British middle-distance duo attack records in different events at World Indoor Tour Final but enjoy the idea of a future head-to-head over neutral territory
Imagine Keely Hodgkinson versus Laura Muir over the neutral distance of 1000m. It will not happen this weekend as both athletes have records in their sights at the World Indoor Tour Final in Birmingham on Saturday with the stopwatch being their main opposition. Perhaps this mouth-watering head-to-head could happen in future, though.
If so, who would win? “Set it up and let’s find out!” said Hodgkinson, speaking to the media ahead of Saturday’s meeting.
“Keely would have me over 800m, definitely,” Muir said, “but then there’s that last 200m.”
Hodgkinson added: “It’d be interesting. I think races like that are quite fun. People who don’t really race each other much coming together over random distances are good.”
For now, however, the two athletes will go their separate ways this weekend. The crowd at the Utilita Arena will get two races for the price of one with Hodgkinson racing 800m and Muir tackling the 1000m.
Muir holds the British indoor record for 1000m with 2:31.93 but is after Maria Mutola’s world record of 2:30.94. “The last time I competed over the 1000m in Birmingham I got the British record so hopefully I’ll get another record this time,” she said.
“It’s a hard one and nasty to pace but I’ll have a go at it. It’s like running an 800m and then you keep going. It’s brutal and maybe the most painful of all distances I’ve raced over.”
Does she enjoy the pain? “I’m not sure I enjoy it as such,” she said. “The feeling afterwards when you’ve really nailed a race is nice. But it’s not exactly comfortable. It’s exciting to know what’s going to come after but it’s not necessarily nice at the time.”
Looking ahead to her race on Saturday afternoon, she added: “Hopefully I will have a couple of special initials on the board afterwards.”
Breaking a world record is, she says, one of half a dozen goals that she has targeted in 2023 with her coach Andy Young. Others include winning the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games, which she achieved earlier this month. Then there is winning gold at the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul next weekend.
She would love to make the podium again at the World Championships in Budapest this summer. “I’d love to upgrade that medal although it’s still going to be crazy competitive,” she said.
On other goals, she added: “This sounds like a strange one but I want to run a fast 5000m. I feel I can lop off about 20sec off my PB (14:49.12). All my PBs are pretty good but that one is bugging me and it needs to be revised pretty swiftly.”
Finally she is keen to consign Zola Budd’s long-standing UK mile record of 4:17.57 from 1985 to history. “It’s also been bugging me for a while and I’d like to remedy it,” she said. “It’s stood for 30-odd years and I had two goes at it in London and fallen short each time. But it depends if I can get into a mile race at the right time. I have a few British records but that’s the one that’s bugging me. I’m very much a ‘tick the list off’ kind of person.”
Hodgkinson is aiming to improve her own British indoor record of 1:57.20 and is making no secret of the fact she has Jolanda Ceplak’s world record of 1:55.82 in her sights. Coincidentally, Ceplak’s performance came on the same day Hodgkinson was born – March 3, 2002 – and the Olympic and world 800m silver medallist will turn 21 on that date in a few days’ time.
“It’s quite cool,” she said on the quirky statistic, whereas on the record she added: “I feel I’m in pretty good shape and if things go well then I could get close to it. But in the world record race there were two of them battling all the way to the line. I’ll give it my best shot, though. It’s a really hard record to break so I’ll just go out there and do my best.”
Hodgkinson’s last race was a 1:57.71 victory in Liévin but she was visibly disgruntled at the finish. “I was pissed off!” she admitted. “It was just a bit of a messy race but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
It is only two years since she enjoyed a big breakthrough to win the European indoor 800m title in Toruń and she believes she is a much better athlete now. “I’m a lot stronger now. I’m faster. I’ve got more experience,” she said.
READ MORE: Birmingham World Indoor Tour Final preview
On the slim chance that Muir’s description of the 1000m as “brutal” puts her off the idea of a head-to-head over that distance, then there is always the idea of racing world indoor 400m and 500m record-holder Femke Bol over 600m. “It would be a fun race,” said Hodgkinson, who chatted recently to the Dutch athlete about the idea of a clash over neutral territory.
More likely to happen, though, is Hodgkinson testing herself over 400m a little more in future with the goal of making the British 4x400m team at the Paris Olympics. She revealed in Birmingham, for example, that she plans to tackle that distance at the European Under-23 Championships in Finland this summer before trying to dethrone world and Olympic champion Athing Mu over 800m in Budapest.
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