you didn’t jump any of the hurdles.”
“You show me where in the feckin’ rules it says that you have to jump over the hurdles.”
The referee then leafed through the rulebook and read aloud ‘competitors must negotiate all barriers on the course’.
“Exactly. I did feckin’ negotiate them. I went around them.”
The ultimate irony of this episode is that Jim is now involved in training horses to run in the Cheltenham National Hunt racing festival.

· GEOFF WIGHTMAN (1970’s) – My Dartford Harriers colleague Mr X was delighted that he and his neighbours would be in charge of one of the drinks stations on the Dartford half-marathon course. The race is always held in late July or early August and traditionally enjoys hot weather, so the water stops are vital.
X wanted his to be a very slick and spotless operation. He took away two huge black plastic watertubs from the clubhouse store and began the preparations for a world-class water station at mile nine. He scoured the tubs clean for maximum hygiene and coached all his neighbours in the art of the perfect drink cups handover. His attention to detail was well received by the athletes many of whom were tempted by X’s nicely chilled refreshment beverages as they sped past the nine mile point. Unfortunately, 100metres beyond the nine mile point the smooth passage of the race became heavily punctuated by the sounds of retching runners. X had used bleach to clean the tubs and the taste was still there in each and every mouthful of water that he dispensed.

· DAVE BEDFORD (1970’s) – It attracted a lot of attention when I first started experimenting with running 200 miles per week in training but at the time I was keen to explore just how far I could take my limits, even if no-one else had ventured into that sort of territory. Mind you, it can lead to compulsive behaviour traits. I used to start my weekly training log on a Saturday and finish on a Friday because the weekend gave a good start in attacking the mileage.
At the end of my first ever week of my planned 200 miles regime, I climbed, weary but in content, into a hot bath on the Friday night. I flicked through my training diary and totted up the last seven day’s mileage once again, feeling very pleased with myself. To my horror, it totalled 196 miles. I immediately climbed out of the bath, put on my kit and went straight out for a five mile run. Barmy I know, but I can tell you, should you ever be tempted to try this at home, that a hot bath is all the more pleasurable when you have got 201 miles under your belt instead of a paltry 196.

· SUSAN WIGHTMAN (1980’s) – In my twenties, I had the chance to race on the roads in America several times a year. This fitted in quite neatly with school holidays and, during my probationary year as a teacher; I also managed to get clearance for leave of absence to race three times on a short trip in November. The races went well and after the third one, I discovered that I had scored enough points to qualify for the Scholls/ARRA Grand Prix Final race that was to be held the following weekend in Hawaii. It was a fantastic opportunity, but it was with some trepidation that I rang my headmaster back in Bristol to see if he would approve a one week extension to my leave. He was not best pleased and although he eventually did give permission, he made it clear, under no uncertain terms, that whatever happened I had to be back in school in good time for Monday morning registration.
Immediately after the race I began the long journey back home and I finally arrived back in Bristol, more jet-lagged than I can ever remember, at tea-time on the Sunday afternoon. I made a telephone call to a staff colleague to arrange for them to pick me up by car on the Gloucester Road the following morning at eight o’clock sharp. By six o’clock, I could not stay awake any longer and, having set my alarm for 7.30am, I fell into a deep sleep. When I finally stirred I looked at the clock and was mortified to see that it was ten to eight. I must have slept right through the alarm!
Frantically, I rushed around the house gathering my things together and sprinted out the door. I arrived on the corner of Gloucester Road breathless and flustered, at precisely eight o’clock. Then I waited. It was absolutely freezing and by 8.15, fearing the wrath of the Head, I began thinking of alternate ways that I could get in on time. First, I needed to telephone my colleague to make sure nothing untoward had happened. I ran to the telephone box. As I did so, I had a feeling of unease. With hindsight, an open fish and chip shop and a closed newsagents should have been a strong clue. I flagged down a passer-by.
“Excuse me, can you tell me whether it’s eight o’clock in the morning or eight o’clock at night, please?”
The lady looked at me as if I was utterly barking.
“It’s eight o’clock on Sunday night” she replied, hurrying to get away from the red-eyed woman. I had been asleep for less than two hours.
Top 20 Ways to Stay Motivated During the Winter Months (written for UK Athletics 10/08).

Even the most talented runners must struggle from time to time to drag themselves out the door for a run or session during the cold, wet and dark winter so editor NICOLA BAMFORD reveals her ‘Top 20 ways to stay motivated during the winter months’...

1. Have a tangible reward on your return - give yourself a treat; an incentive to get out there - whether that be a hot chocolate, warm bubble bath or your favourite takeaway.

2. Set yourself realistic goals – know your fitness level and limits – set a target time for a length of run to aim for that you’re confident of achieving - gradually increase this over time.

3. Stay positive – think of the benefits to training like improving your health, increasing your fitness level and aiding your mental toughness for competitions.

