Annual races at Parliament Hill in London on Saturday will see Britain’s best mixing it with some of the top runners on the planet
From humble beginnings in 2013, the Night of the 10,000m PBs evolved to stage the British trials for the Olympics and world championships. As it grew, it began to incorporate the European Cup. Now, as the 2023 event is set to unfold on Saturday (May 20), Parliament Hill in north London is set to welcome the world.
Surely there has never been a more cosmopolitan line up than the one we will see this weekend. Athletes are coming from as far afield as Chile and Mexico, Burundi and Rwanda, Ethiopia and the United States in order to sample some of the “Highgate heaven” which has been orchestrated by Ben Pochee and his Highgate Harriers team in the past decade.
“It’s great they’re all coming to Parly Hill!” says Pochee, who adds that many will be staying in the salubrious setting of a Premier Inn near Hampstead Heath.
Such is the diverse nation of the entries this year, there are even a couple of athletes from South Sudan who fled their war-torn country and competed in the Tokyo Olympics as part of the IOC Refugee Team.
One of these athletes, Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed, fled his country after militia burned down his village, killing his father, when he was just 10 years old. Since then he’s forged a career as a runner and this is not his first visit to the UK either as he ran 28:52.64 at the British Champs in Birmingham in 2021.
Another refugee athlete is Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, who also fled South Sudan as a child, sleeping rough in the bush to avoid being caught by raiders and seeking safety in Kenya before going on to compete at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
Possible qualification for this summer’s World Championships in Budapest aside, there is a prize pot of £30,000 up for grabs. The event is also the second in the new On Track Nights series.
If you cannot get down to the venue to watch live, it is streamed from 3pm on the On Running, British Athletics and European Athletics YouTube channels and it is live on the BBC red button from 8pm. Keep an eye on AW’s website and social media channels for video interviews and updates too.
So who will claim the main honours on Saturday? Who will join the Night of the 10,000m PBs “hall of fame”? Here are some athletes to look out for.
Stanley Waithaka Mburu was a surprise runner-up behind Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda in the world 10,000m final in Eugene last summer and the Kenyan could be the man to beat in Saturday’s A-race at Parliament Hill. His best of 27:13.01 was set in 2018 but the 23-year-old, who splits his time between Kenya and Japan, ran 27:33.79 last month and in Eugene last year he clocked 27:27.90 to finish half a second behind Cheptegei and a few hundredths ahead of Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda, Grant Fisher of the United States and Selemon Barega of Ethiopia to take his first major senior medal.
Paul Chelimo is another strong contender and will be a better-known name to most spectators on Saturday. The American won Olympic 5000m silver behind Mo Farah in 2017 and Olympic 5000m bronze in 2021 and has a 5000m best of 12:57.55. Such is his popularity, some of his training videos on YouTube have attracted around two million views and, now aged 32, his 10,000m best is 27:43.89. There are doubts over his fitness, though, after he finished 14th in the Berlin Half-Marathon last month in 62:02.
Fans of Irish athletics will be excited to see if Efrem Gidey improves his best of 27:59.22, which was set when finishing sixth in the European 10,000m final in Munich last year. The 22-year-old fled Eritrea in 2016 and spent six months at a refugee camp in Calais before arriving in Dublin with very little English in March 2017. Since then his running has gone from strength to strength and he will be joined on Saturday by fellow Irish runner, the 2:09 marathoner Stephen Scullion.
British hopes will be led by Andy Butchart. The 31-year-old’s finest moment so far came when finishing sixth in the Rio Olympics 5000m but his move to 25 laps is going well as he clocked a Scottish record of 27:36.77 in his debut last year in California.
The Mahamed brothers from Southampton – Zak and Mahamed – will be hoping to make their mark too. Zak’s best of 29:14.16 looks set for a serious revision whereas older brother Mahamed’s PB is 28:19.27 as they both emerge from a successful cross-country season where Zak won European under-23 silver behind Charles Hicks and Mahamed took UK Inter-Counties gold.
