WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Eight years on, athletes get back on track

Olympian and former Team GB athletics captain help celebrate official reopening of outdoor track and field facilities

19 July, 2018 — By Steve Barnett

Jenny Meadows offers some top tips at the new-look Finsbury Park track

TOP athletes from across Camden and Islington got some tips from the professionals when Olympian Donna Fraser and former Team GB athletics captain Jenny Meadows officially opened the recently refurbished London Marathon Athletics Track in Finsbury Park.

The high-quality outdoor athletics track and new field facilities have primarily been funded by a grant of £608,000 from The London Marathon Charitable Trust, and Fraser, who is their trustee, marked the event with an action-packed ribbon cutting.

The celebrations last month included a mass run around the track, and an athletics workshop hosted by Meadows, who still holds the UK 800 metres indoor record, and won two World Championship medals in 2009, taking bronze in both the 800m and 4 x 400m relay.

The track is used by hundreds of athletes from London Heathside Athletics Club, who helped form a charitable company, the Finsbury Park Sports Partnership (FPSP), to manage the track and facilities.

Heathside runners with their gold medals for the London Marathon, from left: Josie Hinton, Rebecca Bunting and Catrin Tyler

The opening follows eight years of struggle and dedication from a team of volunteers, who rallied together in 2010 when Haringey Council threatened to close the track.

London Heathside partnered with the London Blitz American football team, the Dynamic Sports Academy and Access to Sport to form FPSP and sign a 25-year lease with the council in 2013. But by then the track and facilities were no longer fit for purpose.

Funds for the refurbishment came mainly from The London Marathon Charitable Trust and also from Sport England.

London Heathside chairman Jerry Odlin said: “This event culminates eight challenging years and a huge amount of hard work.

London Heathside runners and club members with Jenny Meadows, chairman Jerry Odlin (in red) and Olympian Donna Fraser (second from left)

“The result is that Finsbury Park now has a running track that is not only attracting top-rate athletes but is also drawing hundreds of children and adults from all over north London.”

The reopening also celebrated London Heathside’s women’s marathon team, who won the gold medal in this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon.

Fraser, who won 400m medals in the World, European and Common-wealth championships, and broke the 50-second barrier in a fourth-place finish in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, added: “This project is close to my heart and is another terrific example of the Trust supporting local communities in London and across the UK to get active.

“Everyone involved has worked really hard to create an inspiring place and welcoming atmosphere.”

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