England stars shine at the Podium Festival and England 5k Championships

It was a wet and windy day at the Podium Festival in Leicester on Saturday as many athletes opened their road season in pursuit of lightning quick 5k times. An open competition for athletes of all ages, we also partnered with to incorporate the England 5k Championships! Let’s see how the athletes got on.

Women’s 5k Championships

It was a battle to line up at the start of the women’s 5k as the best athletes from Great Britain toed the line. Straight to the front was Welsh 5000m record holder Melissa Courtney-Bryant (Poole AC, Rob Denmark) with Verity Ockenden (Swansea), two Ethiopian athletes and one Kenyan athlete for company. It wasn’t long until Caroline Nyaga overtook the pacers, leaving the domestic battle to continue behind.

2024 podium 5k women's start

At the end of the first lap it was Courtney-Bryant and Abbie Donnelly (Lincoln Wellington, Rob Lewis) battling it out stride for stride as Ockenden slipped back. This contest continued for much of the race until Abbie’s cross country strength showed and she managed to drop the Welshwoman. The race leaders continued to pull away to an eventual course record, dipping under 15 minutes. The course proved to be just half a lap too short for Donnelly as she was unable to catch the Ethiopian finishing in 4th place but with a new PB of 15:18. Speaking after the race, Donnelly said:

Abbie Donnelly at Podium 5k

“I had absolutely no idea how it was going to go. I felt really strong and tried to tuck in to hide from some of the wind.” Despite taking on the roads this weekend, she still has her sights set on cross country with the World Championships just around the corner: “I’m so grateful and it is so special every time you get to pull on the Great Britain vest – I’m just going to try and enjoy it and hope that all the training will pay off.”

Melissa Courtney-Bryant and Verity Ockenden matched each other stride for stride as they finished in 5th and 6th place respectively both with 15:27. Further down the pack was this year’s British indoor 3k bronze medallist, Kate Axford (Belgrave) in 8th and Sale Harriers Megan Davies (Paul Roden) in 9th, both crossing the line for a new personal best of 15:34.

Earlier in the day T20 Paralympic 1500m medallist Hannah Taunton (Taunton, Charlotte Fisher) won the elite female B race in a new personal best time of 16:43, taking some 40 seconds off her 5k performance in Battersea just one month prior.

Hannah Taunton finishing 2024 podium 5k
  1. Abbie Donnelly (Lincoln Wellington, Rob Lewis) – 15:18 PB
  2. Verity Ockenden (Swansea) – 15:27
  3. Kate Axford (Belgrave) – 15:34 PB

Men’s 5k Championships

The warmth of spring was definitely not present for the men’s race as they battled all of the elements during the final event of the night. Straight from the gun Will Barnicoat (Aldershot, Farnham & District) looked super comfortable, slotting in behind the pacemakers and East African athletes, not letting the increase in pace phase him.

Into the third kilometre the tempo once again increased as Hagos Gebrhiwet from Ethiopia took to the front and Barnicoat continued to lead the domestic race back, running on his own in 4th place. The big chasing pack housing the likes of James West (Tonbridge, Helen Clitheroe), Jake Wightman (Edinburgh, Geoff Wightman) and Iceland’s Baldvin Magnusson slowly creeping up.

Will Barnicott Podium 5k England champion

With one final lap to go, the podium was secured with the East African athletes still a long way ahead of the rest of the field. It was the 5k road world champion who took the win in an outstanding 13:19, followed by Amos Langat and Daniel Kosen. 4th and 5th went to Ireland’s Nick Griggs and Iceland’s Magnusson with Will Barnicoat managing to hold on to take 6th place and the English title in 13:43.

  1. Will Barnicoat (Aldershot, Farnham & District) – 13:43
  2. James West (Tonbridge, Helen Clitheroe) – 13:44 PB
  3. Zak Seddon (Bracknell AC) – 13:55 PB

1km Time Trial

Hannah Nuttall at Podium 5k

The 1km time trial was an exciting addition to the Podium Festival. Usually associated with cycling, the athletes were set off at time increments and racing against the clock to see who would finish on top, with a tense wait for the earlier athletes to learn their fate.

In the men’s race it was Morpeth’s James Young (Lindsay Dunn) who dropped down from the 3000m he has done indoors so far this year, testing his pace over the shorter distance. In the women’s race, Hannah Nuttall (Charnwood, Helen Clitheroe) put in a stellar effort after a busy indoor season to run 2:43 but was pipped by Marissa Damink from the Netherlands and Scotland’s Erin Wallace who stormed to victory in 2:35.

Photos: Laura and Simon Maddox