19 Aug August Blog
New website, and a new blog!
With the Olympic marathon round the corner I am currently in the middle of my own marathon build up basing myself in London. Not where I wanted to be, but my road to Rio ended on 24th April 2016 when I was not selected for the Olympic Team. I dropped out of the London Marathon just after half way knowing something wasn’t right, it was the blood tests in the days after that I discovered I was suffering from glandular fever. Albeit a mild case, but running a marathon is going to be tough, and much more so suffering from illness!
A team of three was selected the same day and I was disappointed that no one from British Athletics asked me what was wrong before the selection meeting, and therefore the selectors went in blind. I will be the first to admit that my performance on the day wasn’t up to scratch due to illness, but I had already run the qualifying time twice that calendar year – both of these times were not taken into account during the meeting (having seen the minutes from the meeting).
The qualifying window to run the standard for the Olympics went from 1st Jan 2015, British Athletics announced that there was a trial for the Olympics in November 2015. To this day I am still not sure the reason for the delay in announcing there would be a trial. By the time November came round I had already run two marathons and agreed to run the Boston Marathon in April 2016. My hand was forced and I had to withdraw from Boston being told I would not be picked for Rio unless I did the trial. I tired to get pre-selected but was told my time from Berlin (2:11.23) was too slow.
As I have said I have seen the minutes from the selection meeting and the general reason for me not being selected was that too much was known about my ‘potential’ and the selection panel felt that I have peaked. There was a lot of false information in the meeting that I wasn’t too happy with, especially as the panel are the people in charge of distance running in the UK. I will give you some examples taken from the minutes:
- I dropped out of London due to blisters
- My coach didn’t push for selection following the marathon
- My performance at Reading half marathon 3 weeks before London was 4 minutes off my personal best time
- I am not going to win a medal at Rio (panel suggest a 2:07 performance is needed), and my time was achieved at Berlin, which is a fast course.
- My 2012 trial performance wasn’t great and I don’t run well when it counts.
I will address these points that were raised in the meeting…
Whilst it is true I had a blister on my foot, this is not the reason for me not finishing. I believe someone may have seen me remove my shoe once I stopped and show a blister, and this was reported back to my coach. As my phone was at the finish, I had not spoken to my coach and therefore the real reason was not known. This was discovered the following day (Monday) where it became apparent I had a viral infection.
My coach was not pushing for selection as both he and I expected the selection policy to be followed. I expressed my reason to run Boston based on the fact it was more like a championship race (no pace makers) and it enabled me to make some money (a living) as they were paying me to take part. My negative attitude (mentioned in the meeting) was shown towards my non selection at Cardiff (World Half Marathon Championships), I repeatedly asked about that as Spencer Duval did not want to discuss London Marathon. I was not selected for the World Half Marathon Championships (like Susan Partridge) despite having a qualifying time.
Emails sent to Spencer Duval in March 2016 explained the reason for running Reading (selection for Cardiff couldn’t be guaranteed) and I stated that I was running it as a marathon pace effort with my training partner, Chris Thompson. Not an all-out attack at my PB as it was only 3 weeks out from London. Despite having this information, the panel decided to use this against me as an argument to show I was not in PB shape.
Surely the reason to have a selection window enables athletes to run races where they can achieve the qualifying time, why would I not go to Berlin and run fast? I don’t see how running Berlin becomes a negative just because it is a fast course. You are rounding Derek’s time down by 57 seconds, saying it was 2:12 whereas it was closer to 2:13. If that is the case then my 2:11.24 becomes 2:11, and that is 5 seconds off my PB. Doesn’t fall in line with the view of a ‘bad couple of years’. There is also no mention of my 2015 London Marathon performance where I ran (more or less) the same time as Derek and was 1st Brit. It is also worth noting that the winning time from London was only a few seconds off the world record, kind of goes against London being a slow course.
I have only had the opportunity to run in ONE championship marathon, and the 2012 trial event was not even a trial and I was a pace maker to help the other British Athletes run the Olympic qualifying time, so why does this constitute not a great performance? I find it amazing the people in charge did not even bother to look this up! I decided not to run the World Championships in 2015 because I wanted to run faster at Berlin as the target was always the Olympics. The advice I got from British Athletics was to run faster at Berlin and not run the world championships.
If every federation in the world took this opinion and only selected athletes that were capable of medals there would only be a few athletes in each event. This is not what the Olympics is all about and it is a shame that British Athletics take this view, especially with the distance events.
On the Monday following the selection I phoned Spencer Duval to tell him that I had got a blood test and continued to ask about my non selection at Cardiff (as obviously he could not talk about Rio selection meeting). He explained to me that he knew what it was like to be in my position, and not be selected for things as it had happened to him in the past. He went on to say that the selector at the time was my coach, Alan Storey. Knowing that Spencer is one of the selectors, I think it completely unprofessional to be telling me that. What has happened in the past between my coach and a former athlete should have no bearing on my selection.
I have met with Neil Black and discussed all of the points above, and at the end of the day it was his decision not to pick me. I would like to stree I have absolutely nothing against the guys running the marathon in Rio, they all deserve their spots and I wish them well tomorrow. My issues are towards the selection policy, the behaviour of British Athletics’ staff, and the late announcement that there was going to be a trial. I think what every athlete wants is a transparent selection policy where you know exactly what it is you have to do to qualify for the championships. British Athletics have not communicated appropriately with the athletes and other than the 5 that have come through successfully, there are countless others that have similar stories of confusing plans over the last 2 years.
Hopefully the lack of understanding shown towards the marathon by British Athletics is improved going forward. I notice that the policy is already out for the World Championships in London next year, at least that’s a start!
I did ask Neil Black to be named as a reserve for the Olympics, however that was denied. Given the nature of the marathon, the high risk of injury, and the fact no one else had the time I thought I would have a good shot. I was wrong.
So I’ll finish as I started, I’m training for my next marathon which will be announced shortly!
Until next time.