4. Decide which races to do in the spring – pencil in and aim to train specifically for a few races during the New Year to Easter period – entering these will provide an even bigger motivational tool.
5. Self-satisfaction – there’s a great sense of achievement in completing a run or session when the elements are against you – give yourself a big pat on the back!

6. Cover up against the elements– wearing water-proofs, layers and a hat and gloves when required, will help you to brave the cold and wet environment. Don’t forget your reflective gear if you intend to train in the dark!

7. Train with a friend – knowing that you’ve organised to meet and run with a training partner should be enough to get you out the door and chatting along should make the weather more bearable.

8. Burn off those calories – most people tend to eat more in the winter months to keep themselves warm – what a great excuse! But of course, not wanting to gain those extra pounds should keep you motivated to train. Each mile ran can burn up to 100 calories – think of it as 2 slices of pizza!

9. Visualisation – choose a well-known route and mentally dissect it into segments to help yourself get through the tough workout.

10. Have appreciation for your running – remind yourself every day that at least you can run – we should be very grateful indeed!

11. Create a training diary – logging your training may encourage you to keep training; nobody likes to see too many blanks in it now do they!

12. Invest in some new kit – having some brand new apparel and shoes will hopefully excite you into using them – regularly!

13. Run at lunchtime – give yourself a break from work and try not to run first or last thing in the day when it’s darker and colder.

14. Watch/read some motivational tools – such as running DVDs, books and quotes.

15. Make a massage appointment – perhaps not seen as a treat but it’ll do you the World of good! – The less tight and tired your muscles are, the more likely you are to want to train.

16. Train to race for charity – by selecting a charity to compete for, your motivation should double – you’re not just running for yourself anymore!

17. Be careful – slippy roads, lashing rain, piles of leaves and the dark can cause a plethora of hazards – take care!

18. Train to music – probably one of the best motivational tools for keeping you going during the miles – but take care when ‘zoning out’ to your favourite bands during the winter months.

19. Stay healthy – eating, drinking and sleeping adequately will aid your motivation to train, as you’ll feel fitter and fresher.

20. If all else fails to get you running outside, train inside – join a gym and do your runs and even sessions (with care) on a treadmill – but beware of the injuries this method of training can potentially cause.

The 10 types of runner – which are you? (written for UK Athletics 03/08).

There’s no denying it – whatever the weather, however tired we might feel, we all love to pound the roads relentlessly; day in, day out - either in search of gaining that extra advantage when it comes to race day, or just to help shift a few pounds.

But have you ever asked yourself exactly what type of runner you are? NICOLA BAMFORD explains the ‘10 types of runners’ and elaborates on their distinguishable traits and behaviours, to help you identify exactly which ‘runner category’ you fall into...

1. The obsessive runner – sometimes their own worst enemy. The obsessive runner will not necessarily gain an extreme level of personal satisfaction from each and every run, but would rather be condemned to hell than miss a scheduled training plod or session.

The ‘Obsessives’ worship and aspire to emulate their hero; the great – and ultra-consistent - Mr Ron Hill. This, however, can occasionally instigate injury and illness; resulting in the obsessive runner becoming withdrawn and exceedingly depressed – life as they know it, has ended.

This type of ‘runner breed’ cannot function properly in its’ daily tasks without indulging in its’ regular guilty pleasure of a 30-min outdoor escapade at the very least. Should this fanatical athlete complete a run under the expected time period, then they will simply jog on the spot until the clock hits the desired point in time; only then can a sense of full contentment be enjoyed.

The classic rugby tackle is also usually recommended to halt the ‘Obsessives’ from another set of reps in training, and WARNING! – They WILL resort to breaking and entering to use the track or clubhouse gym during holidays.

Obsessive runners tend to race at every available opportunity; normally each weekend and their numerous skills include being able to reel off the personal bests, achievements and vital statistics on any runner, worth their salt. Yes, the Obsessive runners live, eat and breathe running.

2. The reluctant runner– needs a kick up the backside even to get out the door for even a weekly bimble – shame on you!

Cunning tactics used to entice this so-called ‘running enthusiast’ into a pair of trainers include the meticulous positioning of an accompanying training partner for motivation, or the promise of either a cold, frosty beverage or a slice of pie on the successful return of their athletic endeavours.

The ‘reluctants’ prefer to remain anonymous through fear of embarrassment of their laziness and being lynched by the hard-core nutters; mentioned in the above category. They know they ought to run (if only to justify their club membership) but live by the motto; “I’ll do double the distance tomorrow” – yeah, right!

3. The ‘in denial’ runner – comes in two different species. The ‘in denial of health’ runner will continue to train despite the onset of injury or illness. The only guaranteed method of preventing such runners is for a fully-qualified physiotherapist or physician to literally scare the hell out of them with tales of potential run-threatening ailments or developing heart-failure.

