This weekend, some of Britain’s best athletes will be in Birmingham for the British Indoor Championships. As well as domestic titles up for grabs, there are places at next month’s World Indoor Championships at stake. With some intricacies to the qualification process for Glasgow, including wildcards and some likely absentees, James Rhodes previews the 800m and 1500m.

Birmingham Bound

For some, simply competing at this weekend’s British Indoor Championships is the highlight of the indoor season. The culmination of training and racing during recent weeks, a chance to race on a ‘big’ stage. For others national titles are at stake and, more importantly, spots at the World Indoor Championships waiting to be secured.

With those championships being held in Glasgow, it is a rare chance to experience a world-level event at home (especially if you’re Scottish). However, it is not an entirely simple-to-follow process. Restricted field sizes, wildcards and exemptions from competing this weekend combine with some athletes focusing on training for this summer’s Olympic Games.

This preview seeks to explain, event by event, what might happen and who is racing. In short, each country can field up to two athletes in each event. However, wildcards are available for winners of the World Indoor Tour. These athletes can compete in Glasgow in addition to this quota, meaning three athletes. For Great Britain, this is the case in the men’s 1500m (Neil Gourley) and women’s 800m (Keely Hodgkinson).

Women’s 800m

Heats 16:25 Saturday, Final 15:50 Sunday

Reigning Champion: Issy Boffey (2:03.72)

World Indoor Q: 2:00.80 (1:58.00 outdoors)

Athletes with World Indoor Q: Jemma Reekie and Issy Boffey

As winner of last year’s World Indoor Tour, Keely Hodgkinson has a wildcard for Glasgow and is absent this weekend. This means Great Britain can field three athletes, one being Keely. Two spots are therefore up for grabs in Birmingham, with the winner guaranteed selection if they have the standard.

Jemma Reekie and Issy Boffey are the only athletes competing this weekend with the Glasgow standard. Unless that changes before Sunday evening, both will likely be selected. Jemma has run 1:59.42 and 2:00.40 this month, both in France. Issy, meanwhile, has run 2:01.53 in Boston and 2:01.67 in France, finishing second in both races. She ran inside the 2:00.80 standard during last year’s indoor season, clocking 2:00.25.

Photo: James Rhodes

Closest to the standard in the field are Ellie Baker and Erin Wallace. The pair have run 2:01.94 and 2:02.69 respectively this season. If it is a fast race, which may well happen with Jemma in the field, both may look to chase the standard. That could certainly change the dynamics of selection.

We are guaranteed a near-new podium, with Issy the only finalist from 2023 competing this year. If you’re interested, Jenny Selman, Abbie Ives, Gemma Finch, Ella Greenway and Jill Cherry are all absent, with Jill contesting the 400m.

Men’s 800m

Heats 15:55 Saturday, Final 15:40 Sunday

Reigning Champion: Guy Learmonth (1:47.

World Indoor Q: 1:46.00 (1:44.00 outdoors)

Athletes with World Indoor Q: N/A

Four-time British Indoor Champion Guy Learmonth headlines the men’s 800m, and is the fastest by a considerable margin. In an interview with Fast Running last season he spoke of his desire of making a home World Indoor Championships. If he is to do so, he will need to run fast this weekend as he is yet to secure the 1:46.00 standard.

His season opener in Erfurt (1:46.80) was his fastest ever and providing a winning start to 2024. This was followed by a 1:47.84 in Lyon a week later, run with a considerably faster first 400m. A perfect race tactically and the standard is not impossible – but needs an indoor PB.

The composition of the rest of the six-person final is harder to predict. Eleven of the twelve fastest Brits this year are not competing, many studying Stateside. Jack Higgins has run inside 1:50 this year, and Tiarnan Crorken has also raced well. Callum Dodds may also feature after making great improvements last year.

British leader Yusuf Bizimana is midway through the collegiate season in the States and so is not in Birmingham. Ben Pattison and Max Burgin both ran the Glasgow standard outdoors last summer, but neither are racing indoors this year.

