Beijing Olympic 10,000m runner Kate Reed returns to elite racing on Saturday at the NYRR Mini 10k and has half an eye on London 2012
Four years after racing in the Olympic 10,000m final for Britain, Kate Reed will make a welcome and surprise return to top-flight competition this weekend at the NYRR Mini 10k.
The 29-year-old is almost the forgotten woman of British distance running after barely racing since the Beijing Olympics. But now, speaking from her training base in Albuquerque, she says she is in decent shape after three years of illness and injury and hopes a good run in New York’s Central Park on Saturday (June 9) will result in an invitation to the Aviva 2012 Trials and Championships in Birmingham on June 22-24.
Reed’s absence from the racing scene is mainly due to her contracting a Pseudomonas infection in her ankle after a routine bone spur operation. She then underwent five more operations and nine months of intravenous antibiotics to get rid of the bug and since recovering has been back in training for the past year.
Her most recent operation was in February 2011, when a surgeon in the Netherlands removed scar tissue that was hindering her ankle mobility. She was also diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which she still takes medication for to keep it under control.
“I have good and bad days but thankfully more good ones now,” she told AW, “and I have two fantastic doctors looking after me – Dr Kalpesh Parmar at Pure Sports Medicine and Dr Chris Seifert at the Hampshire clinic.
“I know I will most likely always have a few problems as a result of all the operations, but we address them as soon as they become troublesome and I have come to accept that I will most likely always have a certain amount of discomfort. I also think a lot of athletes compete with some degree of pain and I guess when we push our bodies so hard so often then it’s bound to rebel on occasions!”
Reed’s best time for 10,000m on the track is 31:35.77. It was set in California before the Beijing Games and is 10 seconds quicker than the A standard to qualify for London 2012.
However, should she even make the Aviva 2012 Trials and Championships, she will face a tough field that includes, at time of writing, Jo Pavey, Mara Yamauchi, Freya Murray, Sonia Samuels and Gemma Steel. Also, it must be added the 10,000m at the Trials is not an official Olympic trial event, so Reed’s challenge when it comes to Olympic qualification is the clock – and the Olympic A standard of 31:45.
For Reed, though, she is just grateful to be fit again. “I am just thankful I have been able to return to running and being able to compete again is just an even bigger bonus and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and friends,” she explained.
When asked if she considered retiring, she said: “Not for one second. I’ll run until the day I die, even if I never raced again.
“I could never stop running – it’s the only thing that gives me that feeling of complete peace and inner happiness. I spent many hours biking and aqua jogging when I couldn’t run and although I worked hard and exhausted myself it never gave me the satisfaction that a long hard run does.”
Reed, who is currently self-coached, began the first tentative stages of her comeback last October when she won a local 10km trail race in Albuquerque. “It was such a great feeling to be in a race situation again,” she says, “I won the event and although it was only a fun run it felt like I had finally started on my comeback.”
She then entered the Bupa London 10,000, which took place in late May, as her club, Bristol & West, was planning to enter a team. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to start back racing in the UK,” she says.
But she had to cancel her flight to London when her sister became ill and needed a heart procedure for ventricular tachycardia (or fast heart rhythm). “Thankfully after a seven-hour op her surgeon managed to fix the problem and she is recovering well here in Albuquerque,” Reed adds.
She continues: “Since my training has gone pretty well in the last month or so I felt it would be a real shame not to race so I contacted New York Road Runners to see if they could squeeze me into the NYRR Mini 10k and thankfully they did.
“Maybe if I run well in New York I might get to race at the Olympic Trials in Birmingham. But it all really depends on how my sister is.”
Given this, surely Reed’s comeback has been inspired by the thought of competing at the London Olympics. She says not.
“Did I use the Olympics as motivation? Well in all honesty, no I didn’t. I didn’t expect to be anywhere near fit in time. My main motivation has just been to get completely healthy and gradually increase my running.”
Instead, Reed has relished slowly returning to running fitness and she says she “adores Albuquerque” and that its climate helps her ankle in comparison to the damp British weather.
“I mainly train alone here,” she says. “Occasionally I have the odd run with my sister and her team-mates but all the long runs and sessions I do alone which is fine as I train alone back in the UK. I’ve been coaching myself since I started back running – it wouldn’t be fair to ask someone to help me as it’s impossible for me to make plans. I just have to see how my foot is each morning and make a sensible decision.”
Certainly, if she makes the Olympics, she will hope for a happier ending than her last Olympic appearance. She finished 23rd in a final won by Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, but after the race claimed UKA wrecked her chances of running faster by forcing her to have a drugs and fitness test the day on the eve of the race. It erupted into a big row and threw a cloud over her performance.
Whatever happens in the next few weeks, though, Reed is keen to make her marathon debut in the near future. “If everything continues to go well then I am hopeful of being able to run a marathon in the next year or two. It’s always been in my plans so I am determined to make it happen. So maybe in the future it may make sense for me to involve a coach but for now what I’m doing seems to be working.”
So while London 2012 might come too early for Reed, don’t be surprised if you see her on the roads of Rio 2016.
» The NYRR Mini 10k is a women-only race in New York’s Central Park and is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Saturday June 9. Past winners include Grete Waitz, Ingrid Kristiansen, Liz McColgan, Paula Radcliffe, Tegla Loroupe, Lornah Kiplagat and Linet Masai.