Middle distance women
The two women’s middle-distance races seemed to have an unbeatable favorite – Laura Muir in the 1500 and Keely Hodgkinson in the 800. But races are run on the track, not on paper, and the two races were more competitive than one might have expected.
Hodgkinson won the 800 in 1:58.26 but only after being challenged hard by Jemma Reekie (1:58.93) with Alexandra Bell, herself an Olympic finalist, third (2:00.68). I had seen Hodgkinson set a British record in Paris of 1:55.77. After that race in Paris, she told me that she was surprised but not shocked by the time: “I think from training, my coach is very good at knowing what kind of shape I am in. I knew that kind of time was in there, but not when it would come out tonight, and I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself. I had in the back of my mind 1:56 today, but to do 1:55 and a national record, I couldn’t be happier. The race went out faster than I thought it would, but I was happy to go with the flow and then attack towards the end. Let’s hope the momentum can keep going”.
Keely Hodgkinson, photo by Getty for UK Athletics
She effectively commented on the Manchester race in front of her home crowd: “I was a bit surprised the way the race went. I didn’t want to take the lead today, so to sit in and then take the win was very pleasing”.
The race was important for Jemma Reekie too. After a brilliant but ultimately agonizing fourth place in the Tokyo Olympics, she had health issues last year and then changed coaches in 2023 to Jon Bigg. I’ve seen her run 1:59.32 in Lausanne, where she declared herself happy to be sub-two early in the season. She said of her 1:58.93 in Manchester: “I am pleased to have booked my ticket. I tried to stay calm when I got a bit boxed in, and maybe I should have been more patient. I know what I have in my legs and what I can do, but it is all about building my confidence back up, and securing the world’s place was a priority today. I wanted to go out today and get a win, but I came away with silver and a ticket, so I’ll take that.”
Hodgkinson is now off to the European under 23s “to gain a bit of race practice at 400m and see what I can do. I am not the fastest going into it, so it will be interesting and fun to do another under-23 champs while I am still eligible! It was always part of my build-up to the worlds and a great place to do some speed work”. Interesting that the girl who resolutely refuses to run 1500 at the moment has more interest in what she can do at 400.
Katie Snowden gets the up on Laura Muir, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics.
In the 1500, Laura Muir characteristically sat in the pack before making a move to the front, where we expected her to stay. Katie Snowden attacked on the home straight to win in 4:09.86, with Laura second in 4:10.24 and Melissa Courtney-Bryant third in 4:11.91. Muir commented: “I needed to get a bigger break with the wind shaking on me. Katie is probably a sub-four runner, so I have to be properly on it when up against that caliber of people and unfortunately, today I fell a little short”.
A delighted Snowden said: “I knew my training had gone really well. I had been very consistent this year and had a couple of good races coming into British Champs today. I was feeling confident and psychologically ready. I knew I could come into the top 2, not necessarily expecting to beat Laura. I thought this time I wanted to commit and stay with her pace”.
I wouldn’t read too much into this result. Having seen Laura run 3:57.09 in Florence last month, I expect her to get it right when it matters.