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UK Athletics

GB Juniors hot-foot it to the Worlds

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The Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland junior athletics team flew out of near-freezing home on Wednesday 21 March for the hottest races of their lives.


They are going to be running in 35° Celsius in Mombasa, Kenya, on Saturday in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships – races that are habitually dominated by Africans irrespective of the climate.


And the ‘Brit pack’ have come up with some innovative methods of preparing for the heat of the classiest competition in the athletics calendar.


While six have been able to prepare for the pressure cooker situation in heat chambers, Andrew Livingstone (Thurrock Harriers) has been running around the streets of Essex in a sauna suit, Jess Coulson (Stockport Harriers) has been pedalling on an exercise bike with temperatures in the 30s in her parents’ utility room, late replacement David Forrester (St Helens Sutton AC) has been enjoying regular visits to the sauna at his local swimming baths while Adam Hickey (Southend on Sea AC) and Stevie Stockton (Vale Royal AC) have been training in so many layers of clothes, they’ve almost become the athletics equivalent of Michelin Man and Woman.


Livingstone’s coach Ken Smith, a safety manager at Purfleet Docks, came up with the unusual attire, explaining: “We’ve tried everything we can to get the preparation right. The suit holds the heat all right – he sweats like the proverbial pig when he runs in it.


“It’s going to be a massive experience for Andrew – his first vest – and I’m very proud of him. He has given me everything I’ve asked of him and more. And there’s a lot more to come: he has done it on a fairly low mileage so far.”


Coulson, a member of the Norwich Union GB team that won the junior women’s gold medals at the European Cross Country Championships in Italy pre-Christmas, has been doing her normal running training wearing multi-layers of clothes – and then getting on the exercise bike in a boiling utility room.


“I’ve had eight sessions on the bike over about three weeks,” she said. “It’s been going really well. I’m looking forward to the race now.”


Forrester, who was only called up for his GB debut last week when South of England champion Jon Pepper (Enfield and Haringey AC) was diagnosed with a stress reaction in a leg, has had regular sessions at the sauna at his local swimming baths.


“I’ve been in the steam room a lot more,” says the English National Under 17 champion, who will be young enough to compete as a junior next year when the World Cross Country Championships at staged in Edinburgh. “I obviously want to run well in Mombasa, but it’s more important to get experience for the future.


“I’ve got the Europeans to aim for next winter and then the Worlds in Edinburgh hopefully. It will be a bit of a change from Mombasa!”


Hickey, by far the most experienced junior in the GB team having made his debut at the 2004 European Cross Country Championships, has taken advice from the Sports Science Unit at Loughborough University, where he is studying.


“I’ve just been training in some extra clothes,” he said. “Kenya is going to be an amazing trip and I’m glad we are taking out a full team of juniors. It will be hard to out-do the World Cross in Japan last year but it will be another huge learning experience.”


Stockton, the 17-year-old North of England junior women’s champion who was thrilled to be third in the World Trial race at Nottingham last month, knows her GB debut will be a baptism of fire.


She said: “I keep reading about how bad the heat and humidity is going to be and it’s quite daunting. I know it sounds stupid, but I have been running in quite a lot of layers of clothes. I’ve been getting really, really hot even though it’s been snowing while I’ve been training.”


It’s also been snowing on the training routes up in Scotland of Conor McNulty (Kilbarchan AAC), who is also making his GB debut.


But he has been running in temperatures of up to 37° Celsius and 70-80% humidity in the heat chamber at Strathclyde University. “It was painful for a start,” he said. “I’ve had five sessions and the first was absolutely unbearable. But it became more comfortable with each session. I can’t wait for the race!”


Ben Lindsay (Pendle AC) and the winner of the junior women’s trial, 15-year-old Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot, Farnham and District AC), have been using the heat chamber at St Mary’s University Twickenham, where the UK Athletics Endurance Performance Centre is based.


“They have been in there for up to an hour at a time, running at a steady tempo pace in 30° Celsius,” said Mick Woods, the UKA Performance Coach who is also Purdue’s personal coach. “It’s been very useful.”


Similarly, Lee Carey (Nuneaton Harriers) and Olivia Kenney (Royal Sutton Coldfield AC) have used a heat chamber at the University of Birmingham. Bud Baldaro, the UK Event Coach for the marathon who coaches the university’s athletics squad, said: “They have had a lot of support from Sheena Privett in the Athletics Union Physiological Testing Department, using the exercise bike and treadmill, over the last couple of weeks.”


Pre-selected juniors Sian Edwards (Kettering Town Harriers), who was 10th in the junior women’s race at last year’s World Cross in Japan, and Emily Pidgeon (Gloucester AC), the reigning European Junior 5000m champion, have spent the last fortnight acclimatising at the preparation camp established by UK Athletics in Durban, South Africa.


They have been training alongside the Norwich Union GB senior team – Alan Buckley (Gateshead Harriers), Mo Farah (Newham and Essex Beagles), Phil Nicholls (Tipton Harriers), Ben Noad (Highgate Harriers), Michael Skinner (Blackheath Harriers and Bromley AC), Steve Vernon (Stockport Harriers), Jason Ward (Altrincham AC), Phil Wicks (Belgrave Harriers), Elle Baker (South London Harriers), Hatti Dean (Hallamshire Harriers Sheffield), Felicity Milton (Durham University), Kate Reed (Bristol and West AC) and Hayley Yelling (Windsor, Slough, Eton and Hounslow AC).