This year has definitely been a unique one for Leeds race walker Tom Bosworth, but perhaps not in the most ideal of ways.
Despite kicking off his season with a Commonwealth Games silver medal in April, this blistering early start meant that the season “feels like it’s gone on forever” for the multiple British record-holder.
However, hard-earned victories at the British race-walking championships in Leeds and Birmingham and setting a new 3,000m world record in the Anniversary Games has given Bosworth a much-needed boost, as he aims to once again fight for international honours.
“It was tough just getting round the track (at the British Championships in Birmingham),” says Bosworth.
“But I think it showed that I’m still fit even though training hasn’t gone well and it’s been quite a struggle coming off the Gold Coast and China at the World Race Walking Cup.
“So this season feels like it’s gone on forever but we’re going in the right direction anyway.
It showed that I’m still fit even though training hasn’t gone well and it’s been quite a struggle coming off the Gold Coast and China at the World Race Walking Cup.Tom Bosworth
“Both British Championship races have been tough. I didn’t think much of them but I came away with the gold in Birmingham and won at Leeds in a much better time than I thought I’d do.
“So if I could get a good block in when I go training at altitude then I think everything will come back to the legs. It’s just taken a while after the Commonwealths.”
Recent years have seen the seven-time British champion having to worry about more than international competition, however, with talented British youngsters such as 2016 World Under-20 champion Callum Wilkinson becoming a major threat to Bosworth’s domestic dominance.
However, this is something that the Commonwealth silver medallist has known about for some time, regularly training in Leeds with the likes of Wilkinson and 21-year-old British international Cameron Corbishley, as they continue to close in on the 28-year-old.
“I thought maybe at the British Championships I wasn’t even going to win,” says Bosworth. “About halfway through, Callum was just behind me and I thought ‘crikey if he has another kick...’ because the heat was just sapping my legs.
“I’ve banged on about this for years that everyone’s coming through but when I was Callum’s age, I did the British 5,000m final and got something like 19.29, whereas Callum ran 19.17 this year, so we’re not far away from me finally not winning a British Champs any more.
“It’s surely going to make for more exciting races in the future. I want race-walking to grow and progress so now I’m just glad that there’s more than me.”
Also looking to kick on from her Commonwealth medal is Leeds-based Welsh athlete Bethan Davies, once again sweeping away all before her to remain No 1 in Britain.
Like Bosworth, the Commonwealth bronze medallist has placed a huge emphasis on inspiring the next generation of walkers, spearheading the strong sense of camaraderie amongst race-walkers in Britain.
“Race walking’s a really tight- knit community,” said Davies.
“Obviously, it’s a really different event, not everybody knows about it and not many people do it, so we always help each other out.
“The British 5,000m Championships are a really fantastic opportunity for some of the younger girls, because normally our distance at senior level is 20km but the races the younger ones do are a lot shorter.
“It was where I started; it was my first big race and it’s what got me where I am today, so it’s really important to support all the girls over the line regardless of the time.”
Growing the sport has, of course, been a huge aim for both Bosworth and Davies since rising to the top of the tree.
However, Davies’s own future soon looks set to go through a shake-up, with the 27-year-old aiming – quite literally – to go further in a sport that has recently opened up new possibilities for her.
“Eventually I’d like to do 50km,” says Davies. “I’m definitely a long distance girl but it’s only recently been ratified as a distance on the world stage.
“It’s always been something that I’ve really wanted to do but, obviously, these things take time, so maybe in a couple of years I’ll be able to do it, but we’ll just see how everything goes.”