Steve & Adrian in GB team World Record !
Tuesday 12th September 2023
A British Masters 4 x 800m relay was the centrepiece of the Edgar Nichols Open at the Abbey Stadium in Redditch. Assembling a team capable of breaking the world record is a massive challenge: firstly, you need to have 4 athletes capable of running world class 800m times; secondly, they need to be free of injury; thirdly, they need to be available on race day.
Adrian Haines and myself (Steve Atkinson) were selected, together with Andrew Ridley (Poole) and Stephen Allen (Cumbernauld) for the M55 team. The world record target of 9:05 set by Spain last year seemed achievable, especially as we’d run 8:57 to get the indoor world record earlier this year. However, that indoor record was far from a straightforward affair, as we were 3secs behind schedule after the 1st two legs. So this time, we needed to go out stronger and relieve some of the pressure.
Having observed an Australian team set a 4 x 800m world record using pacers, the meeting organisers arranged for local clubs to enter teams capable of similar times to us, giving us someone to aim for on each leg. Halesowen were matched to pace us. Read on to find out how this didn’t go quite to plan...
Stephen Allen ran a strong 1st leg, finishing in 2:13.1 leaving his Halesowen runner 10 metres behind in the process. Andrew Ridley went out very hard on leg 2, completing his opening lap in 61.5. He hung on for 2:09.9 - the team’s fastest leg – extending the lead over Halesowen by another 10 metres in the process. Andrew was hanging on and almost fell over when handing over to Adrian Haines for leg 3, but the baton passed safely. Phew! Meanwhile the Halesowen athlete had a 20 metre gap to bridge. A 2min 800m runner, he made light work of it, catching Adrian on the 1st lap. This now gave Adrian someone to aim for, and they finished in a great side-by-side sprint finish, which pushed Adrian to a creditable 2:12.2. He is in great shape, which he confirmed this week by front running the British 800m champs to win in 2:08.
In contrast to the time split at final leg handover during the indoor record attempt, where we were level with the existing record, this time we were in the super-strong position of being 12secs ahead of the record, and of having Adrian hand over to me alongside the Halesowen runner. I couldn’t have wanted for more. All I had to do was run a solid training pace 800m, avoid injury and bring the baton home. Yet the pressure still felt absolutely huge because, in these big relay events, you’re not running for yourself, you’re running for your team mates and your country. It’s a privilege to make the team and you don’t want to let everyone down. Also it’s the enormity of making history, of not just setting a track and field world record, but in setting a strong mark that could last the test of time. Anyway, I paced myself through to the bell in a healthy 64.3, and was about 5 metres behind the Halesowen runner. This was close enough to run him down in the last 200m, setting up another side-by-side sprint. We crossed the line in a photo finish and my leg time was 2:10.8 resulting in a total team time of 8:46.03. We’d beaten the world record by 19 seconds!
“Hasta La Vista Espania!”