Davies runs 5K scorcher despite ‘hating the track’

Helen Davies, in her Great Britain kit. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Helen Davies, in her Great Britain kit. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Helen Davies loves eating up the miles, on the roads, but she occasionally addresses her ‘hatred’ of the track, over the shorter distances.

Helen Davies, celebrating victory at the Brighton Marathon.

Helen Davies, celebrating victory at the Brighton Marathon. - Credit: Archant

Such was the case on Monday evening as Davies, Suffolk's leading lady, tackled a 5K race on the track - three months before she is set to embrace her first move into Ultra racing, with an appearance in a Great Britain vest at the IAU 50km World Championships.

The 39-year-old is relishing the chance to push herself beyond the more familiar marathon distance, at this world event in Brasov, Romania at the start of September, but closer to home she proved that she still has some electric pace over the shorter stuff, on her home track at Northgate, Ipswich.

Davies, a three-times winner of the Brighton Marathon, led home the field (including all the men) in the 'A' race at the 'JAFFA versus Pacers versus Stowmarket' track challenge.

In fact, despite her loathing for the track, she very nearly set a personal best for the distance.

Helen Davies after finishing third overall and first lady at last month's Woodbridge 10K. Picture: S

Helen Davies after finishing third overall and first lady at last month's Woodbridge 10K. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

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Davies clocked 16mins 25secs, just a couple of seconds adrift of her PB of 16:23, set on the roads at the Ipswich Twilight 5K in the summer of 2017.

Usually, an athlete will post quicker times on the track (flat, good surface) rather than on the roads (can be undulating and twisty), but not so Davies.

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"Track racing is not for me - I hate track running!" insisted Davies, who has run the marathon at two major Championships (Commonwealth Games and European Championships, both in 2010).

She continued: "But I sometimes like to run on the track. I think it's good for me, to do something that I find really hard, because then that makes the road running feel easier. That's why I force myself to occasionally race on the track.

"I wanted to treat it as a training session, because I didn't taper down.

"In fact, I ran around 40 miles in the previous couple of days, an 18-miler on Saturday and a four-miler that evening, followed by a 10-mile run on Sunday and a five on Monday morning.

"I had all that mileage in my legs, to make it feel hard in the evening. That's got to be good for me, and the plan was to run just under 16:30.

"Usually, I go off far too quickly in a track race, but I tried to run more sensibly this time, and I think I managed it better, with a 72-second final lap.

"It helped that I was pushed, because I was always like to try and finish in front of all the men," added Davies.

Based at Rushmere St Andrew, and coached by Clive Sparkes, Davies will have a couple more outings over the shorter distances before knuckling down to increase her training ahead of the 50K World Championships.

"I plan to run the Lord Mayor's 5K City Centre Classic in Norwich (July 6), which I prefer to the track, even though it has a brute of a hill," said Davies.

"I want to get close to 16:30, and the course suits me. I'll also run in the club's Ekiden Relay, before getting in some heavy mileage.

"I plan to run four or five miles in the evenings, after a long run earlier in the day, to get the tiredness out of my legs ahead of my long Sunday run."

It has already been a cracking 2019 for Davies, who celebrated a personal best time of 2hrs 34mins 06secs on her way to completing a hat-trick of Brighton Marathon titles in April. This eclipsed her previous best of 2:34:11, set at the London Marathon in 2012.

Three weeks ago, it was revealed that Davies had been selected to run for Great Britain at the 50K World Championships in a 10-strong British squad.

Meanwhile, several runners behind Davies, on the track at Northgate on Monday evening, benefited from her front-running presence to set personal best times.

Runner-up Andrew Southwood, of Saint Edmund Pacers, was one of these, staying in touch with Davies for most of the 5K distance to set a PB of 16:29.

Pacers club-mate Steve Quercia-Smale was third in 16:57, followed by Stowmarket Striders' Sam Burdett (16:58) and Ipswich JAFFA's Adam Wade (17:04). The JAFFA duo of Keith Tilley and Paul Wain were sixth and seventh, in the same 17:11 time.

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