APRIL 2015: Could Rosie Gasson be a name to look out for in the future? And perhaps not just in local running circles but at a higher level?

Rosie is currently the fastest 8-year-old at parkrun in Sussex. She has won a number of local cross-country races and has just come second in her under-11 race at the Brighton Marathon Mini Mile. She was also second in her Brighton Half-Marathon Youth Race (one mile) in February.

Last Sunday saw the Junior parkrun trial in Preston Park. In a field of 84 children aged 4 -14, Rosie was 7th overall and 1st girl to finish.

In such an age group, where children develop at a phenomenal rate, to think that Rosie is able to run faster than many girls who are several years her senior really is outstanding!

My youngest interviewee to date, I just had to meet up with Rosie (and her dad Paul and mum Gill) to try and find out what lies behind the talent. Does she train hard? Is talent in the genes? Maybe Paul & Gill could enlighten me! And does she choose to run out of enjoyment, or is she pushed by her parents?

Rosie, when was your eighth birthday?

It was 26th September last year.

So that means in the Brighton Marathon Mini Mile you were faster than girls up to 2 years 5 months older than you! That’s incredible! How did you feel when you were awarded with your medal?

It was exciting, and nice standing in front of thousands of people on stage. A lot of my friends who had run watched me get my medal.

I’ve seen you doing parkrun lots of times. What’s your best time?

I’ve done 22:05 in Preston Park and 22:15 in Hove Park.

Wow, many adults would be pleased to run that fast! What is it that you like about running?

I like running fast and I like the freedom of running.

What sports do you play at school?

I play lots of sports at school, and also in the evenings.

On Mondays I run with Arena at the track, on Tuesdays I do swimming, on Wednesdays athletics, Thursdays and Fridays gymnastics, Saturdays athletics, and Sundays I play hockey.

Gosh, that’s a very healthy, active lifestyle. I can see why you’re good at running. Do you enjoy any of those sports as much as running?

No, running is my favourite… and then hockey.

And do you have friends your age who you run with?

Not really because I don’t have friends my age who can run as fast as me over distance. I run a lot with my dad.

What do you like doing with your friends when you’re not running and playing other sports?

I like playing with my friends, especially at the weekends. We play in the park and I like trampolining with them.

What do you think you’d like to do when you leave school? Do you have a favourite subject?

I’d like to run in the Olympics. My favourite subject at school is Sport.

Wow, to run in the Olympics would be amazing. What else do you enjoy at school apart from Sport?

We’ve recently been studying all about Africa. I really like that, especially learning about the animals there.

Paul, I know you’re a keen runner yourself. What would say has been your best running highlight to date?

I have to say, the best thing is watching Rosie do well. In terms of my own running though, coming 3rd in the UK for 1500m in the over-55 category has to be my highlight. That was when I competed at the British Masters Indoor Championships at Pickett’s Lock about 4 years ago. And recently I was 2nd in the UK in the British Masters over-60’s mile in Cardiff.

You must be very proud of your daughter. Would you like to see her following in your footsteps as a runner?

I started running fairly late in life. I’m 61 now and have only been running about 20 years or so, so I never really ran as a senior. In fact I was never a runner between the ages of 16 and 40. I’d like to see Rosie do much better than me – she certainly has the ability!

Recognising Rosie’s talent, do you find it hard to hold back from pushing her? Or does she enjoy her running so much that you don’t need to apply any pressure?

We definitely don’t push her. Whenever there’s an event coming up we always ask Rosie if she’d like to do it, and sometimes she says “no” so we don’t go. But usually when asked if she’d like to run and take part in events she answers “yes”!

Rosie, I understand you attend the Withdean Athletics Academy. How often do you meet there, and what kind of things do you do?

It’s every Saturday at Withdean. We do jumping, throwing and games as well as running. It’s really fun.

And what do you think you’d like to be most – maybe a sprinter, racing short distances? Or a long distance runner and perhaps do the Brighton Marathon one day?

My favourite is cross-country.

And why is that, do you think?

I like going up and down hills, and it’s fun running in the mud. I also like running on different surfaces.

And Gill, what are your thoughts regarding Rosie doing so much running at such a young age? Most 8-year-olds would find running 5k an incredibly difficult task.

Actually, it does concern me when I see some parents getting their children to do a whole parkrun 5k without much preparation or previous running experience. With Rosie, we’ve made sure she has progressed her running very gradually.

Rosie has been attending the Withdean Athletics Academy since the age of 6. The focus is on giving the children all the basic athletic skills and trying everything. They feel totally at home in the athletics stadium and grow in confidence in their abilities. The younger children rarely run more than once around the track ( 400m ) and most of the running is over very short distances.

We started parkrun by occasionally doing half a lap of the park, eventually building up to one full lap, and it was 9 months before she completed the full 5k, just before her 8th birthday.

We’re also very happy that she gets involved in lots of sports rather than trying to specialise in any one thing at such an early age.

I think it is very important to introduce children gradually into distance running – children are natural ‘sprinters’ and enjoy charging around as fast as they can – racing each other in the playground over very short distances – pacing and stamina comes with experience and may not appeal to all children.

Some very wise words! Paul, Gill, thank you very much for your time.

Rosie, whatever you do, make sure you continue to have fun with your running and with all the other sports you enjoy! Congratulations on your running achievements, and good luck with wherever your running takes you!

By Mike Bannister