Friday, 4 March 2016

British Indoor Championships

On the Sunday after XC Nationals I was going to Sheffield to see British Indoor Championships.
J., my mate from the club, was planning on going and convinced me to join him (it didn't take him long).
On Sunday morning I woke up really thirsty. I suppose I had to be dreaming of running a lot, as I felt seriously dehydrated. Someone suggested that it was probably due to the last night's exploration of extensively interesting Derby's nightlife, but I don't think that's the case.

After the breakfast I left our hotel and walked towards the train station. Derby in the daylight is actually pretty nice. The city center is not big, but quite neat, with an old Cathedral, a couple of old churches, some nice looking pubs, narrow streets between old but well preserved houses, several gourmet chip-shops.
There is a guy playing blues on the high street, and there is a nice, warming sunlight.
To add a bit of glitter to this picture, the streets are decorated with chips eaten to all possible degrees. Starting with completely uneaten, to nearly fully digested. Seems that the pan-British tradition of decorating cities on Saturday night with semi-digested food is strong in Derby.
Oh, and there is Mr Booze!

I made my way to the station, got my ticket, and in half an hour I was in Sheffield. J arrived just after me.
We had a perfect plan. We arrived at the same time, J did his weekly long run on Saturday, so he had Sunday off, I got drunk the night before so I could save my running clothes for the mission that was ahead of us. The return train ticket booked, top British athletes ready and in shape to entertain us, the track illuminated, everything spot-on.
Minus one tiny detail. We didn't have tickets to the event itself. And apparently it was sold out well in advance.
Nonetheless, we've boarded a bus and headed towards English Sport Institute, the venue of the Championships.
Once we've got there, we had to solve the case of getting in. We started with asking the security guards if we could get in. They said the event was sold out, but we could ask at the box office if there were any returns. We asked. There were none. A nice lady told us that all the returns were re-sold in the morning, and there are no sits left. Nor standing places. Nothing.
We decided to go for a walk around the Institute, maybe someone would need pacemakers, or porters, pole holders, shoe-tiers, t-shirt triers, whatever. Unfortunately for us this event was very well organized, and all those roles were already filled by more qualified personnel.
Then J's genius came into play. "We're going to the gym" - he said. There is an open-access gym in the same building. We showed up at the main entrance one more time, but this time - as a gym clients. Nice lady at the gym reception told us we need to register at first. So we did, we've paid £5 each, and we were in. But we were quite far from the full success yet. They didn't leave us on our own. We were escorted to the gym, passing just next to the door to the hall where the event was taking place. So close, yet so far!

We changed into training clothes (that's where my genius manifested itself - if I didn't get drunk last night, I'd be able to wake up early enough to go for a morning run, therefore I wouldn't have any running clothes left), and we went into the weights room. Then we decided that we'll try the cardio area first - it was in another part of the building so we had to be escorted again.
We got there and started exploring. On the first floor there was an entrance to the athletics hall, but fenced and closed. On the second floor - big windows with the view on the hall - covered with black plastic foil. On the third floor - windows uncovered, so we could see a bit of the track. And all the officials writing down the results and stuff - just next to us, behind the glass wall. We took spinning bikes, faced them towards the hall and started cycling. But the view wasn't perfect, half of it was covered, so we could see only about a half of the track. So we left, and then - eureka! - we found a door. The door wasn't locked. We went through it at found ourselves at the top of the hall, just where all the spectators were passing to take their seats. No one asked us for the tickets, no one tried to stop us, so we went there and found out that - regardless of what we were told at the box office - there were quite a few empty seats. We've found ourselves nice seats just next to the track, on the home straight and started watching. I suppose some people probably were confused who we were - two blokes in running shorts and t-shirts, but probably a bit too big and too old to be competing here. Anyway, we didn't care, enjoying our £5 top seats (couldn't get better places to be honest - we were just by the finish line).
We spend next 4 hours watching top athletics, and doing some spinning in between when we were getting colder (it wasn't very warm there).

Some great racing, some really good performances. Interesting 800m final with Jamie Webb's win, and only third place for the previous Champion - Guy Learmonth. Very nice 1500m final with Jamie Grice defending his title after great finish fight with James Brewer.
In women's 3000m clear win for Stephanie Twell (win by almost 4 seconds). Most interesting for us was 800m women final though, with Jenny Meadows and Lynsey Sharp, two very experienced athletes. Both were European champions, and competed in big international events (European, Commonwealth, World Championship).
The race was pretty much about Jenny Meadows fighting off Lynsey's attacks. Jenny was leading for about 700m, with Lynsey running on her shoulder in lane 2 all the time! When everyone was sure that gold would be decided between the two of them, Adelle Tracey sprinted past them on the home straight, followed by Leah Barrow! Lindsey Sharp took bronze, leaving Jenny Meadows without a medal in her (according to some rumours) last British Indoor Championships start. Quite symbolic.

That was the last event. After that we (well, J.) had a chat with few athletes and coaches (J. is one of those guys-who-know-people). Then we bought some merchandise (really nice, but slightly overpriced British Athletics t-shirts - at least we gave something back, since we didn't pay for tickets...) and went back to the train station.

Very good day, really inspiring and fun. I definitely need to do some indoor running next season, it seems much more fun than plodding in the mud.

p.s. no pictures from Sheffield, as I left my phone in the locker in the gym, and we didn't want to test our luck trying to get our stuff from the changing room.

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