Amy-Eloise Markovc finalises push for Tokyo at Wakefield Harriers’ Thornes Park

The athletics track at Thornes Park in Wakefield will play a crucial role in the Olympic aspirations of the region’s newest European champion this June.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 6:30 am
GOLDEN GIRL: Britains Amy-Eloise Markovc crosses the finish line to win the women's 3000m final at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Torun. Picture: AP/Czarek Sokolowski

Amy-Eloise Markovc will be pounding the synthetic rubber morning, noon and night in her quest to represent Great Britain in the long-distance running events at the Tokyo Olympics later in the summer.

Markovc’s bid has been emboldened by her accomplishments of the past month, when she broke the British record over two miles in New York before the crowning achievement of winning gold in the 3,000m at the European Indoor Championships in Poland last week.

Both accolades gave her a slice of Wakefield Harriers history; the first to break a British record and a maiden European champion in the club’s 126 years of existence.

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WONDER WOMAN: Amy-Eloise Markovc celebrates after winning women's 3000m gold at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Torun last week. Picture: AP/Darko Vojinovic.

The next ambition is to become the sixth Wakefield Harrier to make it to the Olympics, after steeplechaser Steve Hollings in 1972, 400m sprinter Alan Bell in 1980, 400m relay runners Alan Slack four years later and Emily Freeman in 2008, and high jumper Martyn Bernard in Beijing and London.

“Olympics – that’s why we all do it, right? I’m certainly going to be trying my best,” Markovc tells The Yorkshire Post via a Microsoft Teams call from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

For Markovc is no ordinary Wakefielder, though the club are enormously proud of her accomplishments, and she in turn is proud to call them her club. But this is an alliance of convenience.

Markovc was born Amy-Eloise Neale in Stockport 25 years ago and moved to America with her parents at the age of two.

LONG RUNNING RIVAL: Laura Muir is the big name of British long-distance running. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

Snohomish, a town named after a native America settlement and an hour north of Seattle, became her home and was where she fell in love with running at the age of six.

“Lots of athletes try other sports and then find their way into the sport they end up in,” she says. “But it was always running for me, even from a young age.”

She was good enough to earn a track and field scholarship to the nearby University of Washington, spending five years honing her skills.

In between times – “every Christmas and most summers” – the family would go back to where they were originally from in Nottinghamshire.

CROWNING GLORY: Gold medallist Britains Amy-Eloise Markovc celebrates winning the women's 3000 meters at the Poland European Indoor Athletics Championships in Torun. Picture: AP/Czarek Sokolowski.

So where’s the Wakefield link, I hear you ask?

Markovc (then Neale) would also spend time at her aunt’s in Wakefield, and it was during visits there that she was able to continue training at the purpose-built athletics facility at Thornes Park.

“Wakefield is where I’m based when I’m training for British events, so that’s why I joined Wakefield Harriers about four or five years ago,” says Markovc, who is married to a former Slovenian rower she met at the University of Washington.

“I joined after they changed the rules about being able to compete; you had to be part of a club and that’s when I joined the Harriers.”

So when she competes in Britain, Markovc wears the bib of the Harriers, as she will this summer at the British Championships and at the other trial events.

“That’s also one of the reasons I run for the Harriers because I’m usually training in Wakefield before those events,” says the 25-year-old.

“Because I’ll often be training at a different time, I’m not usually there when they’re holding a club session but I do try to keep up with how the squad is doing.

“It’s nice to hear that they’re proud of what I achieved last week. Assuming everything goes smoothly I’ll be back in England and at Wakefield for quite some time because there are three weeks between the 10k and the 5k trials in June and that’s where I’m going to be doing all of my work.”

Those three weeks could be key in either maintaining her form, or rebuilding it.

The 5,000m trials are scheduled for June 26-27 at the British Championships in Manchester, and are where Markovc’s priorities lie.

The Olympic qualifying standard is 15 minutes 10 seconds which she is just outside of. Laura Muir is the big name of British long-distance running and one of the favourites to claim one of the three spots, while another Scot, Elish McColgan will also provide a challenge.

“British running is blowing up at the moment. That’s really cool to see and getting into those top three spots is going to be extremely difficult,” admits Markovc.

Her back-up option is the 10,000m, the Olympic trials for which are at the beginning of June. The qualifying standard for that distance is 31 minutes 25 seconds, which she is at present outside of. “The 5k is the event I feel most confident about getting the standard in,” she says.

“We are also considering the 10k, because the trials are on a different date and it doesn’t make sense to pass up a racing opportunity.”

What she has achieved over the last month can only strengthen the belief that she can make it to Tokyo.

She is of an age and at a stage in her career where the Olympic postponement due to Covid actually served her well.

The uncertainty over when and where she was racing last year due to the Covid pandemic hampered her performances.

But the return to some kind of normality and an extra year of training has provided the structure she needed – and she is now thriving.

In Poland last weekend she won her heat convincingly then powered to victory in the final.

“It was a strong field, but I just wanted to run confidently and stand on the startline and be able to handle the experience well,” says Markovc, who stopped the clock in a personal best time of eight minutes 46.43 seconds.

“It can be difficult as a developing athlete when you’re thrown in on the big stage and there’s lots of pressure, so I tried to remove that pressure and just focus on the competing and not over-complicating matters, just trusting my instincts.

“That’s the main take-away for me, racing confidently and trusting my instincts. When I made a move it wasn’t necessarily a planned move like I’m going to move at 600, it was just I felt my legs had it and it was the right time.

“There’s that intuition that sometimes you can question, but this past weekend I just felt it and I went with it.

“Going forward I need to trust myself and bet on myself that I’m going to be able to hold the move.

“The conversation I had internally during the race was a real positive, a constructive internal dialogue. It’s one thing I’ve taken a note of, written a few things down and hopefully be able to take into my next race.

“It feels amazing to be European champion, it really reinforces all the hard work but it also makes me excited for what the rest of the year and the next few years hold.”

Hopefully many more titles, and the accolade of being the sixth athlete to represent Wakefield Harriers at an Olympic Games.

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