The Great Manchester Run on Sunday (May 16) has lured a number of other potential British entrants away from Parliament Hill but the fields still include runners like Ellis Cross, Henry McLuckie and Matt Leach. Only 21, McLuckie is fresh from a 13:36.26 5000m PB in the United States this month.
The event no longer incorporates the European Cup but it is the British trial for the World Championships in Budapest and the qualifying standard is 27:10.00 (which can be achieved on the track or road).
Gashau Ayale was born in Ethiopia but now represents Israel and is one of a number of athletes from the Middle Eastern country in the men’s race this weekend. The 26-year-old’s 10,000m best of 27:49.88 was set at Parliament Hill last year although he has since made his mark in the marathon with European bronze in Munich last summer and an Israeli record of 2:05:33 in Seville in February.
Zerei Kbrom Mezngi, an Eritrean-Norwegian, has a best of 27:46.94 and is 37 years old but he won European silver last year behind two-time Night of the 10,000m PBs winner Yeman Crippa of Italy.
The latter is not racing this weekend in London but his older brother, Nekagenet Crippa, will be there. His best is 27:51.93 and his background includes winning the world mountain running junior title in 2013.
Nils Voigt of Germany has a best of 27:30.01 from March this year and was eighth in the European Championships last summer on home soil. Another German, Samuel Fitwi has won multiple national titles at home and his 10,000m best is 28:03.92.
Mogos Teumay of Ethiopia has a best of 27:23.49 and notably the 25-year-old was 10th at World Cross Country Championships in Australia this year and won the African 10,000m title last year.
READ MORE: 2022 coverage from Parliament Hill
Ren Tazawa of Japan has a best of 27:23.44 but is rumoured to be arriving in London with intentions of beating the 27:10.00 qualifying standard for Budapest. Such is the level of interest in distance running in his country, a number of Japanese journalists travelling over to watch him too.
Egide Ntakarutimana of Burundi, 23, has a best of 27:24.59. Vincent Mutai of Kenya won world under-18 1500m silver back in 2011 and, now aged 28, has a 10km road best of 27:34 on his resume.
Elsewhere, Yves Nimubona of Rwanda was fifth in the Commonwealth Games 5000m last year. Oli Chignell of New Zealand has a best of 27:52.21, which was set at Parliament Hill 12 months ago. Iliass Aouani of Italy, meanwhile, has a best of 27:45.81.
Dark horses include Carlos Diaz, who holds the Chile marathon record of 2:10:26, plus Bereket Zeleke, 18, who was fifth in the under-20 race at the World Cross Country Champs recently for Ethiopia but has little track pedigree.
Jess Warner-Judd won the women’s race 12 months ago in 31:22.24 and she defends her title against a tough field on Saturday. The Blackburn Harrier went on to improve her best to 30:35.93 at the World Championships in Eugene and she has since moved to the roads this winter with a 67:19 half-marathon PB in Houston in January.
Less than a month after her splendid 2:25:59 marathon in London, Samantha Harrison is set to start in Highgate, looking to improve her PB of 31:21.53, which was set when finishing sixth – and one place behind Warner-Judd – in the Commonwealth Games last summer. The big question is: will Harrison have recovered from London, though?
A strong domestic line-up also includes Amy-Eloise Markovc, who finished runner-up to Warner-Judd last year at this event in a PB of 31:25.57.
Added to this are Amelia Quirk in her 10,000m debut, English National winner Sara Astin, Verity Ockenden, Lauren Heyes, Abbie Donnelly, Lucy Reid, Clara Evans, Beth Kidger, Rebecca Murray, Grace Carson, Louise Small, Annabel Gummow and Georgie Grgec, the latter of whom won the B race 12 months ago. Their target to qualify for the World Championships in Budapest is 31:10.00.
