The thought of racing in the Olympic Stadium last summer was always something to aim at on the calendar, and the experience was something that will sit highly in my short Athletics career. Training and build up to the British University and College Championships has been positive, and after a couple of decent track workouts I knew I had given myself the best chance possible to go and compete with the best in the nation. It was a shame that such a prestigious championship is the first race of the season for many, and I think most would have liked a couple more weeks to have been fully prepared!
The 1500m heats were held at 11am on the Saturday morning (the earliest track race i’ve ever done!!), so I travelled to London on the Friday night to get a little jog in and rest up for the next morning. The procedure from arriving at Olympic Park to standing on the start line was completely different to I have experienced before, and new for the majority of athletes competing too. On arrival we had to pass through ‘airport style’ security to enter Olympic Park and then a 15 minute walk across the park to reach the warm up track. This 400m, eight lane track, with throwing, jumping and hurdling facilities, is situated a 10 minute (one minute in a golf buggy when the Olympics swing round) walk from the stadium, where we had to walk up to compete. The draw of heats was announced an hour before the start of the first heat, meaning if you were in the first heat you would have 15 minutes to be warmed up, and ready to race. Luckily I was drawn in heat three and had time to prepare.
The first call room on the warm up track you had to enter 45 minutes prior to the start of your event. Everything you have with you had to be checked and verified by the officials. Once this process was complete you took on the ‘walk of silence’. This was down the tunnel which took you underneath the stadium to a second call room and 80m straight to put together your final preparations for the race. This room seemed to have been completely sound proofed, and you could hear a pin drop! This will be very surreal come the Olympics when athletes will be stepping out in front of 80,000 spectators from this room.
Once the final checks and numbers had been pinned, each athlete was assigned a ‘mascot’ with a box, who would walk out behind you to leave you kit with whilst the race was on.
My heat did have a large range of PB’s (from 3:43 to 4.45) so I really didn’t know what to expect from the gun. Nobody really had the courage (don’t blame them) to take it on in the opening 800m, and we crawled through in 2:23. The race did then start to open up from the bell and the numbers did start to dwindle into the last 400m. I let a group of three ahead of me make a few metres, but just focussed on kicking away in the last 150m, as I knew the pace was there to use. Luckily this worked to my advance and I came through comfortable in 2nd out of the 15 finishers in 4.05. Albeit a very slow time, the final lap worked out to be 56 seconds and comfortably through to the semi-finals.
Cold conditions greeted athletes throughout the weekend, and this was very much the same on semi-finals day. I was drawn in the first of two semi-finals, and focussed on enjoying being part of the top 24 of the nations 1500m runners. The opening pace was again through in a fairly pedestrian 68, but after 600m the pace began to explode. The leaders took the last 800m through in 1:54, which was an astronomical change of pace, and something i’ve never really experienced in a race before. I ended up in 9th, in 3.58 which was a little frustrating but certainly something to build on in my next few years at University. I now know what to expect at Championship races, and look forward to my next go at working through the rounds.
I have now taken a few easy days, before a session Saturday, and a part ‘tune up’ session on Tuesday night. My next race will also be over 1500m, at the Nike British Grand Prix in SportCity, Manchester where I will hopefully be placed in a good quality race to work towards a new personal best over the distance.