WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Despite not having raced for three months throughout the winter with a string of injuries, distance-running starlet Charlotte Purdue is on course to make her Olympic debut on the track this summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 20-year-old Aldershot runner has only raced on half a dozen occasions since finishing fourth in the Bupa Great South Run in Portsmouth last October - where she twisted her ankle mid-race - yet remains on track to realise her Olympic dream in London this August, following a trio of impressive performances of late.
Guided by Mick Woods at their St Mary’s university base, Purdue finished a fine fourth in today’s Bupa Great Manchester run against a top senior international field in 32:13 along the 10km city-centre course, placing as the top British woman ahead of Olympic marathon representative, Mara
Yamauchi in sixth (32:28).
Only three seconds off her lifetime best set in the Bupa Great Ireland Run in Dublin back in April – which shot her to eleventh on the British all-time list – the Commonwealth 10,000m fourth-placer was content with her recent showing of form ahead of a busy track campaign:
“I’m feeling good and I’m happy with how I’ve been training - I haven’t really tapered for this race so I’m quite pleased with the time,” she explained after her appearance in the north-west.
“The race was slightly different to Dublin – there, it was me and Gemma pushing each other the whole way but here, I was in a group and then suddenly out of nowhere, Linet (Masia, the Kenyan winner with 31:35) made a big surge to get away and I tried to go with it and hold my form by keeping my own pace, pushing and pushing but it was really tough out there.”
Now turning her attentions to the red mondo surface, Purdue is aiming for the Olympic ‘A’ standard for both the 5,000m and 10,000m in the next few weeks.
Currently holding the ‘B’ qualifying mark for the longer distance courtesy of an eye-catching 32:03.05 lifetime best set in California last month – which ranks her as second British under23 and fourteenth senior of all-time – the diminutive runner is also only fourteen-seconds off the 5,000m ‘B’ time, having clocked 15:44.01 when winning the British universities title in the Olympic stadium a fortnight ago.
Having split the final year of her history degree in half in order to prepare for a tilt at the Games, Purdue revealed her thoughts on both the stadium which she hopes to return to and her chances of selection:
“I absolutely loved it – I felt absolutely honoured to have got the stadium record before the Olympics and running in it was really amazing,” she said.
“The bigger picture is the European Cup in two weeks (where she will target the 31:45 mark in Spain) - I’d love to get the time, that’s my main aim and I want to qualify for the Olympics more than anything.
“I’m definitely going for the 5,000m as well but I like the 10,000m more and obviously, I’d like to get the standard for both, I just feel stronger in the 10.”
With the likes of Jo Pavey, Freya Murray and Gemma Steel all chasing the twenty-six lap mark, Purdue is well aware of the fierce rivalry for team places but admits she relishes a test:
“I think it’s good that there’s a lot of good competition between the Brits as we’ll all push each other on – if it was just me going for the time, it wouldn’t feel as challenging and I always like a challenge,” she explained.
With a twelve and a half lap best of 15:23.4 from the 2010 season, the British junior number-two of
all time is clearly capable of the 15:20 ‘A’ standard for the Games and Purdue believes her injury-plagued summer and winter could indeed benefit her in the long-run.
A former European junior cross-country champion, Purdue feels the time out from competition as she nursed her ankle and knee back to full fitness in the last twelve months will ensure that she doesn’t peak too soon for the championship period in late summer:
“I think I compensated for the ankle for about a week in training and then about a week and a half into my trip in Kenya in November, I hurt my knee quite badly and I had to have the whole of Christmas off,” she revealed.
“I didn’t start back running again until late January then I got another niggle so I’ve had a real up and down time of it but touch-wood, I’m hopefully over it all now.
“Although it’s not been the perfect build-up in Olympic year, it’s made me stronger – if everything went to plan it would be boring.”
Remaining in positive mood despite the various setbacks, Purdue is currently riding on the crest of a wave and believes the injuries were a blessing in disguise:
“After spending a lot of time on the spinning bike and in the pool, I lost quite a lot of my speed so Mick’s been making me train for the faster stuff with Steph (Twell, a 1,500m Olympic hopeful) as well doing as the 5,000m track sessions so I definitely feel a lot stronger now having done them,” she said.
Keen to play down her medal chances for London, Purdue admits she has her sights on the silverware for the 2016 Games in Rio and intends to use her potential selection for experience only:
“Firstly, I’d like to qualify and then my aims would be to have a good run and I’d love to get a personal best,” she explained.
“Obviously, you don’t want to peaking now so I think all my troubles that have held me back a bit may have actually been not too bad for the preparation.
“Looking back to this time last year, no-one would have thought either me or Steph (who broke her ankle fourteen months ago) would be not too far away from running in the Olympics, but we’re both back so it’s really promising.”