Brits heading to the race track for an event with a difference which boasts international line-ups
The two headline acts for the inaugural fast5K are heading into the race at very different points of their respective seasons.
While Laura Weightman will be bringing the curtain down on a very successful summer which saw her move to second all-time on the UK 5000m lists, as well as becoming 1500m British champion and breaking her PB at the shorter distance, Callum Hawkins will be looking to regain lost momentum for some end-of-year assignments which he hopes will help him build towards a spring marathon in 2021.
The Olympics is never far from the thoughts of either athlete, but the immediate future revolves around tackling the intriguing lapped course at the Three Sisters Race Track in Wigan.
Running on the tarmac route which is usually reserved for motorsport is perhaps a break from the norm but, in 2020, thinking differently is a necessity when it comes to staging events and this one is the brainchild of former World, European and Commonwealth champion Steve Cram, who has assembled international fields for both the men’s and women’s races.
Weightman and Australian Jess Hull, who set a national record during the same Monaco Diamond League 5000m event in which the Briton ran 14:35.44, will go head to head in the women’s race for what should be a fascinating battle.
Both have been in form over 1500m this year, too, with Hull setting her second Australian record of the summer when clocking 4:00.42 in finishing third as runner-up Weightman lowered her own PB to 4:00.09 in Berlin last month.
Other leading British runners in the women’s race include Samantha Harrison, Claire Duck and Amelia Quirk, with Katie Snowden pacing the field.
The men’s race should also provide plenty of talking points as American Eric Jenkins and Denmark’s Thijs Nijhuis will take on World Championships marathon fourth-placer Hawkins as Northern Ireland’s Finn McNally attacks the national record of 13:39, which has stood for 34 years.
Other notable Brits in the race include Omar Ahmed, Adam Craig, Graham Rush and Adam Clarke, who has the quickest road 5km time in the field (13:42).
For Hawkins this will be a first road 5km outing since clocking 14:17 back in 2015 and the Scot, who has not toed a start line since finishing third at the Marugame Half Marathon in a time of 60:01 in February, is desperate to get back in action again.
“I’m just looking forward to getting back to racing,” says the 28-year-old who will form part of the British team at the World Half Marathon Championships later this month. “I haven’t raced since the start of February so it’s been a long time.
“With the World Half coming up I just took the opportunity because I think, at this time, with everything that’s going on, you just need to take every race you can get. It will be good to get the legs going for the World Half and get some racing under my belt.”
That race in Gdynia will be followed by an appearance at the Valencia Half Marathon in December. It could provide a positive end to a frustrating year for Hawkins, who felt he was starting to hit peak form just as the full force of Covid-19 became apparent.
“In March I was probably in the best shape for the half-marathon I’ve ever been in,” he adds. “I reckon that on a completely flat course I would have been well under the 60-minute mark with the shape I was in.
“I was ready to go and then move on to training for Tokyo so to have that go was a bit tough and I lost of a bit of momentum which hopefully I’ll be able to pick up towards the end of this year and the start of next year.
“The plan is to get in decent half-marathon shape for the end of the year at the Valencia half and use that as a springboard to running a marathon in February/March but the way things are going I don’t actually know what marathon that’s going to be. We’ve got some options but nothing is concrete yet.”
First, though, comes the fast5K.
“The reason why we train so hard it to race so it will be great to get back and do our job,” adds Hawkins. “I’ll hopefully be with the front guys from the start and then holding on for dear life. Hopefully my legs will warm up and I’ll be able to do something towards the end but we’ll see how things go – I might be at my limit the whole way!”
For Weightman, who has had a rather more packed race calendar of late than Hawkins, this will be final chance to have some competitive fun before heading into the winter.
“I feel like I’m fit and healthy and I’ve just loved racing this summer,” says the two-time European and Commonwealth medallist. “I think after that really long block in lockdown without racing, I didn’t feel like I could turn the opportunity down and to finish on a fun race where there’s no pressure and hopefully run a fast 5km on the roads – it’s not something I’ve been able to do much over the years so I’m definitely looking to have a good race and hopefully breaking my road PB (15:21), because sadly I don’t think I’ll be breaking my track PB on the roads!
“Jessica Hull is an athlete who has been really well this year and hopefully we can set up a fast race and the British girls behind can run to some fast times as well.”
The fast5K will take place on Monday October 5 with the men’s race starting at 6:00pm, followed by the women’s race at 6:25pm. Both races will be streamed live on the BBC Sport website and you can watch the action here.