The brutally quantifiable nature of athletic competition is both what makes the sport so popular and so difficult. Few events display this concept as comprehensively as the 10,000 metre event.
With the greatest amount of respect for all individuals entered in the 25 lap event, the sheer distance of the race immediately creates smaller races within the event itself, categorising those competing into a group of individuals capable of winning, and a group of individuals hoping to use the Zatopek:10 as a brilliant opportunity to run a personal best.
The men vying for a place in Australian distance running lore on Saturday evening include previous champions David McNeill (27:45) and Brett Robinson (28:45), with strong competition provided by Harry Summers (28:13), Liam Adams (28:11) and Brian Shrader (28:28).
With the absence of Collis Birmingham and Australian 10,000m record holder Ben St. Lawrence, Robinson remains likely to have his hands full with the competitive field.
McNeill is the lone athlete who rivals Robinson in the 5,000m stakes, holding a personal best of 13:18.60, in contrast to Robinson’s 13:18.96, with Robinson’s 5,000m personal best suggesting a certain amount of room is certainly available to be shaved off his 10,000m personal best.
The race is to be paced by youngster Luke Mathews to 3,000m, with reports that Sam McEntee will be in charge until 5,000m, if the desired 27:40 pace is laid down early on, look for the race to quickly slim down to the previously mentioned 5 men.
The quickest of the international competitors, Shrader has a strong distance running background, having competed collegiately for both the University of Oregon and the Northern Arizona University. The American’s moment in the sun came in 2014, as the then college student took a surprise win in the USA 12k Road Racing Championship, earning $20,000 whilst running a National Record of 34:11, which requires a rough split at 10km of 28:20.
Shrader’s “road course time” may come under pedantic fire from athletic purists due to minor elevation changes, the Saucony supported American will certainly be on the radar of the Australian competitors.
If the pace remains even after the midway point, look for drama between Adams, Robinson, Shrader and Summers, with McNeill posing a serious threat if fully fit. If the pace fizzes after 5,000m and a tactical affair ensues, this may favour Robinson’s 3:38 1500m credentials.