The last few months have been a little chaotic. It’s now going into my 18th week post surgery and i’ve found a spare hour on my flight home traveling back from a day in Brussels (unfortunately not for a little holiday but to get some orthotics made!). I thought it would be easier to recap the last few months under some significant headings so that people don’t have to slog through the entire blog!
Japan Anti-Doping Conference
Asia has always been the one that’s got away from me. Through injury, i’ve missed several major championships that have taken place on the other side of the world. When the opportunity came around to attend an anti-doping conference in Tokyo, Japan – I jumped at the chance. I was here in Japan, 23 years ago with my parents ‘watching’ them compete in the 1991 World Championships. I use the term ‘watching’ very loosely, as I was only one year old at the time and have no recollection of the trip! Tokyo has always held a special place in my heart, as it was my mum’s first global title on the track – when she took gold over the 10,000m. It was a truly special moment, going along to the national track to see my mum’s name engraved on a huge placard, of all the medallists from 1991. It’s heartwarming how much hosting these championships mean to Japan and I can only imagine how much pride they must feel towards delivering the 2020 Olympic Games.
I was there on behalf of UK Anti Doping, attending the Play True Athlete Conference. An amalgamation of Japanese sporting authorities had come together to host a two day conference. The first day was an official seminar setting and I was on an athlete panel alongside two former Olympic athletes. Claudia; a German fencer and Ben; a skeleton athlete from New Zealand. Doing an hour long athlete panel with a headset continuously translating Japanese to English into my ear was definitely an experience… The questions were sometimes a little difficult as the translations sometimes led them to be very open to several definitions but again it was nice to do something completely different for a change! One of the questions we were asked, “What does sport mean to you?’; sounds simple but the answer is much more complex. Sport to me is a way of live. It’s an escape from the real word; somewhere I can be completely in control; I can chose how fast or slow to run. Success to me, isn’t defined by winning medals or titles – it’s personal achievement. Of course I want to win but it runs much deeper than that.
The second day consisted of the Athlete Workshop. We gave a speech to around 110 youngsters from six different countries but this time it was through a consecutive translator by my side. Another experience I won’t forget! The aim of the day was to motivate the kids to ‘play fair’. It was a clever way to engage them within an activity but to also underline the true values of sport. The activity was a completely new concept – New!Mo! – a simpler version of the Japanese tradition Sumo! It was genius and everyone had so much fun. There were three different scenarios of which the kids had to adapt the ‘rules of the game’ in order to make it fair for all participants. Scenario one was an athlete in a wheelchair, the second scenario was a blind athlete and the third was an athlete with one arm. They were encouraged to think how they could make it a level playing field with the props they had around the room – blindfolds, chairs, funny hats. It was a completely unique activity that no one in the room had ever seen before but by the end of the day – everyone was playing like true professionals! The fancy dress aspect of it made sure the activity was fresh and a little bit humorous for the spectators! Last but not least, each team had to come up with their ‘Sport Value Message’. They went to such great effort to put on a show and record their message for twitter but it was really promising to see such positive messages being spread. These kids were angels. They behaved brilliantly for the entire day and I have never seen such discipline across a group of young kids who have never met each other before! Back home, kids would be trying to tie each others hair together or staple each others shoes to the floor!
I really hope the project will make a difference to the young athletes we spoke to. Tokyo are extremely proud to be the hosts of the 2020 Olympic Games and they are putting markers in place now to capture and educate the minds of the next generation. They want to ensure that Japan are at the forefront of clean sport and I was immensely inspired to see the hard work they are putting in behind the scenes.
Every single person I met on my trip went above and beyond to make me feel welcomed. I must of said thank you, about 300 times, from the moment I stepped into the hotel till my bedroom door. They truly are the kindest people I have ever had the joy of encountering. I was extremely fortunate to have been taken to an authentic Japanese restaurant by the team who were looking after me. After embarrassingly admitted I had absolute no idea how to use chopsticks – I was served the biggest spork (spoon/fork) i’ve ever seen in my life! The food was genuinely delicious, although I couldn’t tell you a single ingredient I ate (which is maybe a good thing?!). One of the important heads of Japanese Sport was extremely helpful in doing his best to try and explain what each of the dishes was with the use of a internet translation – it was hilarious listening to some of the descriptions and certainly didn’t match what I was eating – but it was honestly scrumptious; every single dish. Jet lag did slowly start to bite me in the arse. After powering around the gym, like a Duracell bunny on my first morning in the country, at 5am – I found myself by the evening of the second day, struggling to keep my eyelids open. My brain had literally stopped functioning which resulted in me sleeping for almost 13 hours the following day once the conference had finished!
I did however manage to commence my assault on the athletics world. I ran for an entire 2 miles without stopping – OoOoO. It may sound like nothing but it was monumental to me. It was like the timing of my run was predestined though as I finished my leisurely crawl beside a man playing the bagpipes. I couldn’t believe it! Strangely enough, it sounded like he was playing something very similar to the flower of Scotland but perhaps that was pushing the boat a little too far. My exhausted brain was probably playing tricks on me. If it wasn’t for the video evidence I took on my phone, I could have been led to believe it was all just a mirage!