Women’s 1500m

Heats 18:52 Saturday, Final 15:30 Sunday

Reigning Champion: Ellie Baker (4:06.73)

World Indoor Q: 4:06.50 (4:00.00 outdoors)

Athletes with World Indoor Q: Georgia Bell, Revee Walcott-Nolan, Sarah McDonald and Ellie Leather

Of all the middle-distance events, the women’s 1500m is perhaps the most exciting. Four athletes have the standard, with two spots for Glasgow available. Put simply, four does not go into two. The fastest this season is Georgia Bell, who is having a standout year. Four races, four wins, including outright PBs over 1500m and 3000m. Having opened with a solo 4:10.74 in Sheffield in January, Georgia followed up with two impressive wins in Dortmund (4:03.54) and Stockholm (4:03.22). Those times put her fourth on the British all-time list indoors.

Photo: James Rhodes

Excitingly, Revee Walcott-Nolan finished just behind Georgia in Dortmund with 4:03.93. That is a significant indoor PB and less than a tenth outside her outdoor PB. Both were well inside the World Indoor standard, and looked to be favourites to make the team.

However, Sarah McDonald and Ellie Leather have joined the conversation this month. Sarah ran 4:05.52, an indoor PB, in Torun at the start of the month; her first PB since 2019 and periods of injury. After a journey that included near-retirement, it is great to see Sarah back at her best. Ellie, meanwhile, is another athlete having a breakthrough season. She took four seconds off her mile PB in New York in January and then a further five in Boston last Friday. Her time of 4:25.23 makes her the fifth fastest Brit indoors and serves as a World Indoor Q. Her 4:11.33 1500m PB, set outdoors in 2022, must be on borrowed time.

Photo: James Rhodes

Ellie has made the final of the last three British Championships outdoors, but has not raced in Birmingham for a while. Her last visit was at the 2015 Midland Championships, where she ran 2:19.04 for 800m as an U20. She has in fact raced in Birmingham, Alabama more than here. Perhaps not a surprise, given she is based Stateside as part of the Under Armour Mission Run Baltimore Distance team, as is Adam Fogg. More on him shortly.

Whatever happens, it will be an exciting race!

Men’s 1500m

Heats 18:34 Saturday, Final 15:20 Sunday

Reigning Champion: Neil Gourley (3:41.20)

World Indoor Q: 3:36.00 (3:32.00 outdoors)

Athletes with World Indoor Q: Adam Fogg and Callum Elson

Like the women’s 800m, the men’s 1500m is an event where we could potentially send three athletes to Glasgow. Neil Gourley has a wildcard after winning last year’s World Indoor Tour. However, the Scotsman recently suffered an injury in training forcing him to miss the Millrose Games. He is also absent this weekend, but has said he hopes to be able to compete in Glasgow for a home World Indoor Championships. This has no impact on wider selection for the British team.

Another Scot with a question mark over his participation is World Champion Josh Kerr. He has spoken multiple times in interviews of his wish to compete, but the desire to focus on the Olympics provides a pull away from Glasgow. After setting a World Indoor Best for two-miles at the Millrose Games, Josh said he would speak to coach Danny Mackey and confirm this week. His decision has yet to be made public.

This is important as it impacts upon selection. UKA’s policy says that, as an individual medallist in Budapest last year, he would automatically be selected alongside the winner of the British Championships, as long as the latter has the standard. It means, this weekend, it may well be win-or-bust.

Photo: James Rhodes

Callum Elson and Adam Fogg will be keen to find out before Sunday’s final, as the pair both hold the standard. In his (excellent) YouTube videos, Callum had spoken of his wish to run the World Indoor standard and qualify for Glasgow. The World Road Running Championship silver medallist succeeded with the first part last weekend in Boston, running 3:53.22 for the mile. That was a considerable improvement to his PB, and a near-four second improvement on his first outing of the year in France, itself an outright PB.

Adam had the race of his life at the Millrose Games, bravely sticking to Yared Nuguse, Hobbs Kessler and George Mills to run 3:49.62. He is only the fourth Brit to run under 3:50 indoors. Last year, American-based Adam finished sixth in the 3000m at these championships, his one and only appearance at the British Indoors.

Many with the World Indoor standard, including Jake Wightman, George Mills and Elliot Giles, are now focusing on the summer season.