MarketAxess Tooting BMC, a grassroots athletics meet, sees records and world-class performances a year after the local track was saved from inexorable decline:
- Two BMC members and all-comers records.
- Four Olympians.
- Three fastest men’s 1500m times in history and 10 men under 3:38, versus eight who had done so at BMC meetings in previous 60 years.
- Third fastest women’s 800m in BMC history.
- 44 per cent of athletes achieve personal best times over 800m, 1500m and 5000m.
The British Milers Club, or BMC, is now 60 years old and is the parent of British middle-distance running. Throughout its lifetime, the BMC has hosted athletes from the UK and beyond, with a selection of athletics clubs across the country staging races under its name. On the night of 26 July, following a set of races in Tooting, southeast London, the BMC was a proud parent – witnessing one of the greatest nights in its history, which its president described as ‘sensational’.
With an £8,000 prize fund on offer courtesy of event sponsor MarketAxess https://www.marketaxess.com/, elite athletes, including four Olympians and stars of British and international middle-distance running, descended on Tooting Bec Athletics Track. The track, home to Herne Hill Harriers, was recently resurfaced with funding from Wandsworth Council after a successful grassroots campaign to save it from further decline. As part of this funding arrangement, Herne Hill Harriers were encouraged to host high-profile events. The British weather did its best to spoil this high-profile occasion. No one listened – almost all the entrants turned up and ran. This included athletes who had raced in a packed London Stadium three days earlier as part of the Diamond League, the pinnacle of international athletics outside the major championships.
As the rain fell, runners took to the track to race over 800m, 1500m and 5000m. A remarkable 44 per cent ran personal best times.
In the women’s 800m, Alex Bell, an Olympic finalist, defied non-selection for Great Britain’s World Championships team and ran 1:59.43. This was a BMC members record in a race with an incredibly strong field, with the eighth finisher recording the third quickest eight placing at a BMC event. After this demonstration of her world-class calibre, Bell went on to run the 2024 Olympics qualifying time in Birmingham at the weekend. She had a hell of a week.
Sam Tanner, a charismatic 22-year-old New Zealand Olympian, enjoyed a similarly successful few days in the UK. On Sunday, Tanner went straight from the London Stadium – where he had run 3:31 for the 1500m in the Diamond League – to Tooting, with accommodation provided by a Herne Hill Harrier. His stay in south London proved to be the ideal preparation for the men’s 1500m race at Tooting BMC. In an electric final 200m, Tanner pulled ahead of Great Britain’s Callum Elson to win in 3:35.15. It secured him not only the prize money, but also the BMC all-comers record ahead of two men who ran the second and third fastest 1500m times in BMC history. The race was also notable for having ten runners under 3:38, more than the BMC had seen in its sixty years.
The full results for all the races can be found here https://www.britishmilersclub.com/result/tooting-26-july-2023-results/. They include a 1:47 in the men’s 800m from rising British star and European U23 medallist Sam Reardon, and four women under 16 minutes in the 5000m, including the English national cross country champion Sarah Astin and three-time team GB Olympian Steph Twell.
The aim of the 2023 Tooting BMC was to build on a successful event in 2022, where two international athletes ran under 4 minutes in the men’s mile and Taryn Rawlings ran under 2 minutes in the women’s 800m. To say the least, the 2023 event raised the bar – and eyes now turn to 2024. A couple of years ago, none of this looked likely at Tooting Bec Athletics Track. How things change.