Great Britain Marathon Team Assessment Process

(or… how to earn yourself a GB vest)

If you want to earn yourself a GB vest some time in the future, then you need to do as many assessment races as you can, starting early in your career (even when you might not yet be very competitive).

The bulk of these races usually happen in May and June, because that’s when we need to be assessing athletes for Great Britain teams to the World Cup and European Championships. These internationals, and the assessment races, then allow us to choose our best team for the World Championships in September.

Assessments play an important role in all of the MRC’s international objectives: winning medals of course, and maintaining our position as a top nation, but also ensuring the long-term athlete development required for international success. For developing athletes, they provide a chance to learn by racing world class competitors, and understand what needs to be done to reach a similar level. We also use them to invite prospective future international athletes into the national training group, depending on the standards achieved.

Athletes should discuss their approach to assessment races with a coach. It’s important to be physically and mentally ready to take on the challenge as these are the fastest races in the country, but nobody gets to the top of the canoe racing mountain without starting from the base.

Here are some common sense bits of advice for those seeking international selection in marathon:-

1. Race assessment races as soon as you can in your career. The most successful athletes have almost always done several assessments in more than one season before their first selection. Junior women’s and C1 races are just a little further than a Div 4 race, junior men’s just a little further than a Div 3.

2. Do as many assessment races as possible. They follow the international race format so are good experience. And the more you do, the better your profile in the continuous assessment process. Other races (apart from the major internationals themselves) don’t count towards assessment.

3. Don’t expect to earn a GB vest with just one result. We run several assessment races to allow athletes to show more than one result, and results from different races can be benchmarked against the Handicap points system for a fair and impartial comparison of results.

4. Be realistic about your expectations, remember the winners of these races are very often international medal winners. And finish, no matter how badly your race may be going. You would be surprised how many places you can gain simply by reaching the finish line, and the experience of the distance is important.

5. Race hard, as even first place may not be enough. For the world championships this year we expect to have 16 athlete places. If we could afford to take up 2 boats in each class we’d need to send more than double this number. Selectors have lots of evidence of how fast international races are, so for example a men’s C1 in a domestic assessment would need to complete the course about as fast as our women’s K1s in order to gain a comparable result internationally. The Handicap points system can even help us to make a comparison between men’s and women’s K1 performances.

6. Whatever you do, fill in an availability form by the deadline. You wouldn’t believe how many people miss out on a selection because they just haven’t told the selectors that they’re available for an international race.