With the 2022 track and field season now upon us, we thought we’d ask one of the biggest middle distance athletics clubs in the country their thoughts on the upcoming season. Find out what Tim Brennan, chairman of the British Milers' Club (BMC) had to say about 2022.
We also asked Tim how athletes will be using the BMC to qualify for major championships and about his favourite BMC race. Not to mention some of the biggest names to compete at the BMC.
Can you provide a summary of the British Milers' Club and how it supports athletes across the country?
The British Milers' Club started in 1963 with the aim of helping athletes progress all the way from club level through to international. This involves helping on the competitions side but also on the coaching side, for example, with our regional training days.
This year we will be hosting around 50-55 races. We have five Grand Prix events that we organise each year. These meetings typically get the big names and overseas athletes and are organised around the key championship dates. This year that’s the World Championships, European Championships, and the Commonwealth Games. For the younger athletes we also focus on helping them to get their school's qualifying standards.
Who, in your opinion, is the biggest name to have raced at the BMC?
Everybody who has done well internationally in endurance has done the BMC. If you go back a few years, Mo Farah was a regular. If you look at his landmark PBs, his first time under 14 minutes and under 13:40 in the 5k, a lot of those were ran in BMC races. We’ve also had big names coming in from overseas, Sonia O’Sullivan being one example.
The biggest name at the moment is Keely Hodgkinson who raced a lot of BMC races and is now an Olympic silver medallist. One of the great things about athletics is you never know who is going to be the star of the future and that’s a good thing about the BMC, it gives every athlete the opportunity to progress and take part in the A races. In 2019, Oliver Dustin ran the B race in the BMC and last year he gained Olympic selection.
Who in your opinion are the athletes to watch in 2022?
I’ve already mentioned Keely Hodgkinson and Oliver Dustin. Looking at our Grand Prix series last year, Tom Randolph could be an 800m runner breaking through. Another name is Tom Mortimer who ran one of the fastest 5000m we’ve seen last year so I think he could be one to watch as well.
What has been your favourite BMC race to watch?
Going back a few years, we had an 800m at Watford where three individuals in the men’s 800m A race ran 1:45 and everyone in the A and B race got huge PBs. It was one of those perfect days where everything went right, and people broke through. That race will always be a fond memory. The races when you see people make breakthroughs are always the most enjoyable for me.
Some of Jessica Judd’s runs have also been great to watch. She looks to go with the pacemaker but if the pacemaker isn’t going fast enough then Jess will take it on and look to do it herself. It’s fantastic to see her attitude of ‘just get on and do it’.
Has the BMC made any changes to the competition schedule this year?
One thing we have done is up the prize money. The top prize money for one race is now £1,500. We want the overseas athletes to compete but most importantly we want the domestic athletes turning up and running our races because that is the primary purpose of the club. So, the prize money should mean that anybody who wants to have a decent pay day from the BMC meeting, can. Although they do have to run pretty fast to do that.
Something we have kept from last year is the series prize money. For those athletes competing at a top level but not quite reaching the European or World Championships, this can help give a focus and help runners on their way to becoming full-time athletes.
We are also welcoming back spectators in full this year after having the restrictions of Covid. It will be great to have packed stadiums again and get the full atmosphere that comes with the BMC races.
Can you talk about pacemakers and how you get them involved with the BMC races?
We pay the pacemakers to attend and this fee increases as the pace gets quicker and the distance increases. So that’s a way that athletes can get a little bit of money. The pacemakers are absolutely key. Sometimes people volunteer and that’s fantastic. That’s what we really want as a club, the spirit of helping each other out. Back in the day, we used to have a draw on the line for who was doing the pace. We don’t do that anymore. We try to line up the pacemakers in advance and we are very happy to pay a fee to do that.
Do you have a favourite story from any of the BMC events?
I always think of one of the BMC races at Trafford, a few years ago, where the skies opened up and everybody dashed for the stands. It was one of those rainstorms where it was almost impossible to be there and unfortunately the drainage wasn’t working so the track was flooded. We thought ‘oh no, what are we going to do?’ but we turned around and everybody in the crowd was gathering bins from the sides and scooping water off the track. For me, that epitomised the BMC spirit. Everybody mucking in to help. Whilst the meeting would have gone on, you might have needed a snorkel to run the 800m. Instead, after 20 minutes the track was clear and the event could go on as if nothing had happened.
If you could take the BMC abroad at all, how would you do it?
I wouldn’t take any of the races abroad as the main purpose is to help domestic athletes achieve the best times on their doorstep. What I would like to do is to take a BMC relay team abroad to try and set a World Record, similar to the event they just hosted in Eugene. I think that would be very exciting.
What are you most looking forward to about the 2022 season?
I would say, being back to a fully normal season and because of all the championship events this year, seeing a lot of qualifying times coming in.
How will the BMC make a difference to those building up to the Commonwealth Games?
The British Milers' Club has made sure that the first meetings are ahead of the qualification deadline for the main championships. We hope to give athletes as many opportunities to qualify as possible, both domestically and, indeed, internationally for the athletes flying to the UK ahead of the Games.
The BMC will also give Commonwealth Games hopefuls the chance to race ‘off-distance’. So, for example, you might see top 800m runners turning to a 1500m race. We try to give UK athletes the chance to prepare in the way they want for the major races like the Commonwealth Games.
What will a home games do for Birmingham and the country as a whole?
Well hopefully it will inspire people to get involved with athletics and running. It would be fantastic if we could encourage people to get back into the sport or get involved for the first time, particularly in the younger age groups. Hopefully it will create a real buzz and excitement around the sport and we will see more getting involved.
Photo by David Lowe