This is the sixth article on the Birmingham WIT Final, written by Stuart Weir. This feature is on the 1,500 meters. Stuart’s knowledge of the sport and relaxed manner with the athletes gives us, the readers, an amazing view of the sport.
There was an epic men’s 1500 meters race, billed as an attempt on the British record. Erik Sowinski, the designated pacemaker, did a magnificent job – aided by the track pace lights
Neil Gourley wins 1,500m in Birmingham WIT Final in 3:32.48 NR, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics
It was clear from early on that there would be a Scottish winner – but who? Josh Kerr went with the pace with Neil Gourley tucked in behind him. Kerr tired and Gourley took the lead and held it to the end getting just inside Kerr’s existing British record of 3:32.86. and if you want to be pedantic it was a double national record – British and Scottish – plus two more national records for the minor places. The final result was:
1 Neil Gourley 3:28.48 NR
2 Adel Mechaal (Spain) – 3:33.28 NR
3 Andrew Coscoran (Ireland) 3:33.49 NR
I spoke to Neil Gourley after the race on exactly the same spot where I had spoken to him a week ago – then as British champion, now as the British record holder. “‘British Champion, British record-holder’ – sounds pretty good. I think if you’d told me that at the beginning of the indoor season, I would have been pretty chuffed”.
Neil Gourley wins 1,500m in Birmingham WIT Final, photo by Getty Images / British Athletics
Neil told me the race had gone as he anticipated. He expected Josh Kerr to go out hard and that he would try to hang in there and hope he had something left. He was pleased that he seemed to get stronger as the race went on. He added: “That race was something else, I knew it was going to be quick. I knew I could run a time like this, but it was all about being able to execute it, and I’m glad I have finally been able to do that. I knew that I would be there or thereabouts for the British record. I was there and I was able to punch it hard for the last lap. Erik Sowinski did a great job of hitting the splits and of course, the wave light technology helps that and it was a case for me of biding my time and hoping I had enough left in the final 150 to take it from there.
With the GB Champs last week and the Europeans next week, it meant running three weeks running. Neil explained why he had taken the challenge on: “A massive part that was the winner this week gets a wild card into the World Indoors in Glasgow next year and if I’m honest that’s the main reason I’m here. The British record was something that was never guaranteed – that’s just icing on the cake – but I was trying to secure the automatic qualification”.
Neil Gourley takes the Birmingham WIT Final 1,500m, photo by Getty Images / British Athletics
But before that, there is the 2023 Europeans: “This new Birmingham track is quick, the surface is quick. The race today has set me up nicely for next week (European Indoors). I’m expecting it to be a similar race to this, it will be a case of seeing if I have the wheels at the end of the race to take the gold”.
Mechaal said that his aim in the race had been the Spanish record and that his performance gave him confidence going into Istanbul.