Athletics: All eyes on Morris the Olympic upstart

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The Independent Online

Just over a month after she emerged in the public eye by winning an Olympic place at the London Marathon, Tracey Morris is preparing for another ordeal-by-media in tomorrow's BUPA Great Manchester Run.

Just over a month after she emerged in the public eye by winning an Olympic place at the London Marathon, Tracey Morris is preparing for another ordeal-by-media in tomorrow's BUPA Great Manchester Run.

The 36-year-old optician from Leeds became the main focus of attention in a race lacking the defending champion, Paula Radcliffe, finishing as the first British woman home in what was only her second marathon, and reducing her personal best by one hour, six minutes in the process.

"What Tracey Did Next" is a topic that is guaranteed to attract further widespread attention, but the woman who began the year as an unknown and unconsidered club runner is as ready as she can be for the forthcoming experience. Her preparations have been thorough for the Manchester race after five weeks without a run, but she admits her life since the marathon has been hectic.

"At times the attention on me was manic," said Morris. "But it has finally begun to die down and I'm just looking forward to getting back into running."

As if to confirm her surreal transformation, Morris yesterday found herself receiving advice from Kenya's legendary world marathon record holder, Paul Tergat, who will defend his title over 10km in Manchester.

Tergat told Morris: "Just run your own race and concentrate on what you need to do," before revealing that Manchester will be his final race before the Olympic marathon.

Morris will get a strong reality check in a women's race which will see Ethiopia's world 10,000 metres champion Berhane Adere defending her title, and also includes Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan, the 5,000m silver medallist in Sydney, and Margaret Okayo of Kenya, who won the 2004 London title.

Morris, whose 10km best is 33min 41sec, admitted she was still a novice at international level, adding: "There are some great names here, so I am just looking to enjoy the race." Her time is well short of the 31min 50sec Adere achieved 12 months ago, although Morris' London breakthrough suggests she will improve her time.

Morris also believes experiences in other big races will stand her in good stead. "I enjoyed the Great North Run and deliberately didn't look at the strong field, and so I will do the same with this race," she said. Morris' 13th place in the Tyneside race last September went unnoticed as Paula Radcliffe ran a world half-marathon record. She enjoyed being treated as an élite athlete, but never dreamed at the start that she would be wearing a Team GB vest alongside Radcliffe in Athens.

"I never believed that I was of international class, so there was no-one more surprised than me on the Sunday when I ran in London," she said, adding: "I had been invited to train with the GB squad, and that put a little pressure on me not to let myself down."

Tergat's main opposition looks likely to come from Australia's Craig Mottram, who won the mile at the recent Iffley Road meeting to mark the 50th anniversary of Roger Bannister's four-minute mile.

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