This weekend, Manchester will play host the realisation of many Olympic dreams. At the same time, it will see the dreams of others broken, the goal for the year – or longer – falling short at the last hurdle. Yes, it is of course the British Championships which incorporate the Olympic trials.

There is no certainty on how things will go, given the current depth of middle and distance running in Britain. So let me run you through what it is at stake in the 800m, 1500m and 5000m.

In summary, three athletes can be selected per event. If an athlete finishes first or second, and has the Olympic standard, they are guaranteed selection. The third spot is discretionary; sometimes UKA simply select whoever finished third in the trials, sometimes they do not.

This year, some events are complicated (or otherwise) by the UKA Selection Policy guaranteeing a spot to any individual medallists from last year’s World Championships, provided they compete in an event this weekend. That means Keely Hodgkinson (800m), Josh Kerr (1500m) and Ben Pattison (800m) are guaranteed selection.

Women’s 800m

Olympic Q: 1:59.30

Athletes with Q: Keely Hodgkinson, Jemma Reekie, Phoebe Gill, Issy Boffey, Erin Wallace, Alex Bell, Laura Muir, Katie Snowden (8)

By virtue of her silver medal from Budapest, Keely Hodgkinson is guaranteed selection. She drops down to race over 400m this weekend.

It means that only two places remain for Paris. Put simply, it is top-two-or-nothing. In a way, it is a shame we will not see Keely in the field, which could be one of the strongest domestically in a long time. However, it also removes any possibility for subjectivity or controversy in the Olympics selection – something not uncommon particularly in the women’s 800m.

Seven other athletes have the standard, two (Katie Snowden and Laura Muir) are focusing on the 1500m, and one (Issy Boffey) is absent through injury. Four does not go into two.

Tokyo Olympic finalists Jemma Reekie and Alex Bell are two of the four. Although returning from a disappointing European Championships, Jemma has had a fine season to date. She has raced three times over 800m, clocking 1:57.45 (Eugene), 1:57.79 (Stockholm) and 1:58.42 (Doha). Only Keely has run faster this season. After finishing fourth in Tokyo, Jemma will undoubtedly be hoping to move onto the podium in Paris.

Photo: James Rhodes

Alex has raced more frequently. She did not make the final of the European Championships, but has a best this year of 1:59.55 and has historically got faster as the season progresses. She announced this will be her first British Championships, and a spot in Paris would be a fitting send off.

The biggest (and possibly most exciting) element is Phoebe Gill. It is likely not many knew of the 17-year-old this time last year, but certainly do now. She has raced just twice over the distance, in Belfast (1:57.86) and Manchester (1:58.08). The former is a European U18 Record and there are not enough superlatives to cover. Replicate those times and we are in for something special on Sunday afternoon. Fun fact – Phoebe was three years old when Alex first competed at the British Championships.

Photo: James Rhodes

Erin Wallace completes those with the Q. Erin ran it (1:59.19) in Manchester last month, a time that also saw her selected for the European Championships. She made it to the semi-finals, where she ran her sub-two of the year.

With sub-two runners Abbie Ives, Ellie Baker and Khai Mhlanga also due to compete, seven of the eight finalists could have PBs starting with 1:5X. Exciting!

Men’s 800m

Olympic Q: 1:44.70

Athletes with Q: Ben Pattison, Daniel Rowden, Max Burgin, Jake Wightman, Elliot Giles (5)

World Championship bronze medallist Ben Pattison is guaranteed a spot on the team. The men’s race over two laps is just as intriguing as the women’s, more so now with the withdrawal of Jake Wightman from the 1500m. His chances of qualifying in that event are now minimal (covered later), and the 800m may be his best bet of reaching Paris. He has the UK lead this year.

The biggest unknown is Max Burgin. Max’s talent is incredible, but so is his tendency for injury. He is due to open his season in Manchester, leaving quite an unknown. Previously he has opened with somewhat spectacular times, so we may well see something similar this weekend.

Photo: James Rhodes

Dan Rowden has withdrawn from recent competitions, but holds the standard (1:43.95 in Monaco last July). If he finishes in the top-two, he is guaranteed selection. The same can be said for Elliot Giles, who is putting his eggs in the 800m basket, having originally been entered for both this and the 1500m.

Plenty others could feature and will have their eye on the clock. They include Reece Sharman Newall, who improved his PB to 1:45.12 in Loughborough last week, Guy Learmonth in his final season, and Callum Dodds (1:44.76 this season).

Photo: James Rhodes

Josh Kerr also competes, but will almost certainly contest his favoured 1500m in Paris. A top-two finish, however, could lead to some interesting selection discussions on Monday.

Women’s 1500m

Olympic Q: 4:02.50

Athletes with Q: Laura Muir, Jemma Reekie, Melissa Courtney-Bryant, Katie Snowden, Georgia Bell, Revee Walcott-Nolan (6)

If there is any event where it hard to predict the podium, this is it. Of the six with the standard, Jemma Reekie is focusing on the 800m. Much like the other events, five does not go into three.

Is there a favourite? If there is, it is Laura Muir. She needs very little introduction, and the Tokyo silver medallist will be looking to reach the podium once more. She has raced over 1500m twice this season, winning the Stockholm Diamond League (3:57.99) and finishing third in Eugene (3:56.35), the fastest season opener of her career. Her most recent race, however, was a 2:03.49 800m in Nice, where she finished tenth.

Photo: James Rhodes

Georgia Bell is having a resurgence in her running career, and has improved her PB by almost six seconds this year. She’s finished fourth at the World Indoors, second at the European Championships and is getting closer to her first sub-four clocking. Revee Walcott Nolan is also close to that barrier, improving to 4:00.43 last week in Poland. She competed at the Tokyo Olympics and will be looking to do the same in Paris.

Katie Snowden and Melissa Courtney-Bryant have had slower starts to their seasons after impressive 2023s. Katie finished ninth at the European Championships in Rome, and has a season’s best of 4:00.24 from the Eugene Diamond League. Her highlight of 2023 was running 3:56.72 in Budapest. Melissa has raced three times so far this year, her fastest being 4:03.50 to win in Madrid last Friday.

Photo: James Rhodes

Sadly, Sarah McDonald has withdrawn after catching COVID.

Men’s 1500m

Olympic Q: 3:33.50

Athletes with Q: Josh Kerr, Jake Wightman, Neil Gourley, George Mills, Matt Stonier, Elliot Giles (6)

World Champion Josh Kerr is guaranteed selection, and races over 800m this weekend. Like the women’s 800m, it means only the top-two will be selected (provided they have the Q).

Matt Stonier is injured and will not compete, and Jake Wightman has a medical exemption due to a calf injury. In short, it means Neil Gourley, George Mills and Adam Fogg enter with the standard. If two of them are in the top-two, they are guaranteed selection – and there is no route for Jake.

One twist could be, should George finish top-two, he says he’d rather race over 5000m in Paris. He has the standard and could be given the third discretionary spot. Nothing is a given though, and his choice to race over 3.75 laps in Manchester may indicate this is his Parisian preference.

Neil ran an excellent 3:47.74 mile in Eugene last month, but will likely have been disappointed with his ninth place at the European Championships in Rome. Adam too had an eventful visit to the Italian capital, being caught up in the dramatic falls in his heat. He was advanced to the final but finished twelfth.