The Brits won’t have it all their own way, though. Nadia Battocletti of Italy was seventh in the Olympic 5000m final in 2021 and won the European under-23 cross-country title on home soil last December. Her 10,000m best is only 33:06.25 but her 5000m PB is a swift 14:46.29.
Hawi Feysa of Ethiopia won silver behind Letesenbet Gidey in the under-20 race at the World Cross Country Champs in 2017 and has since gone on to run 31:03.32 for 10,000m and 2:23:36 for the marathon in addition to finishing sixth in the recent World Cross in Australia. Such credentials make her the favourite going into this weekend.
Weini Kelati is another leading contender with a best of 31:10.08 and an NCAA victory in 2019 on her CV. She has quite a back story too as she travelled from her native Eritrea to Eugene for the World Under-20 Champs in 2014 but deliberately missed her flight home and sought asylum in the United States, eventually becoming a US citizen in 2021.
Another adopted American, the Kenyan-born Ednah Kurgat, should feature too as she won the 2017 NCAA cross-country title and is the reigning USATF cross-country champion with a 10,000m best of 31:21.65.
Feysa might not be the only Ethiopian at the sharp end of the women’s race either. Likina Amebaw Ayel owns a 31:30 10km road best and is looking to make an impact on the track.
Miriam Dattke of Germany has a best of 31:33.77 and was a close fourth in the European marathon last year in Munich. The 24-year-old is a former European under-20 champion and will be hoping to make her mark on Saturday.
READ MORE: Meet the Highgate hall of fame
Several runners with good marathon bests are in the line-up too. They include Caroline Wikström of Sweden, who has run 2:26:14, and the Croatian record-holder Bojana Bjeljac, whose best is 2:23:39 from Valencia in December.
Camilla Richardsson of Finland comes to Parliament Hill with stacks of experience. This is mainly in the steeplechase although she finished ninth in the European 10,000m last summer.
Elsewhere, look out for Millie Paladino, a 31:19.92 runner from the United States; Francine Niyomukunzi of Burundi, who has a best of 32:32.14; and Silke Jonkman of the Netherlands, whose best of 32:25.14 came at Parliament Hill last year.
YOUNG ATHLETES RACES
It is not just senior 10,000m runners who will get the chance to experience the atmosphere. This year’s event also includes a series of 800m races for under-20 and under-17 athletes.
With Wavelight pacing lights to help, they will be targeting qualifying times for the European Under-20 Championships in Jerusalem and the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad & Tobago in August.
Competitors include Sam Mills, Jake Minshull and Iris Downes in the under-20 races and you can find out more about the teenage events here.
Saturday May 20
3pm – 10,000m race 1 men
3.45pm – 10,000m race 2 men
4.30pm – 10,000m race 3 men
5.15pm – 10,000m race 4 men
6.40pm – 10,000m race 5 women
7.30pm – 10,000m race 6 men
8.10pm – 800m U17 men
8.15pm – 800m U17 women
8.20pm – 800m U20 men
8.25pm – 800m U20 women
8.40pm – 10,000m championship women
9.25pm – 10,000m championship men
Up-to-date start lists are here.
Roll of honour
Year – Men / Women
2013 – Eddie McGinley 29:53.37 / Louise Perrio 36:11.55
2014 – Andy Vernon 28:26.59 / Jo Pavey 32:11.04
2015 – Jonny Mellor 28:46.80 / Rhona Auckland 32:28.32
2016 – Ross Millington 28:28.20 / Jess Martin (nee Andrews) 31:58.00
2017 – Andy Vernon 28:21.15 / Beth Potter 32:04.63
2018 – Richard Ringer 27:36.52 / Lonah Salpeter 31:33.03
2019 – Yeman Crippa 27:49.79 / Steph Twell 31:08.13
2020-21 – no races due to the pandemic
2022 – Yeman Crippa 27:16.18 / Jess Warner-Judd 31:22.24
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