Useful signs to spot this ‘runner bread’ include responses such as “Nah, I’m fine - that bone’s always stuck out there!” and “Why I am clenching my side (conspicuously situated near the appendix area) as I run? – it’s just a bit of stitch; it’ll pass!”

The ‘in denial of their ability’ runner believes their running capabilities are far superior to what they really are. Such runners will make absurdly unrealistic race predictions and seek sponsorship and elite entry to races only worthy of athletes who cross the finish-line before they even reach the half-way mark – bless!

4. The moaner – the World always seems to be against ‘moaning runners’. The heavens appear to only ever open the instant they set foot out of door for a run, and the organisation and courses at races are just never good enough!

The call of a ‘Moaner’ is usually heard during the beginning, middle and end of runs and especially sessions. Phrases such as “How far?!”, “Aren’t we done yet – my quads are killing and it’s raining!” and “Thank goodness for that – never again!” are typical responses to even the easiest of exercise levels. A ‘Moaner’ just isn’t a moaner with moaning, now are they!

Even if the temperature, weather conditions, traffic, registration tent, entertainment, refreshments and the race itself are up to scratch, ‘Moaners’ are always sure to find the proficiency to dig up some problem or another; usually a convenient excuse to employ for the cause behind their lacklustre performance – pure genius!

5. The over-enthusiastic runner – believes “you’re not running properly if you’re not running fast!” This breed of ‘runner species’ is so keen and eager to run each and every run, session and race at maximum effort, that all sense of caution, rational thought and pre-arranged race tactics are instantly thrown to the wind as soon as the starting gun fires.

Otherwise known as the competitive or stupid runner, the ‘over-enthusiasts’ have no need for wise implements such as heart-rate monitors – that would only slow them down!

These runners are always the first to arrive at race start-lines and are noticeable for their impatience; notably the necessity of being physically held back by a duo of muscular men, to ensure they refrain from false-starting; such is their level of over-zealousness – it’s just a hobby!

6. The plodder – ‘Plodders’ are blissfully content to bimble around, admiring the views on their runs; whether it be during a Sunday 10-miler or in a race situation. They hold no fear of being lapped or overtaken by 12 year-old girls, for – as they so frequently like to say – “What’s the rush?!”

As in the old adage of the Tortoise and the Hare tale, ‘Plodders’ believe that sensible pacing will prosper in the end and that the pace of life is too hectic as it is, so why would they possibly want to speed up? (Because the race marshals would actually like to leave the course before Midnight, mate!).

7. The stubborn runner– akin to the ‘in denial of health’ runner will, without doubt, run through injury, hurricanes and hail storms; because, after all – “the bigger the challenge, the tougher (physically and mentally) it makes you in the end!” – ‘Mental’ being the key expression there!

This ‘runner breed’ is a complex kind; behaviours include phrases such as “No! – I WILL NOT stop my session just because I’ve been reduced to literally crawling - I’m no failure!” and similar to the ‘Obsessives’ and ‘Over-enthusiasts’, will at times require physical intervention, due to their inability to distinguish when it’s time to stop.

8. The Mileage-Mad runner – lives by their training log and calculator. Such runners take great pleasure in boasting their weekly culmination of covered-distance (although, many are prone to over-exaggerating or even concocting such numbers from mid-air) and in their never-ending quest for mileage perfection, will even resort to clocking up nonsensical athletic trips, such as the customary pre-race jog to the bushes for the call of nature.

The ‘Mileage-Mad’ runners are often heard to ask “But why can’t I do 11 instead of 10 reps? – it’ll make my total figure this week nice and round, then!” and their favourite past-times include relaxing at the end of a hard weeks’ training with their calculator – how sad!

9. The Rule-book runner – will never train without their heart-rate monitor; through fear of approaching the slightest moment of over or under-exertion. These runners literally stick to the ‘rules of running’; which, although appearing to be sensible, actually borders on obsession (yet, this breed must not be mistaken for an ‘obsessive runner’; their hearts rule their heads, rather than vise-versa) and can actually inhibit their progression and performance.

Although ‘Rule-book runners’ stretch prolifically, eat and drink the adequate types and amounts of nutritional foods and supplements and ensure they regularly update their running shoes, they have a tendency to be skint because of this addiction to abiding by the rules and often lose face of what really matters; enjoying themselves!

10. The Pot hunter – travels the length and breadth of the country, in search of trophies and prizes. Typical behaviour comprises the search for most financially and treasure-attractive races at the beginning of each season (followed by swift entry of course) and the pursuit of training specifically, with an aim of attaining such riches.

The epitome of materialistic, the ‘Pot hunters’ solely use their fixation with increasing their possessions as motivation to train and race, and will only compete for a kettle at the very least!

· So there you have it; the 10 types of runners! Hopefully, this insight has been an enjoyable – if eye-opening - read, with moments of sharp self-realisation.
Which type am I....? - A mixture of number 1, 7 and 9 – not a bad combination, if I must say myself!