AW speaks exclusively to four British athletes who reveal their distressing experiences at the start of the Valencia 10km
The last thing you’d expect as an athlete going to a race is to fear for your own safety.
That is what happened at the Valencia 10km on Sunday (Jan 15). As soon as the gun went off at the event – a World Athletics labelled road race – athletes’ attention quickly turned to the wellbeing of themselves and others around them rather than the personal bests they were striving for.
Four British athletes have now described their experience of the event to AW and said that there was a “general consensus of panic” among the packed pens before the beginning of the race, to elite women “screaming on the floor” as they were trampled on by helpless runners who fell like skittles.
Only one of the four British runners that spoke to AW completed the race and all of them have various degrees of marks, from small scratches to swollen and bruised knees.
These are athletes who are not at a world elite level and largely funded their own trip, including flights and accommodation, to one of the fastest 10km races in the world. The aim was obvious. To record a time in Valencia that could lead to raising their profile and potentially getting bigger and better sponsorships.
It’s a quick course. The men’s world 10km record and second fastest time ever were both set in the Spanish city while half of the fastest 10 women’s times in history over the distance were recorded on the route.
There’s a reason why the Valencia 10km set the entry limit for the race at 12,000. It’s popular. Up to 100 Brits made the trip to Spain and quite a few, including Samantha Harrison, achieved personal bests.
However, many did not finish and dreams were dashed. Others did but it was out of pride more than striving for perfection.
An “inevitability” from the race build-up
Elle Twentyman, 27, went to Valencia to improve her 10km personal best of 32:56. The 2021 Brighton Marathon 10km winner was hoping to start off 2023 with a bang and forget about the experience of her last race over the distance, the Corrida Pedestre Internationale de Houilles on December 30.
The French event, which had a strict entry standard of sub-44 minutes for women and sub-37 minutes for men, had a giant tree just metres from the start line obscuring athletes. Such an object in close proximity to hundreds of runners made it impossible for some not to fall and Twentyman ended…