The sun was out for an exciting morning of racing at the British Grand Prix of Race Walking 2019 at Leeds, Roundhay Park.
Leeds student Callum Wilkinson and Welsh farmer Heather Lewis won the men and women’s British Athletics 20km races respectively, both achieving new PB’s in the process.
In the exciting men’s 20km, Callum Wilkinson and Tom Bosworth took to the front from the start. The Leeds based athletes soon established a small, but significant lead ahead of the chasing pack, passing the 1km mark in 4 minutes (a pace that would be hard to maintain for many good runners!). The chasing was highly international, with Teodorico Caporaso of Italy, Aleksi Ojala of Finland, Irish athletes David Kenny, Cian McManamon and Brendan Boyce, and Leeds athlete Cameron Corbishley all fighting for the third-place spot.
After 15 minutes, Wilkinson had taken to the front, leaving Bosworth in second, but just a few steps behind. The chasing pack were still together and were working hard to catch the leading men, now less than 15 seconds behind. By the halfway point, Bosworth had caught Wilkinson once again and the men walked side by side, crossing the 10km mark in under 40 minutes. Bosworth held the lead through the 11km mark, but by the 15km point, Wilkinson had reclaimed the lead. Still just half a lap behind, the race was heating up in the battle for the Grand Prix bronze medal, with Caporaso, Ojala, Kenny, McManamon, Boyce and Corbishley all still within a chance of a podium finish.
Wilkinson maintained his lead over the final 5km, cruising home in a new PB and course record of 81:46. This time was also the fastest ever by a British Athlete on home soil! Bosworth stayed strong and crossed the line in second place 1:24:10. Both men did what they needed to do to secure themselves spots on the British team for the World Championships – so they will now be looking ahead to September!
Leeds student Corbishley finished 3rd in the British Athletics race, clocking a new PB of 84:42, which moves him to 14th on the UK All Time list, not bad for a guy who has already qualified for the 50km race walk at the World Championships. The multitalented Tom Partington, who was recently awarded the Leeds City College School of Sport Science and Exercise Student of the Year, finished in a highly respectable 4rd place in the British Athletics race, recording a huge PB of 1:32:27 to move to 4th on the British rankings this year. Wilkinson said, ‘This is my first national title and to win it in Leeds in front of my friends is extra special’.
In the women’s 20Km, Heather Lewis started quickly and established a strong lead ahead of Welsh compatriot Bethan Davies. The Welsh athletes went through 5km in 22:16 and 23:05 respectively, again faster than most can run. Erika Kelly of the Isle of Man was just behind in 3rd. Lewis passed the halfway mark in just under 47 minutes, with Davies less than a minute behind in clear second place. Erika Kelly was holding onto 3rd place at the 10km point, just ahead of Leeds-based Jasmine Nicholls in 4th, who was being supported by colleagues from the Leeds Brownlee Centre.
Lewis hung on to win the British Grand Prix and British Title, clocking just under 95 minutes, achieving a new PB and the 5th fastest ever time by a British Athlete. Davies took the silver medal, clocking a season’s best of 96 minutes. Kelly finished in 3rd place, retaining the England 20km title that she won last year. The silver medal in the English Championship race went to Nicholls, who finished in a new PB time of 1:53:36. Lewis said, ‘I am happy with the win and another personal best, but gutted not to have the time for Doha’.
To see how the Grand Prix features on Look North, visit here.
All photographs by Gemma Bridge.