This weekend, a host of athletes travel to Manchester to compete at the British Championships. The event doubles up as the trials for the World Championships, meaning some of our best athletes compete against each other for a spot in Budapest. The middle-distance races provide particular intrigue; James Rhodes takes a detailed look at who’s competing in the men’s 800m.
There is plenty of depth in British 800m running this year; nine have run inside 1:46 this summer, 18 inside 1:47. Given we still have plenty of the season to come, it’s exciting since, at the end of 2022, those numbers were 10 and 19 respectively.
However, no one has yet run inside the Worlds standard of 1:44.70 in 2023. Four did last year, although only two – Jake Wightman and Kyle Langford – did so in the Worlds qualification window. Wightman is out for the season and will not be in Manchester.
Of the 18 who have run inside 1:47 this year, 14 are due to race. Elliot Giles (fastest this year) and Neil Gourley are competing in the 1500m instead, with Sam Reardon and Angus Harrington not in Manchester.
The biggest unknown is how will the final play out, given the lack of qualifying times and the lack of a clear favourite. Will we see a tactical affair with a home straight burn up or it go fast from the gun whilst chasing 1:44.70? It’s anyone’s guess.
One athlete who adds to the unknown and intrigue is Max Burgin. He might not have raced this year, recovering from DVT that ruled him out of last year’s World Championships, but he knows how to start a season in style.
His last track race was at this competition last year, where he won in an impressive 1:44.54. He opened the season with an identical time and ran a 1:43.52 PB in his second race, making him the fourth fastest Brit in history. 2021? Opened with 1:44.14, his only race of the year. 2020? 1:44.75. If he’s healthy (a big unknown), he could throw up a surprise.
Thanks to his 1:44.49 last August, Kyle Langford is the sole athlete going to Manchester with the standard. However, the UKA selection policy requires athletes to show “current form” since May to be considered for selection. What current form means isn’t defined, and his best is 1:47.47 this season. It feels harsh to not select him if no one else runs the standard.
It is also worth mentioning Josh Kerr at this point. Thanks to his Olympic medal in Tokyo, the selection policy guarantees him a spot in the 1500m in Budapest. He is turning to the shorter distance in Manchester; his one and only 800m of the season was a 1:46.62 in Portland in June.
It’s been a great year for the juniors. Ethan Hussey (1:45.08) and Reece Sharman-Newell (1:45.54) have significantly improved their PBs this season and will be heading to the European U23s next week. They head to Manchester first, Hussey going in with the fastest season’s best. It’s a relative quick turnaround, with the heats in Finland taking place on Friday.
Hussey started the year with a 1:46.61 best and a bronze at last August’s World U20 Championships in Columbia. He has revised that time three times this season, most recently a fortnight ago. He also won the England Athletics U23 Championships in Chelmsford securing his spot in Finland. If there was a time-based favourite, it’d be him.
Sharman-Newell started the year Stateside, finishing second at the NCAA DII Championships. He has continued his fine form since returning to England, including a PB in Birmingham and wins at BMC Grand Prix in Watford and Loughborough, the former in a particularly strong field.
The pair will be joined by Sam Reardon (1:46.56) in Finland. The Blackheath & Bromley athlete however has decided to not race in Manchester to focus on that competition.
His Blackheath clubmate Henry Fisher (1:46.56) is also U23 and has made great strides this year. Their club record had stood since 1989; impressively, it is now jointly held by Sam and Henry.
An unknown quantity, perhaps, is Yusuf Bizimana. Having returned from America, this will be his first race in England since these championships in 2021. That is, if you discount a New Year’s Day Parkrun in Mile End last January.
Those in the American collegiate system are trained to peak for the NCAA Championships at the start of June. Finishing second, that is where he set his PB (1:45.74). It was also his last race; can he hold and replicate that form in Manchester?
Tiarnan Crorken was just shy of his PB in that NCAA final, and he too has not raced in England since 2021.
Such is the quality of British middle-distance running, four athlete who have run 1:45 this year are not yet mentioned. They are Dan Rowden, Ben Pattison, Alex Botterill and Tom Randolph.
Ben Pattison took a fine bronze at the Commonwealth Games and followed this up with sixth at the European Championships. He has three wins and a second-place finish on the European circuit this year, with all four inside 1:46. He’d need to replicate his PB of 1:44.60 to get the standard.
After his 2022 was impacted by injury, it is great to see Tom Randolph returning close to his best, clocking the second fastest of his career (1:45.75) in Oslo last week. He would need to improve his PB by 0.3s to run the standard, but could well feature come Sunday.
Daniel Rowden made the semi-finals in Eugene and Munich last year, plus at the Tokyo Olympics. The latter is where he set his 1:44.35 PB. Now coached by Jon Bigg, a fortnight ago he clocked 1:45.37, his fastest since September 2021. He goes into the weekend with the second quickest time of 2023.
In the race where Randolph set his SB, Alex Botterill improved his PB. His best is now almost a second faster than it was at the start of the year, and he has won four of his six races so far. He finished seventh in the final last year.
Guy Learmonth is a seasoned British Championships performer and would be remis to not mention. He started the season with his fastest ever opener, and with four races under his belt has progressed to a 1:46.17 SB.
Another athlete impacted by injury. Whilst his two races this season have not set the world alight (1:48.37 and 1:48.53), Oliver Dustin could be due a faster time. He finished second here in 2021, securing Olympic qualification. Finally, keep an eye out also for Charlie Grice and Archie Davis, who are rounding into form.