Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

NIA Grand Prix 2-mile indoors


This will be the first in a series of highlights from the 2012 season.

There are many things that make something a highlight, and with any series like this you leave out more than you include. But that’s no reason not to do it. Let’s relish in the performances we loved from the year.




Saturday 18 February


Without the promise of a world cross country champs in March, the powers that be having decided it was more suited to a biannual championship –  a shame in my opinion – the first real highlight of the early year elite distance running scene was Mo’s 2 mile race indoors in the Birmingham Grand Prix.


There’s no bias with it being in Birmingham, it was simply the first time he was lined up against some real competition, in the year when it ALL mattered. The Olympic year.


How was he doing? How had winter training gone? Was he handling the pressure of being world 5k champion and favourite to win the 5 and 10 in London? Everyone was itching to see him in action. Birmingham provided the platform.


The grand prix in Birmingham has been regarded as the biggest indoor meeting in the world for a number of years. The entry lists are always strong and this year was no different. Mo was up against Tariku Bekele, perennial high quality performer Eliud Kipchoge and Moses Kipsiro, with pacing by Remmy Limo and Gideon Gathimba. In addition there was domestic British interest in Johnny Mellor toeing the line as well. He might not have been contesting for the win, but the fact that he was lining up against these guys was an indication of how far he had come and the fantastic form he had been showing in recent times.


galen 2 mile ARA week before this race, there had been another 2 mile race, in the US. Mo’s training partner Galen Rupp had run an incredibly strong and almost entirely solo 8:09.72 for the win and the American record. Since they had been training together Mo was expected to be in similar shape. Galen had taken the record from Bernard Lagat incidentally, who was in the Birmingham meeting, but was running the 1500m. If there is one thing Bernie (and his coach James Li) know how to do, it is shape a season. Starting out with a 1500 instead of going head to head with your main Olympic 5k rival is a sensible decision both from a racing position and from a training position. Sharpen up with some under distance races early season.


Back to the 2 mile race. The race was touted as being Mo’s attempt on the long standing British record (8:17 John Mayock) as well as the 39-year old European record (8:13.2 Emile Puttemans). But in reality these records didn’t mean much. They were sugar coating on the cake of the actual race. What the fans wanted to see was Mo versus the guys on the track. The guys who could challenge, push and perhaps beat him. The race got underway and the pace was brisk. The world record was never going to be troubled, but Gathimba took them through the opening mile in 4:04 so there were no passengers. Arne Gabius from Germany was running an incredibly courageous race and was hanging onto everything he could. He really stood up that day.


midrace 1Once the final few laps approached, the contenders shuffled around trying to position themselves to stick in the winning strike for home. The last lap burn up was just that and coming off the final bend Mo, Eliud, Tariku and Kipsiro were covered in that invisible blanket cliché. Eliud Kipchoge has a history of starting seasons well so it should probably not have been too surprising that he held the others off for the win. Mo managed second with Kipsiro and Bekele third and fourth. Less than a second separated them.


1 Eliud Kipchoge KEN 8:07.39 PB
2 Mo Farah GBR 8:08.07 NR
3 Moses Kipsiro UGA 8:08.16 NR
4 Tariku Bekele ETH 8:08.27 PB
5 Arne Gabius GER 8:10.78 PB
6 Jonathan Mellor GBR 8:40.50 PB



Finishing in 8:08.07, Mo had broken the British record and the European record. He had also bested his training partner by a second. But tellingly he hadn’t won the race. The media naturally chose to run with that story. What happened Mo? Where was the kick Mo? Are you overtraining Mo? The usual none-too-deekipchoge win 2p journalistic type inquisitions that they think the public wants to read about. (Perhaps the public do want to read that kind of stuff, who am I to know?)


Fact is, all keen fans of distance running had seen what they wanted to see. A strong Mo kicking hard and racing hard. The fact that he had been edged out was neither here nor there. This was February. It didn’t matter. It matters in August. In many ways, being beaten here in his first high profile race and in his home country, may have been a good thing. When is getting beaten a good thing? Well, when it takes some of the pressure from an expectant public off your shoulders it is a good thing. And when it shows the world that just because you won the 5000m world champs the year before, it doesn’t mean the rest of the professional distance running world are simply going to hand you wins. They will race you even harder, and want to beat you even more. It showed everyone that winning in August was going to be tough. But it also showed everyone that Mo had trained well over the winter and was in a great position (possibly the perfect position) leading into the transition from indoor to outdoor season. He was up for the challenge.


