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Whittaker: Just being in the same race as Bekele was special
PAUL Whittaker admitted it was a great experience to race alongside the great Kenenisa Bekele at the Olympic trials in Birmingham.
The current Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion was running over the longer distance as a guest at the UK trials in Birmingham, winning the race in 27m 02.59s – the third fastest time for the distance in the world this year.
And Whittaker, from Southend, said just being on the same track as the Ethiopian legend was a moment to savour.
“Even though us British guys were being lapped and being asked to pull out into lane two as the leaders went through, just watching Bekele go by was an amazing experience.
“He has got so much strength.”
Whittaker and the rest of the Brits were lapped twice by the leaders – but far from being disheartened, the 22-year-old said it has given him extra motivation.
“The first thing I did when I stepped off the track was to say to myself that in four years time I want to be running like that.
“Perhaps not quite 27m, but certainly faster and this was a great experience.”
The Chelmsford AC athlete admitted he probably went off a bit too quick and “died towards the end”.
Indeed, rough splits put Whittaker going through 5km in 14m 13s, which was inside his personal best for that distance.
He said: “I think I got dragged around and caught up in the moment.
“All the British guys did pretty much the same, it’s just that I probably died a bit earlier than they did!”
The first Brit home, Mike Skinner, finished in 29m 40s, with Whittaker back in 11th in 30m 38.11s.
“If I didn’t go off so hard I think I could have been right up there,” said Whittaker.
“I have been doing a lot of 5k training lately and knocked down my mileage and I think I’ve lost a bit of my strength because of that.”