Be the change: BMC to put on women’s 5,000m at Watford GP

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Be the change: BMC to put on women’s 5,000m at Watford GP


Be the change you want to see in the world. Dubiously attributed to Mahatma Gandhi it may be, but it’s something that Aldershot, Farnham and District runner, Philippa Bowden, has certainly taken to heart

‘I was disappointed with my race at Sportcity. It was my second 5000m of the season and my legs didn’t have another gear in the finishing stages having raced the 10,000m at Highgate just a week earlier,’ says Philippa.

‘I wanted to run a time that reflected my form, so began looking for my next opportunity.’

This is when Philippa hit a stumbling block. The 22-year-old discovered that 5,000m races for women, let alone quality races, were few and far between.

If you want a PB, you run at the BMC. The obvious course of action for Philippa was to enter the next British Milers’ Club Grand Prix at Watford on 24 June. Quality field guaranteed.

Stumbling block

However, while there were 5,000m races for men on the programme, there was only a 3,000m race for women.

‘I thought it was odd and a little unfair, so I decided to see if I could change that,’ says Philippa.

With the support of her coach, Mick Woods, and a Facebook event to garner interest, the BUCS 10,000m bronze medallist contacted the BMC to put the idea forward.


‘Initially, the thinking was that a 5,000m race one week before the UK trials was not the right timing,’ says BMC chairman and grand prix director, Tim Brennan.

‘When it became clear there was interest, we wanted to be flexible and support the event, which needs development.’

Developing the women’s 5,000m event in the UK is vital – even if it is enjoying something of a stellar year. More women than last year have already gone inside the UK 10 target this season.

Running fast times at home

However, just two of these times – Laura Muir in Glasgow back in January and Jess Judd at Sportcity last month – have come at races in the UK.

In 2016, out of the top-10 times ran by British athletes, only one was run at home. This trend continues down the ranking list.

Just 8 of the top-20 times were run in the UK and 13 of the top-30. Of the 48 women who clocked a time under 16.45 last year – the entry standard for a 5,000m at a BMC Grand Prix – just 56% were run at a track in the UK.


Compare that with the men and, of the 133 men who ran inside 14.50 (the equivalent men’s BMC standard), 63% were run in Britain.

‘The fact is that there are fewer women than men competing in the distance events and there are very few opportunities to get a 5,000m marker down at all – let alone a fast one with a 16.45 entry time,’ adds Philippa.

‘I think there should be a 3k equivalent entry standard to allow entry for the 5,000m, seeing as there are a lot more 3,000m races throughout the season.’

Loosening the reins

An entry standard is essential to uphold the integrity of the BMC Grand Prix – and ensure fast times and top-quality races. There is a danger, though, of perpetuating the cycle of a lack of top-quality times ran in the UK if the reins aren’t slackened a little at times.

Disappointingly, the interest expressed by those in Philippa’s Facebook event has not yet materialised. Along with a pacemaker, only three BMC members and five non-members have entered the race – quite a way off a full field.

If we are to improve the standard of women’s 5,000m races in the UK, then it is essential that athletes, as well as race organisers, start to take responsibility.

‘The BMC is a club there to benefit our members and to act on behalf of the athletics community,’ reminds Tim.

‘The Watford meeting always fills up and we will be turning people away from other events in order to limit the number of races and create space in the timetable for the 5,000m.’

Philippa has done her bit by getting the ball rolling. The British Milers’ Club has done its bit in accommodating interest and creating space on the timetable.

Now it’s up to runners to take responsibility – and get their entries in before the 5pm deadline this Wednesday.

Words by Hannah Viner
Image from Chris Rainsford