Markhim Lonsdale: Young talent ready to take on Europe

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Markhim Lonsdale: Young talent ready to take on Europe

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While you hardly need to be a mystic to have predicted Markhim Lonsdale’s success so far this summer, his continued progression through the age groups has certainly made many sit up and take notice

The 18-year-old’s name has seemed permanently etched at the top of UK age group rankings and championships over the last few years – and his progress shows little sign of letting up.

The Crook athlete sits shoulder to shoulder with the UK’s top-10 best in the all-time rankings from U15 through to junior level. His latest standout performance at the British Milers Club meet at Sportcity back in May should come as no surprise.

Punching his ticket

It was a sub-1:47 personal best effort that saw him punch his ticket to the European Junior Championships, which kick off in Italy tomorrow.

‘Going into Sportcity, I knew I was in good shape and a fast time was in me,’ recalls Markhim.

‘I had the plan of sticking to the leader and pacemaker, not backing off from the pace, and just sticking in.’

Stick in he did – and then some.

With a quarter of the race to run, the plan had worked a treat and only Guy Learmonth stood between Markhim and the line.

‘With 200m to go, I knew I was chasing Guy down and had more gears coming down the home straight, so I waited and then kicked again to win,’ adds Markhim.

‘It felt so good running a PB and especially to go sub-1.47, bearing in mind that I somehow skipped the 47s and went straight to 46, which was quite funny.’

Taking on the challenge

The fact that Guy Learmonth has gone on to finish second at the UK trials and now heads to this summer’s world championships should offer more than a little inspiration.

That Markhim also beat Ricky Soos’ 15-year-old BMC junior record on his way to that 1:46.97 PB should also provide food for thought.

Successfully navigating the path from child star through mid-teenage years and then continuing to prosper at junior level is no easy task. There are a number of names as you scroll through the all-time lists that have since fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.

Handling the challenge not only of a burgeoning athletics career but the peer pressure and temptations that exist outside the sport is tough.

Markhim, level-headed and down-to-earth, is getting the balance right as he continues to transition through the age groups.

‘I’ve been in the sport for nine years and still enjoy everything about it,’ says the National U20 champion.

‘Enjoying the sport has got to be important because if your head isn’t in it, then you won’t go far.

‘I’m 18 years old now and haven’t touched the gym, specialised drills, trained twice a day or been on high mileage, which I know many elite athletes do. I feel there is so much I can improve on – and look forward to doing it in the near future.’

Father and son team

One factor that has been vital in his success so far has been the support of his family – and in particular, his dad.

As father and coach, Keith is certainly the person who knows Markhim best. Without that coaching support, especially in his younger years, it’s safe to say Markhim wouldn’t be the athlete he is today.

‘My coach and family have played a huge part of my athletics career,’ says Markhim.

‘My dad is also my coach. He’s retired and now does window cleaning to help support me for things like petrol costs, kit and accommodation.

‘That in itself I’m so grateful for because without it I couldn’t do what I’m doing.’

Taking nothing for granted

With further support from the likes of SportsAid – the national charity supporting talented young athletes – the Ron Pickering Fund and local sponsors, such as Crook Rotary Club and George Tomlinson (Hayton and Lamb Ltd), you get the impression Markhim won’t forget these beginnings when he eventually makes the step up to senior recognition.

The next stop on that journey is this week’s European Junior Championships.

The North East runner heads into the champs ranked number one in Europe and has the ambition and belief to follow that lofty position through. That’s not to say he’s taking anything for granted.

‘I know the championships aren’t about time but I know I’m in PB shape, says Markhim.

‘I’ve got the mindset of someone that isn’t ranked first but one that is trying to be first, because I know it won’t be easy and we all want to win.

‘My dad strongly believes I can win and so do I because, if not, what’s the point?’

Markhim goes in his 800m heat on Friday at 9:50am (BST).

Watch him and the rest of the GB team in action at the European Junior Championships online.

SportsAid helps the next generation of British sports stars by giving them financial support and recognition during the critical early stages of their careers. Find out about SportsAid Week 2017 and how you can get involved.

Words by Christopher Rainsford
Image from Markhim Lonsdale