Saturday 21st February 2015 will be a date that will forever be embedded in my memory. It is the day I attended my first, proper athletics event, the Sainsbury’s Indoor GP at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena. It was a day I enjoyed wonderful hospitality whilst marveling at the pace and prowess of the likes of Kim Collins, Greg Rutherford and Nigel Levine. And it is the day I cheered, shook and literally screamed myself hoarse as the legendary Mo Farah broke the world record in the men’s 2 mile race. It was an unbelievable day.
Joe has been interested in Athletics since the Olympics in 2012. He became fairly obsessed with Mo Farah especially, and did the Mo-bot every time he saw him, on television, in newspapers, he even pointed him out on billboards. So the invitation to the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix was greatly appreciated and something to get very excited about. We arrived at the Barclaycard Arena early, as we were invited to have a special lunch in the VIP area. This proved to be gorgeous, with lots of variety (including a braised beef stroganoff which was just delicious.) There was a frisson of excitement when Matthew Hudson Smith appeared – smiling, chatting and posing for photographs ahead of collecting a very special award as British Athletics Young Athlete of the Year. Then it was time for the main event.
We were seated in the showdeck, which offered amazing views across the indoor arena. It was also the perfect place for seeing an off duty athlete, with Jason Gardner and Christine Ohuruogu both enjoying the action. There was a great mixture of track and field events happening – there is literally always something happening at these events, which was also being screened live on the BBC. The first really exciting moment came in the long jump, when Greg Rutherford appeared to enormous cheers. His first jumps were the only ones to go further than 8 metres, and he broke his personal best twice. It looked like he was going to win it comfortably, but then Chinese star Gao Xinglong jumped an enormous 8.12, this pushed Greg back into 2nd place and left him needing a huge jump to win. But how could we ever doubt Greg, his final jump of 8.17 was fabulous and lifted the whole crowd ecstatically to their feet. It was a great pointer to how the afternoon would go.
A fabulous female pole vault was slightly tarred when Britain’s Sally Peake had to retire, but no-one could question the exhilarating final contest between the eventual winner, Greece’s Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou and the Brazilian Fabiana Murer. Another real crowd pleaser was the men’s 400m which was won by Nigel Levine, with a time of 46.43. More British wins from the likes of Jenny Meadows, Seren Bundy-Davies and the awe-inspiring Katarina Johnson Thompson all added to this being a very special afternoon for British Athletics. And all this was before Mo had even entered the arena.
The 2 mile final was the final race of the afternoon, but before this, there was the drama of the 60 metres final. The always exciting Kim Collins was the expected winner, as you would expect from the fastest man in the world this year. But the tension levels were raised with unbelievable tension with two false starts that led to the disqualification of two of the field. On the third start, Collins won comfortably with a time of 6.50.
And then it was time for Mo. The minute he was spotted on the track for the warm-up the atmosphere just sizzled with excitement and anticipation for what was about to happen. Mo was cool, waving to the fans as he did a warm-up lap, and everyone was buzzing with what was about to happen (there was no ifs about it, Mo WAS going to break the record.) To say he smashed it would be an understatement, the 2nd mile was recorded as 3.59.5 – a sub 4 minute mile – something else I cannot actually believe I was there to see. It was one of the most memorable things I have ever seen, and Joe was totally ecstatic to see his hero in the flesh, performing so brilliantly. The absolute perfect end to a wonderful afternoon.
Our afternoon wasn’t quite over though. We were invited to a Q&A session with a host of athletes including Robbie Grabarz, Martin Rooney and the fabulous Jo Pavey were all answering questions in the VIP lounge to a packed audience. We couldn’t stay for the whole session – Joe was becoming tired, and I was feeling rather ill with the flu that put me in bed for all of Sunday, but loved the moment when Martin Rooney was called to the floor and Joe stood right in front of him and clapped – super cute and totally spontaneous.
We had the most wonderful day – the Sainsbury’s Indoor GP is a really exhilarating family experience. I can’t wait to go again.
*With thanks to Sainsbury’s and the Fast Track Agency for the invitation and all-round fabulous day. Sainsbury’s are a proud partner of British Athletics and are committed to using sport to inspire healthy lifestyles for all.