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Archive for July, 2011

 Birmingham’s first Diamond League Event

Yesterday the global athletics phenomenon that is the Diamond League, rolled into the UK, and more specifically, into Birmingham.

 

One of my “sporting bucket list” items has always been to attend a European Golden League or Grand Prix meeting. A couple of years ago, these meetings were all bundled up into one big tightly-knit and wonderfully packaged, combined series called the Diamond League.

Great format, great locations, great athletes.

 

So the big opportunity arrived yesterday. Less than ten miles from my front door. I’d have to be an idiot to miss this… (…zippit).

 Bec and the girls were obviously keen to come along as well. Bec is as much of an athletics fan as me (almost) and for the girls this was the chance to see sporting royalty after all. (In Abby’s case, it was also an opportunity to bid for ice-cream from start to finish). The athletes’ names are household names (in our house at least).  Naturally my training buddies, Niceguy Eddie, or as we soon might have to start calling him, Hundredmile Eddie (and his wonderful wife Stephanie) and Gracie were all super keen as well. So we stacked out a tidy 7 or 8 seats in a row. We were three rows from trackside, almost in line with the 100m start line.

 

The atmosphere was spine tingling. We seemed to have some real track fans in our area, so for once I didn’t embarrass the family by screaming and shouting my support. Don’t get me wrong, I screamed and I shouted, but the thing was, so did everybody else, hence the lack of “standing out like a sore thumb”.

 

It’s hard to pick highlights, because every event was incredible. The 100m, heats AND final, the women’s 1500, men’s 800, women’s 200 and 400. I missed the men’s 400 hurdles as I was out queuing for burgers (don’t judge me), although I heard it and it sounded like a stonker.

 

But I guess if you pushed me for a highlight, and I can sense the virtual pushing going on right now, I’d say without too much hesitation, the men’s 5000m. An obvious choice, based on our distance running tendencies. But having an on-fire Mo Farah in the field was all the crowd needed to get up and cheering. He really is on top of his game at the moment. Unbeaten in 2011 I believe.

The 5k was stacked. No less than Imane Merga (out for revenge after Mo’s 10k triumph in the Pre Classis Diamond League meeting in Oregon, USA). Throw in Yenew Alamirew (this year’s new sensation), a coming-back-to-form Craig Mottram, my old Blairgowrie mate, Alistair Cragg, US hope Galen Rupp, Aussie star Collis Birmingham, Spanish big-kicking guy Jesus Espana, and UK cross country guy Andy Vernon (maybe a little out of his depth but probably looking to bridge some gaps). Look, it was a good field.

The race got underway, paced by David Krummenacker. They were single file sharpish, which usually indicates a good pace. The pace was quick, but not quite top level for these guys. It became clear pretty early on that, although they were motoring, this would be about places and not about time. Being at the meeting we didn’t get the splits we’d be getting on telly, so I can’t be sure of too much, but I did note the 2k time of 5:17 and 3k was a shade over 8 minutes. So not PB territory for the big guns.

Mo worked his way from the back of the pack, towards the front as the race progressed. His usual modus operandi. Alistair took over for a few laps around the 3 to 4k mark. It was getting quicker now as they geared up for the final km. Into the final km and the business got underway. With 600 to go Mottram (who had been up front for a few laps already) was joined by Collis Birmingham and it was an Aussie one-two coming down the back straight towards the bell lap.

The bell, which has become like a red rag to Mo and his long-kick, did exactly that. They took the hell off. Merga was giving him nothing! Stuck right on his heels through 300 to go, 200 to go. Then it was like the Pre 10k all over again, Mo’s continual increasing pace just had the beating of Merga and he started losing ground. Into the home straight and Mo was clear for the win.

Galen Rupp, timed his kick to perfection and came storming through to close the gap right up to Mo, edging Merga in the process. A great scalp for Rupp and a fantastic finish.

Alberto Salazar, who we had spotted when he walked right past us onto the track outfield, must have been pleased with his training group’s 1-2 finish.

The entire grandstand had gotten to its feet for the final lap, the noise was incredible. I jumped up shouting as usual and pretty much ruined any potential footage I was getting with my handycam. It was an awesome experience seeing the boys so close up and in the flesh. They represent the absolute pinnacle of distance running.

The final event of the evening was the men’s 100. After two abortive false starts, a fair bit of complaining from the red-carded athlete, a pulled hamstring from another contender (Michael Rodgers), Asafa duly got the job done in 9.91 seconds. On a wet track, after have to reset himself three times, that is not a bad performance! He must surely be a medal threat in Korea. And with Usain-in-the-membrane still not firing on all cylinders, the colour of that medal should safely be filed as TBC. Stranger things have happened.

So with a cracking 100m bringing the curtain down on the meeting, we made our way towards the exits and out of the stadium.

 

While waiting for the crowds to disperse in the car park, we saw Craig Mottram and Alistair Cragg out jogging on the their cool-down. I managed to say hi to Alistair which was cool. Whether he remembers me or not is up for grabs. Still cool though.

 

My trusty handycam had this to say on the evening’s shenanigans…

 

 

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2011

Cast your minds back… way back. Further than that. I’m talking almost a full year here people.

I’m talking back when we initiated what is sure to become a long-standing and well-supported tradition within our humble running group.

The Rowheath Beermile.

On Wednesday we added chapter two to the growing legacy…

Our running numbers had increased by 50%, meaning there were now three of us competing. Whoop whoop. (There had been promise of greater numbers, but due to various circumstances which can be summarised as “I’m soft”; three had to pull out at the 11th hour… I won’t name Rob, Martin or Tim. I mean, what would that achieve?)

So defending champion Gracie, debutant Harry, and myself all lined up on a lovely summer’s evening sometime between 8 and 9pm.

Harry chose an understated single-colour t-shirt for his race attire, Gracie opted for a red vest with “Gracie” written across the front in big black letters. Hey, it can be tricky to remember names when you’re three pints to the good and running in treacle. I was sporting the colours of the Mighty Golden Lions, bringing a bit of Joburg to the Birmingham summer night, and tipping my hat to the twin cities (fact).

What happened next? Who the hell knows. That’s why this footage is here. Enjoy our pain at your leisure.

 

Official results can be viewed at the official Beermile site here.

 

 

 

 

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