This is the article on the 800 meters, on day 2 of the 2020 SPAR British Indoor Championships, in Glasgow, Scotland.
800 meters races
Arguably the best two races of day two were the 800s.
The women’s race has an impressive pedigree in UK. The UK indoor record is 1.57.91 set in this very arena earlier this month by Jemma Reekie, second on the all-time list is Jenny Meadows who was present and on commentary duties. Third is a certain Laura Muir and fourth ex-Olympic champion, Kelly Holmes. Not a bad quartet. With no GB team for the Worlds to be selected, Muir and Reekie have understandably run elsewhere this month. Back to the British Championship race. The winner was Keely Hodgkinson in 2:04.37 and third place went to Philippa Millage – a good name for a runner. What made this special is that Hodgkinson is 17 and Millage 39! And Millage set a new PR of 2:05.70 in the prelim.
The afore-mentioned Jenny Meadows may have struggled to be dispassionate in her commentary as Hodkinson is coached by Jenny’s husband, Trevor Painter.
Hodgkinson said: “I’m over the moon to pull off that performance in my first indoor season. I knew it would be a tough competition, but I have trained really well and knew that I could put in the performance when it counted. I’m really excited for the outdoor season and what it holds for me”. As well as the medal, the title and the kudos, Hodgkinson went home with $750 the prize for performance of the day. As stadium announcer, Geoff Wightman, said, she isn’t even old enough to buy herself a drink to celebrate.
Millage commented: “I am buzzing. I am really shocked to have taken the bronze. I felt pretty tired after running an indoor PB yesterday. As soon as the gun went I knew I needed to focus. I was stuck on the outside which was frustrating. I am absolutely delighted. Over the years people have told me I won’t be able to get quicker and age is working against me. Age is only a number and I feel like I’ve still got a lot to give”. Isn’t it great that our sport can find a race for two ladies – one 22 years older than the other!
The men’s 800 looked like a Scottish Championship shoot-out between Guy Learmonth and Josh Kerr. That there were six runners and four ran a PR tells you about the quality of the race. Almost exactly a year ago, Learmonth was GB team caption in the European Indoor Champs. In the semi-final he and Mark English tangled and both fell. Learmonth was blamed for the incident; English was re-instated, Learmonth not.
At the half-way mark this year, Kerr led and went on to run a PR of 1:47.37 but it was only good enough for fourth. Learmonth finished strongly to win in a PR for him too of 1:46.98. Andrew Osagie, who had come second in a 1000 meters in Lievin last week, was second in 1:46.98 with Piers Copeland also running a PR for third.
Learmonth’s first thoughts were of last year: “I said after everything that happened last year, I had to do something in front of a home crowd and I delivered. Every indoor race this year and I’ve been thinking ‘don’t fall, don’t fall’ and I really thought I was going to go. I stayed on my feet and came through to win. Today isn’t about times it’s about winning and I did that in front of a home crowd”.
Osagie said: “I’m pretty disappointed with the silver, I nearly fell on the last lap and that really disrupted my rhythm but I finished in a really close second. Without that I’d have won”.
Copeland, inexperienced at 800, said: “It has been almost-perfect for me stepping down to the 800m from the 1500m. This weekend, it’s seen me get two PRs and a medal so you can’t ask for more than that. The step down hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be and I proved I can still cut it in there. I always knew it would be difficult because Josh took it out so quick. With 200m to go I thought my chance had gone but I did enough to clinch bronze”.
British middle-distance running looks alive and well.