10000 gold for Italy

Nadia Battocletti ran a national record 30:51.32 for the host country in front of her president. Second was Diane Van Es (Netherlands 30:57.24), with Britain’s Megan Keith third in 31:04.77. There were 33 athletes in the race – too many and of too varied a quality.  The race started with a recall – a faulty start rather than an athlete trying to gain a hundredth of a second advantage in a half-hour race.  It added to the drama.  There was also the inconvenience for the high jumpers, as the 10k ladies kept wanting to run across their run-up area.

Silver medalist Diane Van Es battling in the 10,000m, photo from European Athletics via Getty Images

By the end of the second lap, a group of nine had broken away, half-way reduced to six. Just after halfway, the leaders started to lap the rest of the field.  In the men’s 10k, there was a B race as well as the main race. I would have preferred to see that in the women’s rather than having athletes lap and finish 3 and 4 minutes behind the winner.  Seeing five PRs among the top eight at the other end of the race was great.

The winner commented: “I experienced another magical evening: this is truly a wonder. I really enjoyed myself; that is what I wanted to do. In my career, I have only had one high-level race at this distance, last July in London; I never would have expected something like this. I think I have made another leap in quality these past few days, and today’s race proves it. I can’t believe I have won two gold medals at the Championships. Breaking another Italian record in a night like this is something very important: it was another of my goals, as well. But, amazingly, I did it in front of such amazing crows. I had three exams this week. The first was an exam in Wood Architecture at the University of Trento, which I attended just the day before leaving for Rome. Then these two races: I passed them all with great results!”

Nadia Battocletti completes the 5k/10k double in Roma 2024, photo by European Athletics via Getty Images.

Three British athletes were in the race, and in the early stages, all three were together in the leading group. Sadly, Eilish McColgan and Jess Warner-Judd dropped out first. Megan Keith’s magnificent performance in what was only her third 10K race was remarkable. She placed third in Europe, and afterward, she bragged about herself for not being more aggressive!

Megan commented: “I’m really happy. I knew Nadia (Battocletti) was always going to be difficult to beat, but I gave it a shot, and I’m just really happy to have come away with a bronze medal tonight. I felt comfortable, perhaps in hindsight, a bit too cozy with 1500m to go because I knew the last lap was never going to be my strength. When I went to the front, I probably should have committed harder to it, but I also knew those girls had a kick. My thing is grinding out the laps. I shot a new tactic – going to the front – because I knew a medal was secure with a kilometer to go. I’m happy I tried it, and I know what works for me next time and what doesn’t.

Megan Keith, ESPOO 2023, photo by European Athletics

“I had never done a 10k before this year, so all the progress has been in the last few months. I feel like a different runner than the one at the World Championships last summer. I was on this new stage that I’ve never run on before, but I took it on tonight, and I’m happy to feel more at home on a stage like that.” She has already been selected for Paris in the 10K.

After a brilliant 2022, little has gone right for Eilish McColgan. She was in the leading group for the first half of the race but ultimately had to drop out. Showing her usual character and grace, she still stopped to talk to me and explain what had happened to her supporters, saying: “Obviously, I’m very disappointed today. It’s no secret that I’ve had a really disrupted build-up coming into this event.

The thrill of victory, Eilish McColgan, 10,000m, CG 2022, photo by Scottish Athletics

“Honestly, the last 3 or 4 weeks of training have been really good. I did feel like I could come here and be relatively competitive, get into the top 5, and finish the race with my whole body feeling good and wearing a pair of spikes for 10k – that would be the plan. To be honest, to drop out, I was absolutely gutted, but there was nothing there. I knew straight away that, going through 5k, I was going to struggle to keep going. I got to halfway and thought I’m in trouble today, I even felt a little bit dizzy toward the end”.

She really needed a solid performance in Rome to prove – to herself and the GB selectors – that she was ready for Paris.  As she put it, “I’ve got a couple of weeks now to get myself in a strong position to be picked.”