Vernon targets more medal success

The start of the Gosport Half Marathon race as James Baker, wearing 85, hits the front early on. Picture: Neil Marshall

Baker’s perfect timing with Gosport triumph

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Andy Vernon is taking his 2014 medal success in his stride as he targets more international glory.

The athlete, from Stubbington, has enjoyed a great 12 months since he was the first Brit to finish in his home race – the Great South Run – in 2013, taking fourth spot overall.

He went on to finish in sixth place in the final of the 5,000m at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

In that race he was hampered by less than ideal preparation, due to a hamstring problem in the build-up.

But Vernon showed his true quality when he secured a thrilling silver medal in the European Championships 10,000m in Zurich, beaten only by the great Mo Farah.

Vernon proved that was no one-off as he then added a brilliant bronze in the 5,000m, just four days later, to complete a memorable European double.

But he is not content with that, as he targets more medals on the international scene.

‘What I did this year, I thought I could do,’ said Vernon.

‘That was definitely my aim to go to the Europeans and try to pick up at least one medal.

‘I picked up two which was a bonus. I kind of thought “if things go well, I could get two” so it wasn’t totally unexpected.

‘You go straight back into racing afterwards, so you don’t get much time to enjoy it. After the 10,000m I was racing again four days later.

‘It sinks in pretty quickly. They are good medals but if they were Olympic medals it might take a little bit longer.

‘That’s what we train for. To go to championships.

‘You have got to get there in the best form you can and only three people go away with a medal.

‘To get yourself there is hard enough. Then you have got to do it on the track, so the medals are what we train for.

‘We’ve just got to pick up as many as we can along the way.’

Vernon, who was crowned The News sportsman of the year for 2013, was back in his home city at the Mountbatten Centre yesterday to support Go Run for Fun.

He helped mark a big occasion, with the campaign to get children aged five to 10 off the sofa and out running, going past the total of 40,000 runners since it started in 2013.

Hundreds of school children completed the one-mile event in Stamshaw.

Vernon was on hand to cheer them all on and helped with the warm up.

He joked: ‘It was a good warm-up. I might have to incorporate some of that into my pre-race routine.’

Vernon was delighted to be involved in Portsmouth where he started out on the road to success as a young runner.

He said: ‘There are hundreds of kids running.

‘Hopefully one of them might go on, even if it is not athletics.

‘It’s great if they get inspired to try harder at football, or try harder at cycling, or judo, or whatever they might do.

‘But it would be good to see people get into athletics.

‘It means a lot to me to give something back to the sport that has given me so much.

‘Money has been put in to build the foundations for youngsters to hopefully go on to win Olympic medals in their 20s and things like that.

‘We need to do more of it still.’