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Olympians help light up Night of the 10,000m PBs

Lord Coe, Wendy Smith-Sly and Paula Radcliffe are among the star names as hundreds turn out at Parliament Hill Fields for event hosted by Highgate Harriers

26 May, 2017 — By Steve Barnett

Lord Coe, Wendy Smith-Sly and Paula Radcliffe at Parliament Hill Fields

OLYMPIANS quite literally shared the running track with supporters on Saturday when Highgate Harriers hosted the biggest and most energy-sapping “25-lap party” on the athletics calendar.

Double Olympic gold medallist and president of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lord Coe, Olympic silver medallist, Wendy Smith-Sly, the fastest women’s marathon runner in history, Paula Radcliffe, and five-time world snooker champion and keen runner, Ronnie O’Sullivan were among the thousands who gathered at Parliament Hill Fields to enjoy the Night of the 10,000m PBs.

They took part in a special seminar talking all about the sport, while there was also plenty of top racing, music and food in a free festival celebrating all things athletics.

The showpiece of the event saw elite racers battle it out for a spot in the Team GB squad ahead of this summers World Championships, which are being held in London.

Rio 2016 Olympian Beth Potter, 25, booked her place by winning the women’s race in a time of 32 minutes and four seconds, finishing inside the qualifying time of 32:15.

Andy Vernon, a 10,000m silver medallist at the 2014 European Championships, won the men’s elite race with a time of 28:21, but fell short of the required qualifying time of 27:45. The 31-year-old could still secure a place in Team GB if he can hit the mark before the July deadline.

The biggest victory of the night, however, belonged to organiser Ben Pochee and his Highgate Harrier team, who saw thousands of spectators watch the drama unfold – many of whom piled into lane three to get close to the action and cheer on the runners.

“It was fantastic, simply amazing,” said a delighted, albeit exhausted, Ben.

“It was the fifth year that we’ve held the event and we had over 7,300 people coming along to join in. It’s hard to think that in the first year we probably didn’t even have 100 people trackside.

“In 2014 the elite races were a qualifier for a place in the GB team ahead of the European Championships, while in 2016 they were for a place in the Rio Olympics. This year they were a qualifier for the World Championships.

“It speaks volumes on how well-recognised the event has become that the governing body of the sport is using it as a qualifier for all their major events, in which the winners get to represent their country.

“I am immensely proud of the event,” Ben added. “It’s a real grass-roots initiative, with volunteers making everything happen. It’s not for profit, nobody is taking any money.

“It’s the spectators who make the event, they own it, and it’s their support, with all the volunteers, that make it such a success. I want to thank all of them.”

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