In a little over five years, a London track event has gone from being a grass roots club race to the top of the tree in international athletics (writes Chris Broadbent). The Highgate Harriers ‘Night of the 10,000m PBs’ was initiated by volunteers to freshen up a stale domestic distance running scene on the track, which sunk to a low of only one female entrant to the UK trials.
But throw in some creativity and imagination, a beer tent, some fireworks, spectators access to the track, Saturday night in London, Jo Pavey and the event is now one that other standard track and field competitions now aspire to.
From being a box-ticking exercise of a national championship, the event has grown the UK 10,000m trials into one of the must-see, must-experience annual events of the UK sporting calendar. On Saturday 19 May, thousands will gather once again at the homely circuit in London’s Hampstead Heath.
This time though, it will double as the European 10,000m Cup adding more to its prestige and putting the event firmly on the map as an event of real international stature. Club runners from across the UK, elite British runners and the continent’s finest will all strive for good times in the unique atmosphere.
As for the spectators, they too will be hoping for good times of a different sort. The best place in the house is undoubtedly the back straight beer tent.
They will be within touching distance of world class athletes as they race through the tent which arcs over lane one and two of the eight lane track whilst you can cheer them on beer in hand behind a fence in lane three.
It is a rarity for athletics to find a stage where the sport’s grassroots and its elite levels can find that shared arena. In a sport not known for its innovation, the track and field championships have little overlap with the parkrunners of the world.
But in the ‘Night of the 10000m PBs’ Highgate Harriers have performed alchemy in bringing the sport together, over a beer, of course.
LATE NEWS - race organisers have arranged an RAF Typhoon jet fly past at 17.11 on the evening of the event
image courtesy Steve O'Sullivan