It was always going to be a nerve-racking moment; toeing the start line of a completely new discipline, after a long spell out of the sport. But equally, I was excited to be back racing again and to kick things off! My track season could not have started any better. After a really good training block in Flagstaff, Arizona with the GB team – I opened my racing season at the Payton Jordan Invitational Meet in Stanford, California. I was extremely nervous about racing, not only because it was my first one, (in what felt like forever!!) but it was only two days down from altitude – which for me, has always gone horrifically wrong in the past! Thankfully, this time around it was a much happier ending! I came away with a new personal best by 35 seconds and under the Olympic Qualifying standard by 15 seconds. It couldn’t have gone any better and even more encouraging was that this was over the 5,000m which is a new challenge for me. I was extremely apprehensive about switching from the steeplechase in an Olympic year but it was definitely the right decision. Removing the barriers and running over the flat distance has given me a new confidence and mentally, it’s much easier to get my head around the idea, knowing that it is less impact going through my ankle and subsequently a lower chance of becoming injured again.
My 5,000m in Payton Jordan was the first time I had wore spikes for that sort of distance, in well over 22 months. As you can imagine, the next day my legs were dead – it was as if I had ran a marathon and not just the 5000m! Instead of coming back to the UK, I flew straight to Doha, Qatar to take part in the Diamond League, just 5 days later. It was a really quick turn around and not something I have ever really done before. My legs were starting to recover but what really hit me hard was the jet lag. Door to door it was over 30 hours of travel and 11 hours of time change. I was barely sleeping a wink throughout the night and with my race being only a few days later – I was taking the opportunity to sleep whenever I possibly could! For those few days, I was practically nocturnal but it was the only way I could make sure I was recovered and not tired for my 3000m race.
The race actually went surprisingly well. I felt awful warming up and with the added heat – I thought the race may end up being a disaster. Thankfully, I felt really strong. I have to admit, it was a shock to the system competing over the shorter distance – the first few laps felt especially quick but I came away with a 4 second personal best and to go into the UK All-Time Top 12 list with my 8.43 clocking. I definitely feel there are a few more seconds to shave off, with rested legs and less travel in my system! I would love to sneak under my mum’s personal best times. I’m now within 10 seconds of her 5,000m and 5 seconds from her 3,000m time. It would be pretty special for me to break those family records! My mum has been such a huge part of my athletics career, from the moment I decided to start running until now. She’s been a rock throughout the tough times within the sport and always kept me motivated by believing in my ability when most others didn’t. I know how proud she would be for me to break those markers.
Next for me is another 5,000m in Hengelo this Sunday. Things have been a little flat in training as i’ve been feeling a little run down from all the travel and jet lag but this race is another opportunity to run an Olympic qualifying time. For Rio, I need two clockings under 15.24 before the trials in June. Because I missed the whole of 2015, it makes things much more difficult – athletes who raced in 2015 and gained their qualifying times from last year, can relax a little but unfortunately due to injury – I don’t fall into that category! Nothing worth having in life is ever easy though. After Hengelo, I have a good 5 weeks of training before the Olympic Trials. Everything is now geared towards that. I’m excited to be staying in the one place and getting back into some really good, consistent training. Although i’m still only running once a day, i’ll go back into cross training most days in order to top up my training. The dream still remains the same; to be racing in the olympic stadium once more.