Cleadon’s Sarah McDonald seized her moment and ran a personal best when it really mattered at the World Championships in London last night.
McDonald finished third – outside the selection places – at the team trials and only made the squad when team-mate and medal contender Laura Muir was awarded a wildcard spot.
But with a vocal and partisan crowd behind her, McDonald ran a 4min 5.48sec personal best to make today’s 1,500m semi-finals as the sixth of six fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
“That was a bit of a nervous wait, but I’m just so relieved to get through, I felt I was going fast but it was a great feeling to look up and see a PB and know I’ll get another chance,” said McDonald.
“I just wanted to run as hard as I could, put everything out there and hold nothing back. I can’t think of any place better to run a personal best than in front of this crowd.
“The noise they made was unbelievable, I couldn’t really hear myself breathing out there.
“I remember being in this stadium five years ago for the BUCS Championships, which was the first athletics event ever staged here.
“There was no-one in the stadium and it was really surreal. It was quite a step up to hear your name called and the crowd go crazy.”
McDonald, who celebrated her 24th birthday this week, clocked her previous PB at last year’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham.
But a few weeks later, she couldn’t repeat that performance at the Olympic trials, meaning she made her major championships debut at the European Championships rather than Rio. “I remember thinking when London was awarded these championships that I wanted more than anything to be here,” she said.
“I’ve got to get my recovery right now and come back and give it everything in the semi-final but I’ve nothing to lose.”
Muir eased into the semi-final after finishing fourth in her heat in four minutes 08.97 seconds.
The 24-year-old, a double European Indoor champion, kept plenty in reserve and will be joined by Laura Weightman, Sarah McDonald and Jessica Judd as they all bid to reach Monday’s final. Muir said: “It was brilliant out there on the start line. I’m really happy with where I’m at.”
* You can help the next generation of young British athletes by getting involved in SportsAid Week this September with London 2012 hero Greg Rutherford MBE. Find out more about how you can support the week of fun and fundraising by visiting www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek