Brooks Proves to be Master of her own Destiny!
The landmarks of the Saxon town of Zittau, Germany are relatively few in number, with the most notable being several 15th Century churches, and a 20th Century ‘Flower Clock’ comprising some 5,000 plants at its heart. Yet this small German locale – with a population of a shade over 28,000 – proved to be the most significant landmark yet in the blossoming running career of Harborough AC’s Karen Brooks. Already having garnered County, Regional, and National titles on the track this season, Brooks was recently selected to don her first ever GB vest, and represent her country at the 18th European Veterans Track & Field Championships.
Zittau is a tripoint border town on the fronts between the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. And Brooks would take to the tarmac of it’s 4,500-capacity Weinau Park Stadion with a treble of her own in the offing. Over the course of five days, she would contest the 800m, 1500m and 5,000m; all in the Female Veteran 50 age bracket.
Just four weeks earlier, the National Championships – contested by all regional winners – saw Brooks take home the full set of medals, with Gold in the 800m, Silver in the 1500m, and Bronze in the 5,000m. Added to that was the fact that, over the course of the past 12 months, she had failed to finish outside the top three spots for any domestic race run over those three distances. However, whilst a certainly element of fate seemed to beckon, and optimism was very much the watchword for the trip to central Europe, there was little doubt that the standard would be another step up.
Day four of the Championships brought the opening race for Brooks, in the form of the 1500m. Contested as a straight final – with some 14 runners on the start line – the much revered metric mile distance would prove to be a dream debut. A rapid pace was laid down early on by the eventual winner – Heilig-Duventaester, of Germany – but Brooks stuck resolutely to the task in hand, heading the chasing group through consistent 80-second laps. As the pace began to take its toll on the field, she was able to show her characteristic strength, to lead the GB challenge home in a time of 5:19.56 – and secure the Bronze medal in the process! That time shaved 1.5s off her lifetime best, and also registered as a new Club Record in the HAC annuls.
Cast forward to day seven, and the spikes were laced once more, for the 800m heats. Drawn in the first eliminator, Brooks tailed her compatriot, Ruth Magill, all the way around the two-lap outing, clocking a CR-equalling 2:41.2 to qualify for the final – to be run two days hence – in the second-fastest time. In between 800m races, there was the small matter of the 12-and-a-half laps of the 5,000m (on day eight). Having recorded her fastest time for 26 months earlier in the season, Brooks went into this one with absolutely nothing to prove, or to lose. And an incredibly gutsy run saw her finish in seventh place, once again heading the British challenge, and besting her closest teammate by over 45 seconds.
And so to the penultimate day of the ten-day extravaganza, and the final of the 800m. And, despite not adding to her medal tally, the two-lap finale certainly saw Brooks offer forth a fitting note of departure, as she took two seconds off her previous PB, and five seconds off the time levelled in qualifying, clocking 2:36.45 for sixth place. That time was, of course, another Club Record, and also took her inside the top-20 of all-time in the UK rankings.
Always quick to play down her own achievements, Brooks has always preferred to let her legs do the talking. And the latest instalment of her athletics career has proven to be no exception.
Training partner and friend, Rick Brown, was far quicker to acknowledge the new ground broken, saying: “Everything that Karen has achieved this year is so thoroughly deserved, and is testament to the hard work she puts in. She had a couple of pretty serious injuries a few years ago, and things didn’t look great at that point. But since then, she’s looked after herself really well, and continues to go from strength to strength. Now, she’s running better than ever before, and still has another year or so in this age category to take things on again. To see her in a GB vest was quite emotional actually, but it’s no less than she deserves, and shows what hard work can get you – she’s a great example and role-model to all of us.”
No doubt partly-motivated by the likes of Brooks, five of the Club’s younger ranks competed in the recently-held ‘Stars of the Future’ meeting. Held at the pre-Olympic home of Team GB – Loughborough University – there was no shortage of inspiration to be found for the quintet, with several standout performances as evidence. Top billing has to go to Niamh Watson, whose 30.11s (seventh place) for the 200m, and 4.11m (fourth) for the Long Jump – both in the U13 Girls’ group – were new Club Records. Freya Tansey (U11 Girls) continued her fine debut campaign, with 13.52s for the 75m, and 2.73m for the Long Jump, while sister Alice also performed admirably in both the 800m (2:38.39, fifth place in her heat), and Long Jump (3.66m, 15th). Mollie Watson, meanwhile, contested those same two events, with 2:43.94 in the former, and 3.68m in the latter. As the sole male representative from the Club on the day, Roy Barber maintained his excellent form, with a time of 11.80s in his 100m heat (in the U20 Men). He then reduced this to 11.72s in the final, taking fifth spot.
On the same day, siblings Charlotte and Bethany Ellis – along with Charlie Blencowe and Dave Oram – donned Club colours at the Kettering Town Harriers Open. With a clocking of 27.8s, Bethany rewrote yet another Club Record in the U17 Girls’ 200m, before also recording a 2:24.4 in the 800m. Mimicking Bethany, Blencowe – in the U13 Boys’ – held a 31.1s for the 200m, and 2:54.5 for the 800m. Having watched her older sister, Charlotte – in the U13 Girls’ – then registered a 31.9s for the 200m, alongside 3.74m for the Long Jump, and 14.91m for the Javelin. Oram, restricting himself to just the single discipline, went out to a distance of 23.63m in the Hammer.
On the roads, the local Moulton 10km race saw three HAC members competing, in the shape of Tony Harrison, Ray Lack, and Natalie Ives. Having raced sparingly this year, Harrison produced an encouraging run, taking 80th place in 46:41. Lack was 171st (55:51), with Ives in 214th from the 257-strong field (62:13).
Rachael Hardman, meanwhile, chalked off number eight from her 12-in-12-in-2012 marathon challenge. At the Surrey-based Thames Meander 26.2 miler, she crossed the line well inside the top third of the 178 entrants. Her time of 3:56:44 gave her 52nd overall, and first in the FV35 age range. Next up for her, in just three weeks’ time, is the Farnham Pilgrim. And Yvonne Scarrott took first place in the FV45 category at the notoriously hilly Chesterfield Spire 10 miler.