Beth Potter’s story has it all.
She was excluded from an Olympic team by unlucky circumstances. She turned around and set a world record in a different sport. Then she lost that record. Oh, there are accusations about his “supershoes” too.
It started when Potter, a 29-year-old Scottish woman, lined up for a five-kilometer road race in Barrowford, England on Saturday, a week after winning an indoor triathlon. She crossed the finish line in 14 minutes 41 seconds, an astonishing world record time for a relatively unreported woman whose personal best was 15:24.
His expression at the finish line – with a backdrop devoid of any fanfare – was utter disbelief.
“I thought the clock was out; I was shocked to be honest, ”Potter told Athletics Weekly. “I thought 3:15 pm would be a very good race for me.”
The time was faster than Beatrice Chepkoech’s women’s world record of two seconds and Paula Radcliffe’s British record of 10. (The time is actually the second fastest ever; Joyciline Jepkosgei ran 14:32 in 2017, before 5K road racing had a separate official 5,000-meter Track Race record.)
The weather was all the more remarkable as Potter had mainly shifted his attention to the track triathlon. She finished 34th in the 10,000-meter track at the 2016 Olympics, then decided to focus more on triathlon. It seemed like a good decision – she placed fifth in the world in triathlon in 2020.
But his groundbreaking performances came too late to take him to the Tokyo Olympics. The British triathlon team was chosen at the end of 2019, when the Games were believed to be held in 2020.
“I wish the team could be chosen this year with fit athletes,” she told The Telegraph. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s frustrating.”
“The track is an option, but it’s all over the place,” she says. “I don’t think I would go for the 5,000. I think I would be better over the 10,000. To be honest, I just don’t know what I want to do. I really want to go to the Olympics and I don’t want this opportunity to slip away.
Stuck with one foot in two sports, Potter doesn’t have a lot of sponsorship or national funding. She works as a math and physics tutor five days a week.
And despite her incredible time in 5K last weekend, she apparently won’t get the world or UK record. The low-key race did not have certified timekeepers or drug testers on site. Potter was tested for drugs a day later, too late to certify his case according to the rules.
The controversy over his running is compounded by the fact that Potter has put his time into so-called supershoes, which many believe gives runners an unfair advantage.
For several years since Nike introduced the Vaporfly, runners have migrated to shoes with carbon plates and elastic foam in the sole. Studies, including the New York Times, have shown that shoes give runners an advantage of up to 4-5%.
Potter has released a new carbon fiber version of Asics, the Metaspeed Sky.
“At the end of the day, you still have to do the workout,” Potter told Athletics Weekly. “You still have to get up early in the morning and train hard, year after year, session after session. It’s not just the shoes.
“Obviously the shoes help,” she told The Telegraph. “But all athletes now have access to the same level of footwear, so the playing field is level.”
Chris Barnes, the race’s organizer at Barrowford, told The Guardian: “These records could go anywhere now, especially with these supershoes.”