My last two days in Tokyo were spent exploring the sights! I visited Senso-ji Temple, Shibuya crossing (which was absolute chaos!!) and Tokyo Skytree Tower to name a few. The temples were truly spectacular and had such a calm aura around them. I loved it although it’s always a little cringey visiting places on your own and having to continually stop strangers to take a picture of you, alone…It was thoroughly enjoyable to be a tourist for once. In Shibuya, I was followed around the shopping district by a young lad called Jintu. It was a little unusual as he just decided to spark up a conversation and ask if he could join me shopping. He kept picking out the most horrific outfits i’ve ever seen in my life – telling me I would look great in it. I’m still unsure as to whether he was looking for a wife or just super friendly. It was a strange one but I felt a little ruthless as when he went to the toilet, I made my escape! I wasn’t there to go shopping, I wanted to explore the town and see the sights but he kept dragging me into shops, like he was Gok Wan. He did however get majorly excited when I mentioned I was from Scotland – he was quick to tell me of the Japanese football player plays for Celtic. Unfortunately, my football knowledge is probably on par with a footballers knowledge on athletics – negligible.
I was tempted to buy a hundred different souvenirs but unfortunately my boyfriend doesn’t agree with my love of tat. I had to refrain from bringing home a hundred waving cat statues. Instead I came back with a sumo wrestler mug and some Japanese wall art. He wasn’t particularly impressed with either however, I did buy him a playstation 4 so he owes me his entire body weight in gold for the foreseeable future.
This injury has been terribly frustrating for me but it’s also opened doors to several opportunities that I wouldn’t of been blessed with otherwise.
Doha Training & Doha Athletics Club
I decided that on my return to jogging again, it made sense to go somewhere with a little better weather. The last thing I wanted to do was head out for a run, slip in the rain and break my other ankle – I’d rather go for dinner with Donald Trump… Doha seemed like the perfect opportunity to build up my running in a safe environment and under the eyes of my coach and mother, Liz. Two weeks was extended to a month and to be honest, I would of stayed longer but it would have resulted in me being single. At the airport I peed my pants a little, when at immigration I was told my bank card had been declined (Thank you RBS – even though I informed you I was going abroad!!), fortunately super-mum came to my rescue and forked out for my arrival visa. Worrying at the age of 25, I’m still having to get my mum to bail me out! I was worried i’d be spending the night, detained somewhere in Qatar!
My mum weirdly enough, had actually been travelling back from the UK herself. On return to her house, we were horrified to see that the ‘helpers’ of whom my mum had paid to look after her two, formerly stray, cats – had clearly forgotten to feed them! Little Timmy, looked about 3.2 seconds away from meeting the Grim Reaper. It was horrible. He was extremely lethargic and so small he could fit into the palm of my hand. Thankfully, we managed to revive him with some serious amounts of tuna. He’s now running around my mums house like an absolute loon – so clearly feeling a bit more energised!
Every time I go back to Doha, I love it more and more. Although the culture difference is still a bit of a shock, the weather is a huge positive. I’m also extremely proud of what my mum has achieved out in Doha. Her international athletics club continues to grow month on month and it really is amazing to see how much respect these young athletes have for her. She’s giving them an opportunity, they wouldn’t of had otherwise and with the recent scandals within athletics it’s heartwarming to see the pure enjoyment that young kids have. Their so naïve to the big, bad world of sport and I love that.
My mum joined me on pretty much every easy run I did around Aspire Park. She was moaning at how easy I looked and the fact I was continually chatting when she was struggling a little. But to be fair, at 51 – with half a toe and about ¾ of a hamstring hanging on – she’s not doing too shabby. Most other folk would be in a wheelchair. There’s many a person who couldn’t do what she does on a daily basis so it’s a pretty amazing achievement to be running at all.
I helped my mum look after the kids on a day trip to Dubai. It was their first competition as a club and for some of the kids – their first ever competition. I loved being able to go through warm ups with them and get them prepared for their race. It was an excitement that over the years, I’ve forgotten. Don’t get me wrong – I still love running but you remember what it was like when you were a kid and it’s nice to reminisce on such positive memories.
Aspire Academy were brilliant and allowed me to use some of their facilities throughout my stay. I am nowhere near being able to run twice a day yet and so it was vital that cross training remained a huge part of my program. I used the alter G treadmill twice a week along side the dreaded watt bike one day a week. After my initial session on the watt bike – I thought I may have been dying. I genuinely couldn’t breath or move for a good 15 minutes after my session. The watt bike is a completely new training method to my mum – she had never heard of it and couldn’t understand why I was on my last legs and ready to plan my funeral song. I was aqua jogging in my mum’s compound communal pool every morning but made the fatal mistake of heading in one evening, after school hours. It was chaos. One kid came strolling through the double patio doors with the elegance of an elephant, behind him followed a barrage of about 30 kids. 52 balloons lined the pool for a kids birthday party. 1 nose bleed, 5 shots to the head with a ball, 3 hotdogs in the pool; it was an aqua jog that i’ll probably never forget.Doha is different though. There is no other way to describe it. One evening, coming back from dinner with my mum – I commented that it was unusual to see a man out walking his dog. My mum agreed that many people here, don’t walk their pets. As we drove closer, I noticed this large ‘dog’ was walking really funny, almost caressing the ground as it floated along. My mum then almost crashed the car as we realised this man was walking a cheetah! Yes, a bloody cheetah! On a lead, casually down the pavement… as if this was a completely normal occurrence. I actually couldn’t believe my eyes. Only in Doha.
I’m really excited to be heading out again for a few weeks over Christmas. My younger siblings are all heading out too and are equally as excited about having a christmas dinner in the sun! Hopefully this time around, i’ll be doing a bit more running and less time navigating my way around hotdogs in the swimming pool…
Video of our trip to Dubai: