06 October 2009
Article by Ed Warner as seen in Athletics Weekly magazine
The latest UKA Board meeting was held at our National Performance Centre in Loughborough as part of our commitment to get away from our Solihull HQ periodically and meet our performance team and athletes at their place of work. This being, apparently, the close season, few athletes were in training, but the coaching team – led by new Centre director, Derek Evely – were all in preparing for the winter training programme.
I say that it is ‘apparently’ the close season because, as AW’s editor highlighted recently, athletics is truly a sport for all seasons. While the global track programme was still drawing to a conclusion with Tyson Gay equalling the second best 100m of all time, I was able to enjoy a packed and varied weekend of athletics. This took in a Commonwealth champs, TV viewing of an innovative event format, and running a 10K road race (in a personal best too, just in case you were wondering).
The Commonwealths were the inaugural Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships held over four days in Keswick. I managed to see big chunks of the 24 hour race, as well as the start of the uphill races and the runners toiling up a distant ridge en route to the summit of Skiddaw.
The finish of the 24 hour race was a truly inspiring, and not a little emotional, experience – not only the sight of England’s Sharon Gayter bounding round the final few laps of her 226km draped in the St George’s Cross, but also each of the other finishers who’d fought to hold their technique and energy reserves together as the clock had ticked down. It was a good weekend for the Home Countries – England in particular – and a great one for the mountain and ultra arms of athletics.
An England team also competed that weekend in the innovative event, against Australia in the City Games in Newcastle. With a final score to England of 10-1, this made for attractive television, assisted by a couple of stirring head-to-heads within the English team. There was a generous North East crowd in attendance, in what has become a weekend-long athletics festival with Saturday’s events providing a pleasing warm-up experience. Importantly, many of the onlookers seemed completely new to watching athletics. I look forward to seeing more such innovation from Nova International as they build on this Ashes success.
I missed the Great North run itself on TV as I was grinding my way around the Hove Prom 10K (although I caught 5 Live’s blanket coverage on my drive home). As with countless races every weekend up and down the country, Arena 80’s event was immaculately organised by unfailingly cheerful volunteers – who it seems were even able to switch off the usual sea breeze/gale. So, close season? Roll on the World Half in Birmingham on October 11!