It seemed like a very distant dream. Lying on the sofa, recovering from ankle surgery, I scrawled down on a big piece of paper – RIO 2016. Underneath, I posted the qualifying times I needed to make the team. 3000m Steeplechase – 9.45, 5000m – 15.24, 10,000m – 32.15. As I hobbled across the room on my crutches and cast, I attached it to the fireplace. It seemed silly. I was 8 months injured with a further three months of recovery; walking pain free was a more realistic goal but something inside of me couldn’t let Rio go. I wrote down three different events – the 5,000m and 10,000m are both events that I don’t even compete in but I wrote them down regardless. I knew that after two surgeries my ankle would maybe not recover in time to get around such a gruelling discipline as the steeplechase. The 3000m steeplechase was the event that brought me my first ever GB vest. It was the event that has allowed me to race around the world and represent my country at the London 2012 Olympics and in front of a home crowd at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealths. It’s brought me so much joy yet equally so many tears. Due to constant injury battles, I knew it was an event that I may have to forget in order to have ‘GREAT BRITAIN’ scrawled across my vest once more.
Making the Olympic Games is a long and daunting process. From the moment I placed that paper on my fireplace until the second I crossed the line at my Olympic Trial, the pressure has been brewing up inside me like a water balloon ready to explode. There are three boxes to tick en route to making an Olympic squad. I ran my first qualifying time back in May – 15.09. Box ticked. I had one more qualifying time to run but I wasn’t sure I would be able to achieve it. Feeling exhausted after a training block at high altitude coupled with a lot of travelling and serious jet lag; I put myself on the start line and came away with my second qualifying time – 15.16. It wasn’t the performance I was looking for but…box ticked. The final box to cross off, was a top 2 finish at the British Olympic Trials. Almost unbelievably, I fell ill just 5 days before my race. I went into full panic mode.The pressure was on. Of all the weeks to fall ill, this wasn’t the one. I backed off training, took obscene amounts of vitamin C and was alcohol gel-ing my hands like the world had turned poisonous. Waking up on race day, I was strangely calm. Realisation quickly sank in that all the hard work was done – there was nothing more I could do now. I was fitter and faster than i’ve ever been. This was it – crunch time. All those hours spent aqua-jogging in a circle and sitting on a spin bike for hours on end, staring at a wall – were all for this one moment. Rise or fall.
Box ticked. Crossing the line was a mixture of relief and happiness; booking my place at my second Olympic Games – Rio 2016. It hadn’t quite sunk in until a journalist asked me how I felt about becoming a two-time olympian. Two Olympic Games in two different events. At the age of 25, it’s something I never thought would happen. The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of our sport and I remember as a child, being glued to the TV, watching all the athletes glide around the 8 lanes of the track. Now, I would be joining them once more.
First up, I have the European Championships this weekend. It will actually be my first ever Europeans as a senior athlete. In 2012, I wasn’t allowed to run because the federation deselected all athletes whom had qualified for the London Olympics and in 2014, I missed out on selection by less than half a second! I did however represent GB at the European Under 23 age group so i’m excited to be competing here as a senior, five years later!
Five years ago, I made it through to the final and finished 6th in the steeplechase. It will be exciting to see what I can do over the 5,000m this time around. A lot of the GB athletes bound for Rio are skipping this championships to focus on the big one next month but for me this championship is all about experience. I’m new to the 5,000m and championship races can be tricky – they are usually quite tactical so it’s important for me to have a feel of racing before racing on the world’s biggest stage. It’s a small stepping stone to the main event.