Athletics News

Super Saturday for British distance runners

Mo Farah weighs up his future options

Top athletes tackle the exciting new Podium Festival event in Leicester, historic English Schools Cross Country Champs in Pontefract and The Ten in California on March 16

Saturday promises to be a huge day for ambitious British distance runners. There are power-packed fields at the Sportsshoes Podium Festival in Leicester. The stars of the future are in action at the English Schools Cross Country Championships in Pontefract. Then, while Britain sleeps, Olympic hopefuls will attack 10,000m qualifying marks at The Ten in California.

Podium events are known for their super-quick 5km courses and this new Podium Festival event has attracted top-class fields due to Podium’s reputation for staging athlete-friendly events and also a £30,000 prize pot, which includes record bonuses and help with travel and accommodation.

The races will unfold on the flat and fast New College cycle track with each lap almost a kilometre in length. Older ex-athletes might be familiar with the venue as it sits next to Western Park, the venue of several English National Cross Country Championships over the years such as the 1980 event won by Nick Rose.

The class of 2024 will be attacking the British 5km records held by Sam Atkin with 13:16 and Eilish McColgan with 14:45.

Beth Potter has run slightly faster, with 14:41 at a Podium event in Barrowford three years ago, but it was not ratified.

There are also England Athletics senior and under-20 titles at stake.

Will Barnicoat, the European under-23 cross-country champion, will use the race to help sharpen up for the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade on March 30. Tom Evans and Tom Keen were also named in the World Cross squad this week and will be stretching their legs at the Podium Festival.

READ MORE: Will Barnicoat interview

All eyes will be on Jake Wightman as he continues his comeback from an injury-hit 2023. No one will expect the 2022 world 1500m champion to be at the absolute sharp end of this race but it will be interesting to see how he fares against specialist 5000m runners.

The same is true of Ben Pattison, the world 800m bronze medallist, who is testing his stamina ahead of a summer 800m campaign.

Triathlon specialist Alex Yee is an intriguing entry as his pedigree in running events is superb. Don’t forget he out-sprinted Chris Thompson and Andy Vernon to finish first Brit home in the Night of the 10,000m PBs in 2018.

Alex Yee (Mark Shearman)

It will also be interesting to see how Callum Hawkins…

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