The running year was underway. The unavoidable conveyor belt to the Olympics had begun. This 2 mile race cracked open the 2012 distance season, and what a season it turned out to be.


Were we sure that Mo could do the double? No. But by gosh we knew we were in for an exciting ride.


Footnote: Lagat didn’t win his 1500m, but ran 3:36 and probably got what he needed from it. A month later he went to world indoors and won the 3000m gold medal.

Footnote 2: Johnny Mellor held on for an 8:40.5 Personal Best. Great run Johnny.

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 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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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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I went to watch the Inter Counties last Saturday at Cofton Park in Birmingham. It was a great event, hosted in a great XC venue. I only got there in time to see the Senior Men’s race.

In the absence of Mo Farah (who had other – indoor – fish to fry), Andy Vernon won it again, after a big lead group split up over the final two laps of the course.

I took some ropey video footage, which can be found here:

Start of the race:

First Lap:

Long uphill on Second Lap:

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Half life

Knocking big chunks off PBs is not something that happens to me very often. Generally speaking, I am past the “big improvement” section of my running career.

However, yesterday at the Birmingham Half Marathon, I did exactly that.

Before the race my half marathon PB stood at 1:20:12. I wanted to break the 80 minute barrier quite badly. (I first ran an 81-minute half marathon in 1993 – so had been staring at the 80-minute door for quite a while…)

After yesterday’s race my PB was 1:17:36. 🙂 What more can I say? Lots probably, but I’ll try not to. In a sentence: I went out sensibly, sped up a bit in the middle (not sure why that happened), then slowed down towards the end before managing a glory-hunting, final mile sprint down Broad Street. I would say it went perfectly, aside from the slight wobble between miles 9 and 11, but in my defence they were mostly uphill.

Our club had an excellent day out. First home was the legend that is Paul. 67 minutes in his first ever half marathon. What?? And he’s only 18. Next up was my training buddy Niceguy Eddie, who smashed his 75 minute target with a low 74. (His current form could have seen him a minute or two quicker, but he had some hamstring issues towards the end of the race and had to remove one of his legs and run with it under his arm, from what I heard). Next home was Matt, an 800m man, doing a nice gentle 76 minutes. Then there was another club mate who I don’t know, and then me. Richard just behind me in 78 minutes (coming back from injury) and Mr Dependable, Andy, running a solid 80 minutes and change. So we had 7 guys home in 80 minutes or quicker. Stand back Oregon Track Club, here comes Birmingham Running Athletics and Triathlon Club (that’s not a mouthful at all).

Here are my splits:

Mile       Time                 Split
1          00:05:42        00:05:42
2          00:11:37        00:05:55
3          00:17:31        00:05:54
4          00:23:25       00:05:54
5          00:29:17       00:05:52
6          00:35:02       00:05:45
7          00:40:32        00:05:30
8          00:46:41        00:06:09
9          00:52:39        00:05:58
10        00:58:46       00:06:07
11        01:05:30       00:06:44
12        01:11:37        00:06:07
13        01:17:04       00:05:27
13.1    01:17:36       00:00:33

Ave pace 00:05:55 min/mile
00:03:41 min/km

I came 56th (out of just over 11000 finishers).

Here are the full results.

Thanks to my support team, brilliant as always. Bec, Jode, Abs, Jon&Teri. And Gracie. (Although next time Gracie, get your shoes on and come racing).

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It was such a lovely summer evening I couldn’t resist getting down to the track to watch a bit of the inter-uni track and field match between birmingham (UK), cornell (US) and penn state (US) teams. with a few invited guests in each event.

herewith the full 3k  from one location (sorry).


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Well I didn’t really meet him, as much as see him as he raced by at almost the front of the world half marathon championships in sunny Birmingham last October.

I filmed him with my trusty handheld apple-device-phone-camera and posted it on YouTube. I wouldn’t bother you with it, only it recently broke the 1000 views mark, which is an occasion to crack open a beer, in my rarely-viewed book.

As far as non-Africans go, this guy is pretty much the biscuit at the moment. You could do a lot worse than pay close attention to his progress over these next few years. The guy is hard-fucking-core. And with Al Sal watching over his every move, he ain’t gonna lie down for anybody.

Ps I know it’s easy to pick a proven winner and go, look at him, he’s great. Well it is easy yes, well spotted.

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