Launch of Run Fast Birmingham
RUN-FAST BIRMINGHAM is a new initiative that supports a team of eight elite middle and long-distance runners based at Birmingham University. The launch of this new team took place alongside the second edition of Bud’s Run on Saturday afternoon.
The team is the brainchild of Run-Fast Sports Management Agency and marks the first time that a British university is partnering with a management agency for the purpose of establishing a more professional training environment for its elite athletes. The team will be sponsored by adidas and all eight team members are aiming for selection for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.
Peter McHugh, Managing Director of Run-Fast, says that the formation of the team is “an attempt to bridge the gap” in British distance running between athletes who receive WCPP funding from UK Sport and athletes aiming for international success with far lower levels of financial support. “Making that step-up to international level is never easy, and for many can be even harder without adequate support. By forming this team we hope to offer more support to athletes at a critical stage of their development and foster a more professional approach to their sport.”
Aged between 21 and 27, the eight athletes on the team represent a stock of rising talent. Five of the eight athletes have already won national titles; six have represented their country at international championships. All eight live and train at Birmingham University under the guidance of former international athlete Luke Gunn and renowned national endurance coach Bud Baldaro. In recent years Birmingham has come to be considered as one of Britain’s elite performance centres for middle and long-distance running.
The Run-Fast Birmingham team members are Jonathan Davies (handicap-5.2) aged 20; Ben Waterman (handicap -4.8) aged 22; Andrew Heyes (handicap -5.4) aged 25; Rich Peters (handicap -3.3 ) aged 25; Pippa Woolven (handicap 3.8) aged 22; Sara Treacy (handicap 0.0) aged 26; Alison Leonard (handicap -1.4) aged 25; and Julia Cooke (handicap -0.7) aged 27.
Speaking about the new team, Luke Gunn, Head of Athletics at Birmingham University, said: “Run-Fast Birmingham will make a real difference for our top athletes. Our programme is built around group training, so the formation of this new team will only strengthen this. Partnering with Run-Fast will increase the support we can offer to the athletes and help raise their sights towards achieving greater international success.”
This is a great boost for Blackburn Harrier – Alison Leonard who came to the Club as a 15yr old and came under the wing of Arthur Almond, the long time Middle Distance Coach for the Club. It was clear then that Alison had potential which can be seen by her record as a Junior where she had great success as can be seen from the following :
Domestic Championships Record as a Junior
2005 – 3rd AAA U17 Championships 800m
2006 – 1st ESAA Championships 800m, 1st AAA U17 Championships, 3rd AAA Indoor U17 Championships 800m, 3rd England Athletics U20 Open Championships 800m, 3rd AAA U20 Championships 800m
2007 – 3rd England Athletics U20 Championships 800m
2008 – 1st England Athletics U20 Open Championships 800m
2009 – 1st England U20 Championships 800m
Noteworthy performances as a Junior
2007 – 2nd World Youth Championships 800m
2008 – 4th World Junior Championships 800m
2009 – 4th European Junior Championships 800m
Alison – now in the Senior ranks – has won international 800m Races in Belgium this year, was selected to run for GB in the European Team Championships in Russia and, as well as winning the BUPA Westminster Mile, also ran the qualification time for the World Championships. She has taken the very courageous decision to go full time even though this has meant having to finance herself.
Currently placed 5th in the 800m National Rankings with a personal best time of 2.00.08, the Club is very confident that she has made the right decision and will go on to bigger and better things. Alison explained to the Club, what it means to her to be selected:
“I was invited to become part of the new Run Fast Birmingham group this autumn and was really keen to be involved with a group that fits with the way I see our sport; with a love for athletics and interest in athlete development at the heart of everything.
The transition from junior to senior especially when leaving university is difficult for many and Run Fast are hoping to support eight of us to take that step to the next level, by helping us get into races, securing us kit from Adidas and general support.
It’s also great to be part of a team with people I already know and love training with; I’ve known some of the team since I was a fresher at Birmingham in 2008.
I’m excited to see what this opportunity will bring especially in the build up to Rio next year; I need to give myself the best possible chance of making the team, and I think being part of Run Fast Birmingham is really going to boost my chances”.