Yes, there is a royal wedding this Saturday May 19th, but it is also the night of the 10,000 PBs, held at the Parliament Hill athletics track in the southeast corner of Hampstead Heath. Given that London is currently experiencing an Indian summer (albeit quite an erratic one), any athletics enthusiast – and anyone remotely interested in running, for that matter – would do well to spend their downtime at this event rather than sat in front of a TV. If you simply cannot miss the wedding, streaming it on your phone trackside is always an option.
Created in 2013 by Highgate Harriers as a ‘celebration of 25 lap running’, the night of the 10,000 PBs has quickly become a landmark fixture on the athletics calendar, its aim being to ‘improve British racing standards and [make] 10,000m aspirational’. Not only does it draw a wide range of talent, it also attracts fervent crowds and as such plenty of entertainment, food outlets and licensed bars. The ensuing atmosphere isn’t merely a by-product of exciting races; it is the very ethos behind the event. The website states that ‘race atmosphere was seen as pivotal to assisting performance and therefore enhancing it became the mission’.
In testimony to its rapid and ever-increasing popularity and prestige, the event was combined with the English championships in 2014, followed by the UK championships from 2016. This year’s event will be combined with the European Cup 10,000m team competition: 99 top-level athletes from 25 countries will be competing at the foot of Parliament Hill. Many will be racing to qualify for the Berlin European Athletics Championships in August. Brit Ross Millington – 31st at the Rio Olympics – is the only entrant with a sub-28 lifetime best (27:55.06).
To this day, the night of the 10,000m PBs successfully combines amateur running and high-level championship racing: the first race is at 1pm, with the afternoon gradually building up to the championship races starting at 7pm. At 5pm spectators will be treated to an RAF typhoon flyby (!), followed by a talk and Q&A from 5 time-Olympian (and winner of the women’s event in 2014), Jo Pavey, at 6pm. Have a look at the flyer below for more details of the sort of entertainment that contributes to making this a completely unique athletics fixture.
This event is really not to be missed. However, try to get there early; although spectators will be close to the action (the two innermost lanes are used for racing, with the rest available for spectators to cheer on competitors in the name of #Lane3BeerNCheer), it cannot be overstated how popular an event it is and good viewing positions will certainly be at a premium.
Oh, did I mention it was free?