This is Paul Halford’s weekly column for @runblogrun. We thank him for his observations and his comments on the challenges of making the standards and moving to selection. Paul brings Ieuan to life, and we see a real human running for the sheer joy of running. We like that.
Thomas waiting on IAAF invite after agonising fall
The steeplechase is one of track and field’s most dangerous disciplines – as British runner Ieuan Thomas knows more than most.
Further, despite his latest of several accidents last weekend possibly costing him a place at the World Championships, he is sure he has found his best event.
Thomas was threatening the 8:32 Worlds qualifier at a British Athletics League match in Bedford when he fell at the final water jump. Now he must wait until next week to see if he receives one of the IAAF invitations that will be extended to those ranked just outside the qualifying mark.
The former Western States Colorado University (WSCU) alumni, who has run below 8:35 three times this year, heard the bell at 7:25. “I feel like I could have closed enough to dip under the time, but it’s impossible to know,” said the 28-year-old, who valiantly got up to clock 8:57 but ended up with inflammation which rules out racing again before the deadline.
Statistical site roadto.de suggests three athletes will receive a “non-qualifiers” invitation but he is fourth in line, meaning he his hopes may rest on one of the runners or their federations turning it down. He would also have to rely on British Athletics accepting such an invite, but such a performance for seven laps on his own – even with the fall, he won by 11 seconds – must be in his favour.
“It’s just one of those things,” said a philosophical Thomas on Wednesday. “It’s all good being in shape to do it and knowing you can get it 99% of the way but you’ve got to finish the race.”
He may have to console himself this season with having gained the ‘A’ standard for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
“Naturally I’m gutted. I hold out hope for the Worlds – you never know – but the goal for the season was always the Commonwealth Games,” he said. “At the start of the year, the Worlds wasn’t really on my radar. It was there on the outskirts.”
The incident wasn’t the most severe that Thomas has endured. His first steeple of last year ended in a DNF as he hit a barrier “so hard that when you see the video, you could see it wobble a little bit”. He tore his quad and that ruined the season.
In 2013, after running 8:46 at Mt Sac, he suffered a slip disc and much time out when jumping a water barrier in training.
He also fell after about 120 metres and before the first barrier at the Stanford Invitational in March this year, although he nevertheless finished second in 8:33.68. It was a blow as he had targeted the race particularly and flown to the States for two weeks beforehand for altitude training, but he said: “Because it happened so early in the race, realistically I wouldn’t have run the [qualifying] time even without the fall because I would have raced it to win.”
Despite the mishaps, the Saucony-sponsored athlete, who has PBs of 3:43 and 13:59 for 1500m and 5000m, is focused on the chase.
“I think the times show that [it’s my best event],” he said. “I enjoy it so much despite the odd fall. It’s different, fun. It excites me to race other guys when there are some obstacles in the way. I don’t think I’m quite fast enough to be a good 1500m runner any more. I’ve got a decent aerobic base, but there’s still a little bit of speed in the legs.”
He credits much of his success to his time at the NCAA division-two WSCU. “Western were the reigning cross-country champions at the time,” said Thomas, who did not have division-one eligibility. They had a history of producing good steeplechasers, multiple national champions, they were nicknamed ‘Steeple U’. They were always my No.1 choice.”
He also thanks his long-time coach, James Thie, a former British 1500m international. “James is very open to learning from other coaches,” he said. “We’ve had input from people like Stuart Stokes (former GB steeplechase No.1), even Steve Jones (former world marathon record-holder) over in Colorado.”
He works full-time, alongside 3:37 1500m runner Tom Marshall, for Sporttape, who sell kinesiology tape, and also thanks them for their flexibility. “Our director is massively supportive,” he said. “I’m not sure I could be a full-time athlete – there’s too much time. I quite enjoy having a standard nine-to-five. It gives you some structure.”