Rome Diamond League 2019 Overview

The Italian capital Rome played host to the fourth Diamond League meeting of 2019, last Thursday. More British superstars were challenging themselves early in the season and testing their recent block of training. Unfortunately the Brits had to settle for second place as the opposition outclassed them on the night. It is a reminder that the 2019 World Championships will be hard fought.

Asher-Smith Frustrated but Realistic

Despite beating double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson in last week’s Stockholm 200m race, the Jamaican got revenge in the 100m. Asher-Smith flew out of the blocks and was leading through halfway, but in the last 20-30m Thompson stayed composed and relaxed to win by 0.05 seconds.

Post-race, Asher-Smith reflected that she always aims to win races but this was her best start to any track season. After all, she has only produced sub-11-second performances five times and knows that she can still improve over the closing stages of the race. 

Muir Admits she can Run Faster

Unlike in Stockholm where Muir dominated the entire race, the 1500m field was much larger and more frantic from the start. Within the first 150m Muir had to hold off the pace to save herself from falling. This meant it took her longer to get to the front of the pack. By halfway she was in touching distance of the pair of Ethiopians, Dibaba and Tsegay. With 200m to go Muir took second place from Tsegay but could not overtake the current world indoor champion and current world record holder for 1500m.

Dibaba won by 2-3m but Muir should be proud – she was only a second behind her personal best. Post-race Muir admitted that she could run faster and that her training didn’t produce the results she feels she can. The important aspect is that the Scot has time to improve.

Pozzi Returns to Form 

Andrew Pozzi also had to accept second place, achieving a season’s best of 13.29 in the 110m hurdles. More impressive though is Pozzi’s admission of his mental health issues and the recent life-changing decision to move to the southern Italian city of Formia with legendary sprint coach Santiago Antunez.

His pursuit of greater success has meant he has only just begun his journey to reinvent his technique and speed.


It was a night to remember for the second-place finishers as USA’s Noah Lyles, accustomed to winning sprints, couldn’t quite overtake his compatriot Michael Norman at the line. However, at this stage of the season coming second is vital, if only to spur athletes on to win gold when the time comes.

Stockholm Diamond League 2019 Overview

The Swedish capital of Stockholm hosted the third Diamond League meeting of 2019 last Thursday. The windy and chilly conditions made the racing more challenging. But the quality field still shone considering it is so early in the track season.

Asher-Smith Triumphs Again

After her 200m victory in Doha (the first Diamond League meeting of 2019) British superstar Dina Asher-Smith produced another superb performance against more accomplished opponents. Asher-Smith was almost half a second faster than double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and over half a second faster than multiple world champion Dafne Schippers.

Although still early in the season, Asher-Smith’s confidence will be rising with that world-leading time. As she explained post-race she must be able to win come September at the World Championships, as “the rest of the world will be [in better shape]”. But, knowing she can beat her rivals, at any time of the season, could be the boost that she needs to continue her outstanding form.

Muir Returns with Style 

Despite her bronze medal at the Westminster Mile late in May, where she never dominated the race, Laura Muir reverted to her front-running in the 1500m race. She stayed patient behind the pacemaker for half the race. Then with one lap to go Muir accelerated and won comfortably by over four seconds.

Muir’s training at altitude in St. Moritz, Switzerland, has already pleased the Scot. But as she mentioned in a recent interview she will need to remain smart with how she selects her races leading up to the World Championships in Doha. After all, she aims to win her first world outdoor track medal of her already impressive career.

McColgan Races Hard Despite Personal Challenges

Eilish McColgan returned to racing at 5000m after “feeling healthy again” and “a runner”. She ran strong throughout the 12.5 laps of the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, maintaining a quick cadence until the line. She finished seventh and was the first Brit home, beating some notable names such as Yasemin Can, Alina Reh and Anna Emilie Møller.

Most impressive is that McColgan demonstrated professionalism and courage. This, all in the aftermath of the shocking burglary of her precious medals from her property in Manchester.

Famous Contributions of Sir R Bannister

Twin Tracks: The Autobiography (2014) by Roger Bannister


Born in 1929, Roger Bannister grew up in Harrow, Bath and Hampstead, winning numerous races from half-mile to cross country distances in his teenage years. He later competed for Oxford, whilst studying medicine, where he would meet other top British runners.

His race reports are fascinating insights into a professional and humble man. He sheds light on his rising journey to become an Olympic medallist, only to finish fourth in a dramatic race at the Helsinki Games in 1952. This was due to exhaustion from running the 1500m heat and semi-final in the two consecutive days leading up to the final.

However, his determination to overcome the damning press and realise his potential meant he continued to train smart towards new, but no less ambitious, goals. During his time winning four AAA (British) Championships in four years, and breaking the British record for the mile, he set his sights on breaking the four-minute mile, a feat the Australian John Landy was also close to achieving.

On 6 May 1954 at the age of 25 he did just that, using his two best friends Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway to pace him at different stages along the four laps of the Iffley Road Track at Oxford University. He ran the first and last lap in under 60 seconds each, and finished in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. Significant factors contributed to his success, despite the abnormally windy day:

  • 5 rest days beforehand.

  • Lighter shoes than he was used to.

  • Ability to relax at the crucial moments of the run.

  • Willingness to wait for weather conditions to improve.

  • Positive encouragement from his friends, the crowd and one-time coach Franz Stampfl.

Then he beat Landy in the 1 mile race at the Commonwealth Games of 1954 in Vancouver with a lifetime best of 3:58.8. Bannister ended his impressive career by winning the 1500m gold medal at the European Championships in Switzerland in another lifetime best and championship record of 3:43.8.

In his book he reflects on his achievements during his decade-long running career

  • Genetics played a role in his development as a runner; he reached six foot in height and possessed strengthened legs that were naturally long in comparison to his torso. His father was also a strong runner at school.

  • Specific training with single aims that balanced well with work, family and social commitments. His training was refined over many years that consisted of either 25 miles per week, or 4-5 sessions of 40 minutes per week, incorporating a lot of fartlek and interval training.

His advice to readers to improve their running is intriguing and pragmatic:

  • Run with friends to make the hard work of training more enjoyable.

  • Find a knowledgeable coach that inspires.

  • Experiment with training but also play to strengths.

  • Learn to harness natural instincts of pacing.

But it is Bannister’s position as consultant neurologist at two major hospitals in London, and as senior advisor to organisations, such as the Sports Council and the International Council of Sport and Physical Education, that warrant even greater admiration. His work paved the way for greater funding and provision of superb sporting facilities that support greater participation at every ability level. The various honours he has received are a token of his life’s extraordinary contribution.