Perhaps the bright cloudless skies over Leicester Saffron Lane stadium were an omen for the first ever Steeplefest event for 'Steeplechase and nothing else' which took place on bank holiday Sunday 6 May.
With 50 entrants from all points across the home countries, the event found itself centre stage for those looking for early season times and English Schools' AA qualification. Thrown in for good measure was an attempt on the all-time British best time for women’s 1500m by Sale Harriers' Aimee Pratt (Coach: Vicente Modahl).
Competition was of the highest standard throughout the event though this didn’t put off those who were looking to post their first official time taking part. A late introduction of a men’s 1500m over the higher height saw eight men aiming for an English Schools' AA qualification time. Leading the way here was Huntingdonshire’s Conall McGinness (Coach: Robert Pocklington)who secured his place at the championships with a 4.34.5.
Ireland's Shauna Doelken was due to offer some competition to Aimee Pratt in her attempt to run under the current British best time of 4.40.2. However she called off her trip after a slight groin strain put her in recuperation mode rather than racing. The 21 year old Sale Harrier took on the pace, and early on was chased by Dartford's Holly Page (Coach: Jason Marchant). The 28C temperature was probably a factor in Aimee missing the all-time best by just over a second though both were rewarded for the efforts by achieving substantial personal bests.
The Event Director and lead of the Leicestershire Running and Athletics Network (LRAN) John Skevington commented, “The event was really born from the fact that there were very few competition opportunities for one of our coached athletes. The least obvious idea would be to put on an event to facilitate this but that’s exactly where the idea sprung from!”
He added, “It was a genuine leap of faith and I really had no idea what the response would be. I was thrilled that we attracted some great quality athletes who put in top performances on the day.”
Following some encouraging positive feedback, the event - which had the support of England Athletics - will look to become a regular one in the calendar and will certainly be back in 2019. LRAN, the event organisers, are considering an open steeplechase event later in the year.
Results can be found on www.lran.org.uk.
Photos by Funtorun photography