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Jo Pavey’s back on track as Highgate Harriers host Night of 10,000m PBs

Four-time Olympian Jo Pavey leads France's Sophie Duarte, the current European cross-country champion. Pic: Clive Totman Four-time Olympian Jo Pavey leads France's Sophie Duarte, the current European cross-country champion. Pic: Clive Totman

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
9:00 AM

Highgate Harriers’ second Night of the 10,000m PBs was a huge success on Saturday as over 900 people turned out to watch more than 100 athletes competing in five 25-lap races at Parliament Hill.

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Andy Vernon leads the way ahead of Chris Thompson. Pic: Clive TotmanAndy Vernon leads the way ahead of Chris Thompson. Pic: Clive Totman

The event incorporated the British and English Championships, with elite runners bidding to qualify to represent Great Britain at the European Championships, and its Under-23 equivalent.

Andy Vernon won the senior men’s race in 28 minutes 26.59 seconds, while four-time Olympian Jo Pavey returned to the track for the first time since London 2012 and triumphed in the women’s competition in 32:11.

Highgate Harriers’ race organiser Ben Pochee said: “Our unique Night of the 10,000m PBs delivered bucket-loads of personal best times for athletes as well as international performances from Jo Pavey and Andy Vernon en route to being crowned British champions – and it was all achieved in front of an unprecedented crowd in lane four.

“Our goal was to make athletics entertaining for the local community and inspirational for the athletes, and the fantastic feedback from spectators and athletes suggests the event delivered on both counts.

“These achievements were made possible by volunteer passion and key partnerships with The City of London Corporation and British & English Athletics.”

Pavey’s previous race had been the 5,000m final at the London Olympics, when she finished seventh, which was followed by a two-year absence from competition due to the birth of her baby.

The 40-year-old said: “It was a bit of an unknown really, coming back from having a baby, and I haven’t done any preparation races. I thought ‘I’m just going to have to run and see what happens’ – but the crowd was awesome, that really kept me going so I enjoyed it.

“It was quite a shock getting back on the track, but I don’t think I’ve ever run with the crowd right on the track. It was a unique idea and really got the motivation going.

“They definitely matched the atmosphere from the Olympics. It was louder because it was closer. It’s an awesome idea to really mix up the format of an athletics meeting, it was really exciting.”

The night started with a Year 5 and 6 relay challenge, with Highgate Harriers taking on a select Camden team over 1500m, with each member of a five-person team running 100m three times – and they were given England Athletics medals.

In the first of the five 10k races, Highgate’s Tom Christopher earned a personal best of 34:04.94 as he finished eighth out of 22, while Becky Penty was the third woman home in 36:59.05.

There were four Harriers in race two, with Gordon Pearce coming third of 23 in 32:11.36, while Robel Bahelbi (32:46.17) was 13th, Gregory Rimmer (33:33.97) was 21st and Henry Dodwell clocked 34:02.07.

Shaun Dixon was in action for Highgate in race three and he recorded a PB of 30:16.78.

The penultimate race was the women’s British and English Championship, and Pavey ran away from the field to post a European qualifying time of 32:11.04.

The manner of the victory was hugely impressive as, in spite of her two-year absence, she easily overcame two European cross-country champions in France’s Sophie Duarte (32:36.32) and Ireland’s Fionnula Britton.

Pavey’s time set a British Masters record, taking a big chunk off Joyce Smith’s Over-40 record of 34:26.04, which she set at Hendon in 1980.

Finally it was the men’s turn, and Vernon moved away from Aldershot’s Chris Thompson with several laps remaining to win in a European qualifying time of 28:26.59.

Thompson, who recently ran the London Marathon in 2:11:00, was second in 28:49.77, just ahead of Liverpool Harrier Jonny Mellor (28:52.90).

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