Beth Potter exclusive: ‘The shoes help but all athletes have access – it’s an equal playing field’

In four “absolutely mad” days since Scottish triathlete Beth Potter catapulted herself to global renown by running five kilometres in a time quicker than the official world record, everyone in athletics seems to have voiced an opinion on both her feat and her feet.

So what is her verdict? Does Potter believe she would have surpassed the world-record time at a low-key road race in Barrowford, Lancashire, on Saturday if she had not been wearing Asics’ newly released, revolutionary MetaSpeed Sky shoes?

“I don’t know,” she said, dismissively. “The only way to find out is to go and run another 5km with non-carbon shoes and see what I run.”

It is something she has no reason to do. Any time Potter, 29, stands on a start line, every one of her rivals is wearing the latest breed of ‘super shoe’ – a technological mesh of carbon-fibre plate with thick hyper-responsive foam proven to increase energy return – so naturally she will do the same.

Do the shoes help? “Of course,” she admitted. But she does not want them to detract from the work she put in for years before completing a distance familiar to millions at their weekly parkrun in just 14 minutes and 41 seconds.

“ “I find it a bit hurtful when someone says I’m not capable of a world record. It’s been quite hard seeing negative comments,” she told Telegraph Sport. “I train really hard. Obviously the shoes help but all athletes now have access to the same level of shoe so it’s an equal playing field. And you can’t just put them on and run 14.41.

“I do 25 to 30 hours of training a week and I have done for four years. The shoes help, but everyone has access to them. You have to work hard and be talented. Technology moves on.”

Incredibly, Potter only decided to enter the race to see how she would fare “off the back of a challenging week” that had already seen her triumph at an indoor triathlon event in London just a few days earlier. She has also scaled back her run-specific training this year, increasing her bike and swim sessions while reducing her running sessions to four per week.

With a previous 5km personal best of 15.24, she says she “would have been over the moon” to take 10 seconds or so off that time and could not believe how fast she was running during Saturday’s race.

“I was convinced that the guy giving out split times was at the wrong marker,” she said. “All the split times were a number lower than I expected – eight minutes when it should have been nine – so I was like: ‘What is going on here? This is mental’.

“Entering the final lap I knew I had about one kilometre to go and the clock said 11.30-something. I thought they just hadn’t started the clock at the right time.

“I’m still shocked. It is a time I never thought I would be capable of. It was not on my radar.”

So much so that few of the necessary protocols were in place to ensure her time will go down in the record books. Some hasty post-race phone calls ensured Potter was drug tested within 24 hours of the race, which should ensure she officially claims the British record having run 10 seconds quicker than Paula Radcliffe’s mark.

Despite also breaking Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech’s world record by two seconds, that accolade seems less likely due to more stringent World Athletics criteria requiring drugs testers and senior timekeepers on site. Race organisers are investigating whether it can be ratified, but Potter said: “I still ran it and no one can take that away from me.”

Her feat has naturally prompted questions about what the future holds. A former track runner, who contested the 10,000m at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, she has been totally unfunded since switching to triathlon four years ago and still tutors school pupils in physics and maths five times a week for income.

Her dream of representing Britain at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics appeared to have been dashed when the triathlon team was named without her last year based on performances in the 2019 season.

It was a decision that still hurts, perhaps even more so now she has proven herself to be in the form of her life.

“With someone like me I am on an exponential curve,” she said. “I’m new to the sport and learn so much year after year. I’m gutted to be honest.

“I wish the team could be picked this year with in-form athletes. I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s frustrating.

“The track is an option but it’s a bit all over the place. I don’t think I’d want to go for the 5,000m. I think I’d be better over the 10,000m. To be honest, I just don’t know what I want to do. I really want to go to the Olympics and don’t want that opportunity to slip away.”

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