In a celebration of distance running in it’s rawest and truest form, the Hercules Wimbledon 5000m Festival pits some of the very best speedsters in the south against each other.

With a barbecue and beer on offer and a carnival atmosphere in tow, along with the opportunity to bag a fabulous 5k PB, it’s easy to see why the event has many high quality runners wanting to get involved.

This year’s crop of candidates included a couple of Bournemouth AC‘s best track stars in the shape of Rob McTaggart and Oliver James. Although they would be up against a high class field, Tag and Ollie were certainly more than capable of shining in any environment when in top form.

It was actually the event that Tag had ran his fastest ever 5000m in when he recorded a 14:58 back in 2017 and that was the only time he’d ever gone under 15 minutes. To do that though, he’d have to run well under 5 minute mile pace for the entire race and since he’d been marathon training and clocking a high mileage over the past month, he hadn’t really been going at that sort of pace.

He had managed a 15:11 at the MK5000 PB Special the previous month though so he knew he was still in good form and well capable of hitting his top gear. He also ran the 3000m that day as well, completing that in 9 minutes 10 seconds.

Ollie had been in sensational form and had recorded some terrific results of late. The previous month he’d finished 3rd in the 2000m Steeple Chase at the English Schools Championship in a magnificent time of 6:04.72. Then in June he finished 2nd in the 2000m Steeple Chase at the South-West Schools Track & Field Championship in Exeter, recording a time of 6:05.25. And that was the weekend after he’d won the Dorset Schools County Championships 2000m Steeple Chase at Kings Park in 6:09.9.

Now it was going to be interesting to see what sort of time he could produce in a flat 5000m, where the distance was slightly further but he didn’t have to worry about jumping any barriers or water features.

At the Hercules Wimbledon 5000m Festival, the races were seeded according to previous times that the athletes had registered. So they should theoretically have ended up racing against opponents of a similar ability. And the races were ordered from slowest to fastest. That meant everyone had the potential chance of winning their race and anyone could end up finishing last. It was likely to be contested over small margins.

Tag and Ollie were both featuring in the fifth race out of six, so that speaks volumes in itself about the kind of levels they are operating at. Right near the very top. That meant of course they’d be surrounded by other very fast runners but it could also spur them onto a better time. It could help bring the best out of them. And that was exactly what happened.

The Bournemouth AC pair were pretty close to each other throughout the race and Tag clocked his first kilometre at about 2:58. He then went on to reach the second kilometre and 5:54 before hitting the third in 8:57. It was going really well at that point but would he have the strength to hold on over the last couple of kilometres? And would Ollie be able to stay with this ferocious pace?

Reaching the fourth kilometre at around 11:59, it was now just 1k left to go. Hearing the bell at 13:47, it was was just one final push to the line. Putting in a good strong finish, Tag powered down the home straight to stop the clock at 14:55.62. That was enough to put him in 7th place in a field of 19 runners and most importantly, it was an incredible new PB for the distance.

Lurking not too far behind him was the flame haired figure of Ollie James who was putting in the performance of his life. He was keeping Tag worried down the finishing straight and he went over the line around four seconds later. That meant an anxious wait for Ollie to find out if he had indeed gone under 15 minutes.

It turned out he had and Ollie was delighted to find his official time had been clocked at 14:59:64 which was a truly phenomenal result. That put him in 11th place and it was a real moment to savour for Ollie.

Rob McTaggart and Ollie James motoring round at the 5000m Festival

Rob McTaggart and Ollie James rose to the occasion and found their top gears

The winner of the race was Sam Hodgson of Windsor Slough Eaton & Hounslow and he made it to the line in 14:40. That was enough to fend off competition from Charlie Haywood of Highgate who got round in 14:49 and Tom Foster of Guildford & Godalming who finished in 14:50.

In the final race which featured all the top seeded runners, Ned Potter of Chichester narrowly edged it in a time of 14:10.22 from Andy Coley-Maud who came in at 14:10.73.

It was a tremendous day for Tag and Ollie though they both came away from it knowing they had achieved something spectacular. In fact, Ollie joked afterwards that he’d now completed running so he may as well retire!!

Thankfully that didn’t happen though and he was back in action the following weekend at the Welsh Athletics Junior Championship in Newport where he was victorious in the 2000m Steeple Chase recording a time of 6:14.22.