Ben Pochee looks back on a big year for Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000m PBs, an event which has harnessed community spirit
The first Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000m PBs was staged in 2013 and was relatively low key – but it was something we were able to build on. What’s just stunning is where we got to this year.
Looking back, it would have been hard to have foreseen the amount of support that it has received over those years. I was quietly confident it would be successful on a small scale. What I didn’t envisage was how much it would grow.
I’ve been involved in athletics since about 1984-85 but this is probably the thing I’ve been proudest to be involved with. I’ve got a real sense of being a part of the athletics community more than I ever did when I was just racing.
We’re trying to raise standards but also to do something different and though you are dealing with volunteer officials who are very used to a very strict, traditional approach, 99 per cent of them were so welcoming and happy to discuss change.
You look at this year’s event and if you’d said we’d have close to 5000 people standing in lane 3, with Jo Pavey and 2009 world champion Linet Masai running through our beer tent, you’d have been hard pressed to get a licence, let alone make it the Rio Olympic trials.
Our club, our track and our facilities are just about as basic and spartan as you could get. So for Parliament Hill track to be hosting the Olympic trials — I just love it. I’ve been training there since I was about 13-14 years old so to transform that track into something that had such theatre and atmosphere … it was a hugely proud day for everyone at the club.
As for next year, we’re going to host the World Championships trials. I want it to be more of a spectacle so I’m excited both IAAF president Lord Coe and Ronnie O’Sullivan have already said they’ll attend.
I want people in the US to look at our event and be envious — I mean, Lord Coe AND a five-time snooker world champ, match that Stanford! It really is put on for the athletes, for the spectators, for our sport to hopefully grow and inspire other people to get involved and be part of it in future years.
The community side is now what I want to try and build on. For 2017 I’m going to try to use this event as a beacon event, as a reunion to get people reconnecting with old athletics friends.
Say you were a member of an athletics club years ago or did athletics at university. I’m going to make it a big reunion spot. It then goes beyond being just an athletics event and becomes almost a sporting social glue — something that brings the running and sporting community together.
Night of the 10,000m PBs belongs 100% to our athletics community and I simply want even more people joining us on May 20 celebrating their sport.
» Ben Pochee is race director for Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs