Megan Keith Seals Olympic Selection In Night Of The 10,000m PBs Thriller

Megan Keith seals Olympic selection in Night of the 10,000m PBs thriller

Scottish runner out-sprints Fiona O’Keeffe to take women’s win as Mohamed Ismael of Djibouti enjoys men’s victory over Patrick Dever

After training in Edinburgh and Inverness in the build-up to the Night of the 10,000m PBs, Megan Keith applied a bit of self-tanning lotion before taking to the track at Parliament Hill. “I hate to say it, but I just had enough of being really pasty in photos!” she said.

There was nothing fake or artificial about her performance on Saturday (May 18) though as she stormed to a thrilling and narrow victory in 31:03.02 ahead of Fiona O’Keeffe of the United States. With an Olympic qualifying time of 30:36.84 already in the bag from earlier this year, it means the 22-year-old has booked her spot in the GB team for the Olympics. “Paris,” she said, “is a reality now, which is nice.”

On a night where the main British sporting spotlight focused on the Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk boxing fight in Saudi Arabia, a similarly brutal battle unfolded on Hampstead Heath in north London as Keith and O’Keeffe slugged it out for 25 laps. This was hardly a two-horse race either as Amanda Vestri of the United States, Klara Lukan of Slovenia and Francine Niyomukunzi were all prominent and in the mix until the final three laps when Keith began to draw away with O’Keeffe.

Megan Keith pips Fiona O’Keeffe (David Hicks)

Until that point, Keith had run a patient race too. “I don’t mind being at the front and pushing it along,” she said, “but I didn’t have to tonight and it was hard not to take my turn leading in the early stages. I had to be selfish and didn’t want to be the workhorse for everyone else. I had to be patient, which is difficult when the crowd are making so much noise.”

When she made her move, though, the lead group splintered. Only O’Keeffe, 22, the surprise winner of the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Florida in February, could match Keith’s pace. Ultimately, in a rip-roaring home straight sprint, Keith edged past her rival with a packed Parliament Hill crowd screaming them on.

“The crowd carried me down the home straight,” said Keith.

O’Keeffe was less than half a second behind at the finish with Vestri seven seconds back in third, Lukan a further three seconds behind in fourth and Niyomukunzi, who had threatened to run away from the field mid-race, fifth.

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Jess Warner-Judd leads Fiona O’Keeffe and Megan Keith (David Hicks)

With the event doubling as the British Olympic trials, Jess Warner-Judd faded to ninth in 31:36.37 – almost a minute outside the 30:40.00 qualifying target – and she spent some time in the medical tent post-race.

Abbie Donnelly, one of the big British success stories of the recent cross-country season, ran a PB of 31:45.37 in 11th as Sophie Wallis was 12th in 31:57.65.

With American athletes like O’Keeffe and Vestri excelling, it was not Keira D’Amato’s night as the former US marathon record-holder dropped out at 7km.

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Megan Keith and Fiona O’Keeffe (David Hicks)

As for Keith, the Edinburgh student is on the rise right now after winning European under-23 5000m and cross-country titles last year. After demolishing her rivals at the Euro Cross in December, she must have been tempted to run the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade in March but instead she focused on getting a solid block of training in before her 30:36.84 Olympic qualifier in California in March, followed by another build-up to these Olympic trials in London.

Next for Keith is the Euro Championships in Rome from June 7-12. “Then I’ll probably take a break and build back up for the Games,” she said.

Like the main women’s championship race, the athletes in the men’s main event also failed to break the Olympic qualifying mark of 27:00.00. It was nevertheless a thrilling race as Mohamed Ismael of Djibouti clocked 27:22.38 to out-sprint Patrick Dever – the British hope running 27:23.88.

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Mohamed Ismael wins (David Hicks)

Enjoying an inspired race in front of several thousand cheering fans as darkness fell on the venue at close to 10pm, Dever broke away from the rest of the field soon after passing halfway in 13:30 although Ismael caught him with two kilometres to go before out-gunning the Preston Harrier.

In third, Felix Bour of France ran a PB of 27:27.11 as Paul Chelimo, the 2023 winner at the Night of the 10,000m PBs from the United States, finished a gritty fourth in 27:34.04.

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Mohamed Ismael, Patrick Dever and Charles Hicks follow the pacer (David Hicks)

“It was a little bit bittersweet,” said Dever, “but winning the British title is great. To come short of 27:00 is a bit annoying but I gave it my best.

“When I was out by myself I was struggling a bit so I was quite glad when I was caught as it meant I wasn’t out there alone anymore. I expected a great atmosphere but didn’t quite expect it to be this big. It was quite chaotic and it was hard to keep calm before the start. The crowd was incredible.”

Dever could still make the Olympics, too, as UK Athletics has a separate standard of 27:20.00 which they say will make athletes “eligible for consideration” assuming they also have a World Athletics rankings position.

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Rory Leonard (David Hicks)

Dever had run 27:08.81 earlier this year and couldn’t quite match that on Saturday, but he proved the best of the Brits as Rory Leonard clocked 27:38.39 in eighth, Charles Hicks 27:46.41 in 15th and Zak Mahamed 27:46.55 in 16th with, further down the field, Charlie Wheeler running 28:04.89 and Scott Beattie 28:23.25.

For Leonard it was a particularly pleasing run as the European under-23 champion smashed his PB of 28:04.83 to qualify for the European Championships in Rome. “I’m in a little bit of shock,” said Leonard. “I felt as the race progressed that if the wheels don’t fall off randomly then I’m going to run really fast here.”

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Zak Mahamed (right) with Tadesse Getahon (David Hicks)

The winner, Ismael, says the 5000m will be his main goal at the Olympics in August. The 27-year-old ran an Olympic qualifying mark of 12:56.43 for that distance in Stockholm a few days ago and eagle-eyed fans will remember him finishing ninth in the world indoor 3000m final which was won by Josh Kerr in Glasgow in March.

With GB international runner Mo Aadan helping translate from Somali to English, Ismael – who does most of his training at altitude in Ethiopia – told AW he thought the spectators were really good and he’s looking forward to coming back to the event in future.

Was winning a surprise? “After running 12:56 for 5000m I was feeling good and feeling in shape so I was confident.”

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Rory Leonard, Patrick Dever, Charles Hicks (David Hicks)

The Night of the 10,000m PBs continues to grow following its humble beginnings in 2013. Organised by Ben Pochee with members of Highgate Harriers and sponsors On Running all lending their support, the 2024 event was perhaps the biggest yet with warm sunny weather drawing the crowds during the afternoon.

The in-field is particularly packed with people, trade stands and plenty of things to keep young fans entertained such as a climbing wall. The only downfall is that it makes viewing the races difficult as the athletes circle the track.

Still, the basic principle of allowing fans on to parts of the track to cheer the athletes as they run through a tunnel on each straight is one that is simple yet effective. In between races there were also jugglers, music and even some sprint hurdling through rings of fire.

MEGAN KEITH SEALS OLYMPIC SELECTION IN NIGHT OF THE 10,000M PBS THRILLER

Athletics entertainment at Parliament Hill (David Hicks)

The young athletes’ 800m races have also expanded this year and are well received by competitors and fans. Among these, Jorjia March of Barnet & District won the under-15 girls’ race impressively in 2:08.70 just a few days after winning another young athletes’ race at the Bannister Miles meeting in Oxford.

Noah Penfold of North Shields Polytechnic won the under-13 boys’ race of 2:13.96. His mum, Charlotte Moore, was on hand to watch, too. Back in 2002 Moore reached the Commonwealth 800m final aged 17 on home soil in Manchester where she clocked a British junior record of 1:59.75.

There were even more links with those 2002 Commonwealth Games too. In the under-17 women’s race when Florence East, the daughter of 2002 Commonwealth 1500m champion Mike East, was runner-up in 2:10.28 as Natasha Wynn of Woodford Green with Essex Ladies lived up to her name to win in 2:09.36.

Holly Ovens, the daughter of 2002 Commonwealth 1500m finalist Hayley, won the under-20 women’s 800m in 2:09.35.

Elsewhere, Evan Grime once again showed his great ability by taking the under-17 men’s race in 1:51.83, while William Rabjohns, who is probably better known as a 1500m runner, surprised himself with a big 800m PB and win in the under-20 race in 1:49.63.

Full results here.

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