On athlete running race

Motivation

The Night of the 10,000m PB's: Q&A with On athlete Verity Ockenden

On Saturday 18th May all eyes will be on Parliament Hill Athletics Track for the 11th edition of the Night of the 10,000m PB’s. Dubbed the ‘Glastonbury of Athletics’, this unique event features live entertainment, lane 3 beer and cheer and of course, world class 10,000m running. This year it is made even more exciting as it will be the Great Britain Olympic Trial, in which the UK’s top 10,000m runners will battle it out over 25 laps for their spot on the Olympic team. 

The event is an On Track Night, a global series of track races created by the brand to showcase the world’s fastest runners in a festival-like environment. We caught up with Verity Ockenden, On athlete and European medallist, as she prepares to race at the weekend and reflects on her previous experiences of this special event.

Verity preparing for race

How would you rate your experiences of racing at Night of The 10Ks?

 

The 2017 edition was my first ever stab at a 10,000m on the track, and it got me hooked. In 2018 I couldn’t race it due to injury but I couldn’t bear to miss it completely so I went to spectate instead and it was brilliant. In 2019 I ran a chunky PB that I was really pleased with and what’s more is that it contributed to winning a team gold medal as part of the European Cup, so for now that remains my favourite experience of the race. I’ve more or less equalled that clocking every time I’ve raced there since in 2022 and 2023, so I’d say it’s about time I did something about that! 

 

Can you describe the feelings you get running 25 laps of the track for the elite female race?

 

One of my favourite feelings at Highgate is to be found during that liminal moment as we take our marks on the line. We’ve all trodden a long road to arrive at that line, and still it marks only the beginning of what is going to be an epic battle with ourselves and with each other. In that moment of anticipation, you can feel a really rewarding sense of acknowledgement from your competitors and the crowd alike. It makes you want to put on even more of a show for them, to be their gladiator. It’s a complete sensory overload of sound, sight and smell all layered on top of the intensity you’ll already be feeling physically and mentally, but somehow the chaos of it all distills your focus rather than distracting from it. There is no room left for thought, which during a 10,000m, is liberating. Of course, by the end of it you’re straining with everything you’ve got to close hard on tired legs, but you do get a sense of being carried on the wave of the crowd, and the final roar as you surge at the bell and down the last hundred is euphoric. Nothing else matters in that moment, you just enjoy it. 

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Race number before race

How do you manage the nerves of the build-up with so many people watching? Is this something you enjoy? What are your rituals for keeping the nerves at bay?

 

I’ll admit it is difficult to maintain a strict pre-race focus and routine in an environment such as Highgate. It’s physically impossible to avoid the hubbub so I think the best course of action is to embrace it. Factor in the extra time it will take you to say hello to the friends you will inevitably bump into, let yourself enjoy their presence and their energy, but be firm about sticking to your own schedule. I like to calm myself the night before with the same ritualistic evening tea that I always have at home, and distract myself during the day by painting my nails. This year a friend of mine has given me a colouring book to use instead which I’m looking forward to trying out. 

 

Do you have any particular highlights of the event? Anything that stands out to you that you haven't experience anywhere else?

 

Once I was Poet Laureate of the event. It was really special to have my creative side merge with my sport and have my poetry shared with so many people live while I was racing. There’s always a fun element of the unexpected at Highgate, be it poetry or flame-throwing, athletes winning their weight in beer by way of a see-saw, or being interviewed sweat’n’all whilst sat in a Lamborghini. Aside from that, I have always found it an inspiring environment because you’ll find all of your running royalty rubbing shoulders with everyone else. You could be standing right next to a legend of the sport without even realising it, spectating together. 

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Verity following race

What would you say to anyone who is considering entering into one of the races?

 

It’s a bucket list experience. Obviously this is an incredible opportunity to perform your best, but it’s more than that so just soak it all in. However well or badly it goes for you, it’ll always be a day that you’ll never forget and a story you’ll have fun telling for as long as you live.   

 

What is your plan for this year's race? What do you hope to achieve?

I’m coming into this year’s race with a lot more recent 10k road racing experience and 10k specific training and that gives me the confidence to push harder than ever on the track without so much fear of the wheels falling off. I believe I am ready to run my best 10,000m ever so I’m ready to go with the flow of the group and see where that lands me! 


Are you feeling inspired? Then join our SportsShoes Strava Run Club and become part of our inclusive community.
And for more inspirational tips to become stronger, better and happier, then check out our Motivation category. Because it’s no fun standing still.

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