British athletic diaries: Paul Halford writes about Andy Vernon, who is focused on cross country after his narrow miss for London


Vernon_Andy-Carlsbad17.jpgAndy Vernon, photo by

Paul Halford writes this weekly column for RunBlogRun. We are grateful for his observations and strong writing skills. This week, Paul writes about Andy Vernon. I watched Andy Vernon win the HIghgate 10k Night of PBs last May and have enjoyed watching him over his career. We wish him great luck as he focuses on his 11th potential showing at the European Athletics Cross Country Championships.

After narrow miss for London, Vernon focused on cross country, by Paul Halford

So narrowly did Andy Vernon miss out on the qualifier for the World Championships this year that he says video footage shows that his hand, though not his torso, cross the line within the time required.

The Brit ran 13:22.65 for 5000m in Heusden, Belgium, in July. The injury he was carrying at the time wasn't a major impediment but probably enough to account for the five hundredths by which he fell short.

It was his last shot at making the time and the athlete who was controversially omitted from Great Britain's 2015 World Championships team despite having the qualifier, failed to gain an IAAF rankings invite.

However, he is now set to be soon fully recovered from the stress response that hampered him in the summer and hoping to be picked for his 11th European Cross Country Championships this winter.

Vernon first felt the injury in July eight days before his planned final assault on a qualifying time. "I wasn't comfortable in warm-up," he recalled. "I can't say I really felt it during the race, but it does play on your mind a bit and, whether that has a psychological effect... It's hard to say. It was such a narrow miss.

"We worked out from the video, as I was running, my fist hit the time but my body didn't."

It was a while before he had the problem diagnosed as a stress response in his femur.

Now up to 50 minutes of running, he said: "For the next week or so I've still got to be fairly strict with it and not to do too much. I did a bit of threshold two days ago and had nothing from that. Hopefully, if I can be sensible for a week or two I will be out of the woods and I can give it the all-clear."

The 31-year-old, who won European Cross bronze in 2013, believes that setbacks for some of the main contenders mean he could nevertheless make the team for this year's event in Samorin, Slovakia. "I have to make sure I don't do too much to try and make the team and set myself back again," he said.

Vernon had originally planned to step up to marathon in spring but he is instead hoping to compete on the track at the European Championships in Berlin next summer before preparing for a step up next autumn at the earliest.

He has been told he is too big-framed for the 26.2-mile event, but he added: "On the flip side I've been told that being big, robust and powerful can be a help because you've got the muscle resilience to withstand the constant pounding."

He added: "I always wanted to step up to the marathon when my track days are over. Whether it's the right thing for me, I'll find out. I think [my track days] are coming to an end. I might have another two or three years at best.

"It's so hard [on the track], especially the 10k. You have to be very, very good. The 5k you can maybe get away with a little bit more if you have some finishing speed, but the 10k is such a long way that it's very easy to get lapped even if you have a phenomenal race.

"The marathon doesn't seem to be as difficult in the major championships. People are finishing just as far behind in the marathon as they are the 10k and it's four times the distance."

Vernon has just started an online coaching business (, particularly in reaction to the injury this summer.

"It's not making me rich but it's a means to an end," he said. "It hit me hard when I had this injury and I was lined up to do the Great North, Scottish and South. It was part of the whole package and for me it was a very good amount of money that I lost by not being able to do these."

Asked if he thought it was becoming more difficult for athletes to get by, he said he felt the sponsorship landscape was changing in Britain. "I think now it looks like sponsors are trying to sponsor more people for less, at our level anyway..." he said. "Once you start getting to people who can't win medals at major championships, the money starts getting spread very thinly across a wide amount of people. It looks like they'd rather have 10 people and pay them £2000 a year each than two people and pay them £5000 a year each."

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