It was in January when I overheard two club runners speaking about their seasons’ aims following a Surrey League cross country match. One said his 2014 aspiration was to be ranked among the top-250 runners in the country. ‘What distance?’ his mate asked. The other shrugged. He didn’t mind: as long as he made the top-250 in something.
The runners were referring to top-250 in the Power of 10 rankings, a list of the best UK athletes over a range of distances in a particular year. In the mid-2000s it was my ambition to simply be listed on Power of 10, let alone breach the top-250. Power of 10 was once elitist; runners had to gain a ‘fast’ time to earn inclusion. I remember the 10k cut off being 36 minutes. In those days I couldn’t break 37. Power of 10 has since been thrown open, with every result from front to back (the Edinburgh Marathon was a short-term exception) available to freely view. Whether that devalued the achievement of a sub-36 10k and other equivalent results is another debate.
Power of 10 continues to promote excellence, nonetheless, and the site’s top-250 represent the very highest standards in UK athletics. Such a positioning was an ambitious but viable proposition for the two runners I had overheard. They were presumably members of Belgrave, Kent or Thames Hare and Hounds, and likely finished in the top-50 of the ferociously-competitive Surrey League. They represent the real heroes of amateur athletics, not the professional, paid and sponsored athletes, nor the charity hordes, but the honest club runner who juggles family, work and a multitude of other commitments, and runs six or seven (or more) times a week, covering tens of miles just to perhaps, one day, see themselves pop into hallowed top-250 territory. These are the runners that have my admiration. They are, in the main, lifelong runners. I train with them every week: the 800m specialist who buries himself in training to gain milliseconds; the determined marathoner who seeks to run sub-2.20; the cross country specialist who will stop at nothing to finish first in every repetition.
I stole that runner’s ambition that day: to be in the top-250 of something.
I am not there yet.
As of today…
A 3000m time of 9.34.1 does not even rank me. I am 4.1 seconds too slow.
A 10k time of 34.19 places me 702nd.
A 5k time of 16.28 places me 325th. (A time of 16.13 would make the top-250).
But it is only May.
But I will, hopefully, run faster.
But so will other people.
But this is real running for the committed club runner. The competition is formidable; the competition is the best.
The journey to the top-250 continues…