MMU athlete on the comeback trail
- NQ's Connor Pritchard caught up with rising athlete, and MMU student, Luke Towers
On the evening of the 24th August 2003, Haile Gebreselassie’s imperious run at the summit of world athletics finally came to an end, when his then 21-year-old compatriot Kenenisa Bekele stole his crown from him in a tactical masterclass in the 10,000 metre World Championship final.
This famous win in Paris would just be the beginning for Bekele who would go on to assert his dominance across a number of long-distance disciplines for the best part of the following decade.
The victory in Paris would also mark the beginning of MMU student Luke Towers’ fixation with the sport. With Bekele’s sheer talent inspiring the then 8-year-old Merseyside youngster to take up running.
“Obviously at the time I was only young but even at that age you could see how good Bekele was, being able to outrun someone like Gebreselassie at his age was inspiring.”
Weeks after witnessing the Ethiopian’s heroics, Luke followed in his sister’s footsteps and joined his local athletics club, Liverpool Harriers. Where he joined the middle-distance group of the late Ernie Gallagher who coached Curtis Robb to the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
Talking about his old coach, Luke explained: “All of my earliest running memories were under the guidance of Ernie, his passion and love for the sport was infectious to a lot of his athletes.
“It made all of us want to work hard and compete against each-other for top honours in the group. Which ultimately led the group to become one of the most successful teams in the North of England at the time.”
In 2007, Ernie tragically passed away following a battle with cancer but his team, then coached by Luke’s father Paul Towers, would go on to win a number of medals at the Northern Cross-country Championships. Obtaining silvers in Leeds the following year and again in Blackburn two years later. Before finally winning gold at the Pontefract meet in 2012.
Within this period, he also proudly represented Merseyside at the English Schools Championships and at the UK Inter-County Championships which was televised on Sky Sports.
“It was always great representing my county and knowing I was going to be competing against the best of the best. This obviously spurs you on but could be a little nerve-wracking.
“However, as most would say some pre-race nerves never did any harm and they would be gone as soon as the gun went.”
Evidently any pre-race trepidation was ignored by Luke, as in 2010 and 2012 he ranked sixth and sixteenth for the five and ten kilometre road races in the UK within his age group.
The joy and success of 2012 would be overshadowed later in the year however, when Luke would leave his boyhood athletics club out of principle, following a disagreement with how the club was being run.
He then joined St. Helens Sutton athletics club where he struggled to continue his success: “Having come from a close-knit group of lads at the Harriers who trained together every day it was tough to adapt and motivate myself”
“It was strange competing for another club having ran for the Harriers for so long and I slowly started to get disheartened with running which led to me competing less frequently.”
Amidst the unfamiliarity and difficulty of competing at his new club, Luke persisted to continue training and in 2014 was rewarded with a number of impressive performances. Running well on the track and the road, as well as earning himself another county vest in the cross-country.
This would also be the year where Luke would join Manchester Metropolitan University, coming off the back of his first real successful year at St. Helens he then decided to make his debut at the half-marathon distance.
Balancing university life, assignments and socials he managed to have a successful first outing at the new 13.1-mile distance, placing him eleventh in the UK for his age group.
“I wasn’t too sure how well the race was going to go, having competed the day before for my team at the North-West road relays but surprisingly it went well and everything went to plan.”
Unfortunately, the plan would unfold to an extent as a number of injuries would see him side-lined for an extended period, leaving him unable to compete for MMU as he had originally wished to do so.
One and a half years on however, injury-free and eager to compete, Luke is looking to make his comeback and start representing his club, county and university once again, explaining: “I’m going to be linking up with an old coach of mine who’s training techniques I believe are best suited to me. Hopefully we can work together and successfully return to racing come 2018.”
We at The NQ wish him well for the future.