Double English National Cross Country Champion Keith Gerrard admits he is very excited by the prospect of representing the Isle of Man at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and perhaps putting athletics on the map for the Island, after so much success for the cyclists.
Sunday 10 March marks 500 days until the start of the Games in Glasgow, and back in 2002 when Manchester hosted the Commonwealth Games, athletics wasn’t at the forefront of Keith’s mind although he recalls Paula Radcliffe winning in the stadium.
The Manx athlete, now 26 remembers the turning point that made him realise his talent for running, when he placed second amongst the Isle of Man athletes at the Easter Festival of Running on Good Friday. The athlete who beat him, Andy Fox became his coach and his love for football started to fade away at the age of 15.
“I always knew I was quite good at running at school, but wasn’t really mature enough to realise that I could take up athletics more seriously. I guess I just followed the crowd and enjoyed playing Sunday league football. When I entered the local road race and beat most of the Island’s best runners it was definitely a defining moment.
“When I was invited to train down at the athletics club, I started to improve quite quickly and was bitten very quickly by the running bug.”
Having benefitted from his decision to study and train in the USA at the University of New Mexico from 2009 until 2011, Keith now trains for extended blocks of time in Albuquerque when he gets the opportunity. Next week, he travels back for a couple of months intense training leading into his track season. His performance at the Payton Jordan Invitational Meeting, in California on 28 April will pretty much dictate the rest of his season, with a very tough qualification standard for the IAAF World Championships later this year.
“The goal for this year is to get myself to the next level for 10,000m and then perhaps run another half marathon in the autumn. The transition from juniors to seniors has been difficult, but I have stuck to my task and now I’m really enjoying racing again.”
Looking ahead to the prospect of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, he added:
“It has been in the back of my mind for a while, ever since Glasgow was announced as hosts for the Games. But as an athlete you have to keep your eye on one event at a time, and you don’t want to look too far ahead.
“I haven’t done a Commonwealth Games yet, and I think it could be really good for me. I would have loved to go to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, but it clashed with my studies at University in the USA and I had a racing programme and exams at the time.
“Now I am four years older and stronger, hopefully I will handle the experience even better. I am pretty excited; it is about as close to a home games as you can get for me! My focus will be on the 5,00m and 10,000m, I’m not sure which, we will decide nearer to the time. In fact, I don’t think it has really sunk in, how incredible it could be for me to represent the Isle of Man.”
Reflecting on the new Isle of Man Sporting Excellence programme launched on the Island last year, sponsored by SMP Partners, Microgaming and Creechurch Capital, Keith added:
“It is brilliant to get the Island’s best athletes of all ages together, and address different topics and keep people motivated. You never stop learning, and for me I wish I could have had the opportunities presented by the programme when I was getting started at the age of 16 or 17. The information is quite new to some people and writing down and assessing your goals for example gives you added motivation and direction.”