from UK Athletics


20 April 2004 11:52

Morris a Major Inspiration

Surprise Olympian Tracey Morris will spark a new running boom that will accelerate the improvement in UK endurance performances.

That’s the belief of the man who got her into the Flora London Marathon, Bud Baldaro, coach to the National Marathon Squad run by UK Athletics.

Baldaro, who obtained an elite entry for 36-year-old Morris after her application to be among the 33,000 runners missed out on the ballot, talked today of “the fantastic message” she sent out by clocking a time of 2 hours 33 minutes 52 seconds, 75 minutes faster than her previous effort over the 26.2 miles and quick enough to earn her a place in the GB Team for the Olympic marathon alongside World record holder Paula Radcliffe.

As Morris returned to work as an optician in Leeds, Baldaro broke off planning the next National Marathon Squad training weekend in Manchester next month to gaze into his crystal ball and predict: “There must be literally hundreds of people out there who have got latent talent like Tracey.

“It’s too simple to say she has come from jogging to reach the Olympics because she is obviously a very talented athlete with all the determination in the world – but it’s an inspiring story because she has come through in her mid 30s.

“Tracey is athletically very young in that she has only been training to a serious degree for 18 months. Great things are still to come. I am sure that she will run sub-2:30 – though not necessarily in the heat of Athens – which is an extremely high-class time even though Paula has tended to diminish the efforts of everyone else by taking times to a totally different level.

“But Tracey could serve as a beacon for masses of runners – male as well as female – in much the same way that Paula has spurred our full-time athletes to greater efforts. Whereas Paula’s training is ferocious, Tracey has done it off a relatively light mileage; a maximum of 86 miles a week.

“She has succeeded by joining what is in effect a jogging club – Valley Striders in Yorkshire – and the basic advice I would give her as she begins to prepare for Athens is to definitely not change what she is doing. If she starts to up her mileage dramatically now, she would risk all sorts of injury problems.

“She can use the Olympic Games as a great learning experience and then have three or four very exciting years exploring how far she can go in this sport – making a Welsh vest at the 2006 Commonwealth Games her next target.”

And Baldaro’s advice for the masses tempted to get on the streets and chase similar glory? “Seriously consider joining a club for support and advice. You needn’t feel intimidated. When Tracey first went to Valley Striders, she was worried she wouldn’t be able to keep up on training runs. They have given her the coaching and racing structure that’s got her to the Olympic Games. Now – the exciting question is, how many more out there want to emulate her?”

N.B. Valley Striders Jogging Club will be replying to some of these comments shortly