Last night at TD Stadium, the London Runner Distance Club, supported by local officials and volunteers, hosted the 10th annual 1,500m Night. The meet featured a unique format of rotating between blocks of Men's and Women's races, progressing from slower to faster sections. The evening reached a fever pitch for the six High Performances sections, which started at 9:45pm and once again rotated between genders to provide equal billing. The meet offered free entry to local kids who may not otherwise have participated.
For the sixth year in a row, 1,500m Night received over 300 entries, with participants travelling to London from across Ontario, as well as Quebec, Nova Scotia, Michigan, Manitoba, and British Columbia. With 378 finishers, the evening was the 2nd largest 1,500m Night to date, boasting 63 men under 4:00 and 39 women under a comparable mark of 4:42.
A large number of Canadians have qualified to World Junior and World Youth Championships from 1,500m Night, and the 2018 edition was once again a crucial race for such athletes. Emerging youth runner Anna Workman of Kingston was just 1 second off the World Junior standard of 4:27.00. A Physi-Kult club member, Workman described the meet as "a really fun night that has great conditions for running fast. The atmosphere is energetic and each race is super competitive.”
Junior Haley Walker of the University of Toronto Track Club won the 2nd fastest section of the evening in 4:24.99, thanks in part to the help of 2012 overall winner and 2017 NCAA Champion Jaimie Phelan. Walker writes that she "always look(s) forward to racing at 1500m Night because it attracts a supportive crowd and great competition," adding that "the lively atmosphere pushed me through the last lap of my race to run World Junior Standard!" In the top Women's section, Walker's UTTC and soon to be World Junior teammate Jocelyn Chau improved her personal best to 4:16.99, moving her to the top of the Canadian Junior rankings for 2018.
On the Men's side, Charlie Dannatt of British Columbia ran a seasonal best of 3:47.16 to become the only Canadian to achieve World Junior standard. Dannatt described his first time racing 1,500m Night as "nothing but positive," noting the "unique and awesome vibe" of the meet and how it "was structured in a way that kept everyone that was there interested and excited for the races going further into the night." For those considering whether or not to participate in the future, the top-ranked Canadian Junior adds that he "would highly recommend it to other competitors who are chasing times as it is a fantastic event overall."
In the final women's race of the evening, Stephanie Aldea of the University of Windsor Athletics Club had what she describes as one of her best performances in years, winning over a strong field that included distinguished Canadian Kate van Burkirk and several accomplished american competitors. Aldea stayed poised throughout the race before producing a strong final lap that capped an excellent night of racing for the women's fields. Describing 1,500m Night as a "one of a kind" event, Aldea noted the special atmosphere created in part by running under the lights in the late evening.
With a competitor whose name is becoming synonymous with running a personal best at 1,500m Night, and event officials known for starting races precisely on time, many people in attendance expected that at 10:28pm on Saturday, June 16, 2018 Corey Bellemore would be on the final lap of the fastest 1,500m of his life. UWAC teammates Mitchell Paterson and Nick Falk performed admirably as pacers over the first two and a half minutes, before Bellemore took over leading the strong men's field. With emphatic support from those in attendance, Bellemore came tantalizingly close to his first sub-3:40 performance, finishing with a significant PB of 3:40.10. Rounding out the top-3 overall men were Jeffrey Tweedle of Harbour Track in 3:45.86 and Mostafa Elkurdy of Speed River in 3:46.73, both personal best performances.
Recapping the evening, Bellemore stated that "1500m night has been great to me...Conditions are always superb, the atmosphere is always fun and the meet organization is awesome. Seeing all the PB’s that take place throughout the night motivate me to get after it and go for one too. I look forward to having this Canadian twilight race on my schedule every year. Congrats to all the participants this year!"
Official meet photos (8pm onwards) by Matt Goodale photography and official meet videos by Maxine Gravina Media will be forthcoming; the 1,500m Night event page will be updated to indicate when these media have been posted.
The Forest City 5,000m - the final meet in the 2018 Runners' Choice London Distance Series - takes place on Monday, July 16th, and will feature both 800m and 5,000m races.
Photo (Matt Goodale): Bellemore winning the 2017 edition of 1,500m Night in a personal best time
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