19th May 2024

Megan Keith secures Olympic spot in style at Night of 10,000m PBs

Megan Keith (coach: Ross Cairns, club: Inverness) guaranteed herself an Olympic debut later this summer in sensational style at the Night of the 10,000mm PBs with a determined and dramatic victory in the women’s championship race in London.

Acting as the trial race for the 10,000m for Paris 2024, Keith, who ducked under the 30:40.00 minutes standard back in March, had one job at the extremely popular event on Parliament Hill – not only delivering it but setting pulses racing at the same time.

Needing a top-two finish among the British entrants to guarantee her Paris 2024 spot, Keith had first place sewn up with 3km to go after valiant early efforts from Jessica Warner-Judd (Mick Judd; Blackburn) and then hunted victory.

With a lap to go, even 150m, it looked as if Fiona O’Keeffe, who she had been tussling with through the latter half of the race, would take the win as the American surged ahead.

However, down the back straight, and especially through the crowded tunnel section, Keith kicked and her impressive turn of speed saw her overthrow O’Keeffe before the line and clock 31:03.02 for victory.

Patrick Dever (Andy Bibby; Preston) narrowly missed out on making it a British one-two as he finished second in the men’s championship race, just over a second off winner Mohamed Ismael of Djibouti, which meant Keith was very much the star of the show – now off to Paris.

She said: “I’m just so happy. I didn’t think I would be doing 10k’s for a long time. So, this is not part of the plan, but we are rolling with it. Two months [to Paris] is a long time. I want to enjoy it. I tried not to let that gap grow [over the last laps] and the crowd carried me down the home straight. It was a bit of a dream.”

The field quickly split into two packs after the first kilometre with Keith and Judd slowly picking their way through the field and into the prominent positions.

Approaching the halfway stage Judd was well positioned in second, and Keith in fourth, with Burundi’s Francine Niyomukunzi among the race’s many leaders at that stage.

As the front changed with O’Keeffe in front, Judd and Keith sat on her shoulder before the former took the lead outright a lap later. Judd ran a valiant and hardy race but soon after taking the lead, she unfortunately dropped back.

With less than 3km to go, American Amanda Vestri was now the leader and Keith smartly placed in third. At the 2km Keith started to mount a charge against O’Keeffe and Vestri and was the leader herself a lap later.

She couldn’t lose O’Keeffe though and with 800m to go had relinquished the lead to the American. What ensued was a fascinating final two laps that ended in truly dramatic fashion in front of a packed and passionate crowd.

There was no change with a lap to go and around the final bend it looked as if O’Keeffe would win, with the lead now five metres. However, down the home straight Keith produced the kick of a lifetime, buoyed by the crowd through the final tunnel.

She surged past O’Keeffe within metres of the finishing line to cap off a superb performance and book that ticket to Paris in style. While Keith also secured national gold with her performance in 31:03.02, Judd battled valiantly to claim silver, and ninth overall, in 31:36.37 while Abbie Donnelly (Rob Lewis; Lincoln Wellington) took bronze, and 11th, in a huge track personal best of 31:45.37.

Keith added: “It [hanging back early] was on purpose. I’m most comfortable when the pace is hot. I don’t mind being at the front, pushing it along, but I didn’t have to. It was hard not to take my turn at the front, but I felt good.

“When I was on the wave lights l, it felt comfortable. It was quite hard letting them get away, but I also had to be selfish. I hung back and tried to stay patient. It is difficult when the crowd is that excited, you want to put on a good show for them.”

In the men’s championship race, Charles Hicks (Shaftesbury Barnet) and Dever were in the mix from the very start as a lead group of five was formed. That was down to three after 3km with Ismael in the lead.

By halfway Dever had started to make his move on the athlete from Djibouti as those three, which included Hicks, strung out. Dever began to kick on as he chased the Olympic standard of 27:00.00, with the race – at that stage – all about him and the clock.

However, Ismael never gave up and he caught up with Dever and retook the lead with less than five laps to go. The pair had to deal with lapped runner Sam Chelanga getting in between them over the next few laps and, with the Olympic time out of reach, it became a scrap for the win.

Dever put everything into hauling Ismael in but fell agonisingly short – the Djibouti athlete winning in a personal best of 27:22.53 while the Briton clocked 27:23.88.

Consolation for Dever was that his time and national gold was inside the 10,000m qualification standard for next month’s European Championships while silver went to Rory Leonard (Morpeth), who was eighth overall, in a personal best 27:38.39. National bronze went to Hicks, 15th overall, in 27:46.41.

Dever said: “It’s another 10k this year that I would say is bittersweet. I was going for 27 – I was on the lights for I can’t remember how many laps. It was just a little bit ambitious for me and I paid for it towards the end.

“I was happy I was able to rally over those last couple of laps and to come away with the British title is a nice feeling. When you are running with someone else it is always so much easier if you can share the workload rather than being out there by yourself.

“Psychologically you just have someone in front to focus on, it makes the pace so much easier. When he caught back up and it was me versus him it spurred me on and allowed me to pick back up over those last couple of laps.

“The crowd is incredible. I have been wanting to do this event for the last couple of years and I am happy I’ve been able to come here and do it. We’ll have to see what happens with the rankings going forward now. It’s out of my hands but I am at peace with it. I put my all into trying to get that 27 minutes. It wasn’t to be.”