The festive period is a hectic time for everyone and for me that is certainly no exception. Not only does my training load begin to bite but I also have the added stress of getting things into place before heading abroad for over two months. The prospect of living out of one bag may not be ideal for everyone but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve been so lucky over the last few years to experience so many different cultures and I’ve met some amazing characters along the way.
This December I will be in Qatar for three weeks, visiting my mum and younger siblings, before heading off to Kenya to join some of the Team GB endurance squad for three and a half weeks of arduous altitude training in Iten, Kenya.
So far this winter everything has been going really well. Training picked up much quicker than I expected and so I decided to throw myself into a few more road races. First up was the Manchester Road Race in the United States – from one Manchester to another. It was a brilliant few days where I was racing against some of the top American road runners. The distance was a tad peculiar – 4.78miles – but I managed to bag a 5th place finish in a strong field.
Racing really brings my training on by forcing me to be competitive which gives me added motivation. The only downside was the horrific journey as I had completely forgotten it was Thanksgiving. The traffic jams heading out of the airport were insane! Door to door took just under 22 hours! It’s safe to say, I was unconscious with exhaustion that first night.
The race had a really tough uphill slog of just over one mile. It was the first hill I’ve run in about three years and so, as you can imagine, it hit me like a train. Aside from that hill mile, I was really happy with the rest of my mile splits. It gave me some confidence heading into my most recent 10k last weekend.
On Sunday, I dragged my boyfriend up at the crack of dawn and drove to Sheffield to compete in my final race of 2016. I had always planned to run two 10k races on the roads this winter and then the race organiser contacted me with an added incentive of trying to break their course record of 33.52 which had stood for twelve years!
However, after driving the course, it became apparent that this record wasn’t going to be as simple to beat as I first thought. The course was very undulating and not a typical fast personal best (PB) course. The last two mile section was even more backbreaking with a constant uphill slog to the finish line. My complaints about the hills were met with jokes that for Sheffield, this course was flat. And it’s true, by Sheffield standards it was but not compared to running on a track… it certainly wasn’t as flat as I would have liked!
At the halfway point I glanced at my watch to get an idea of pace and saw I was well under my PB pace. After initially panicking that I had gone off too hard, I channelled those nerves into motivation – I wanted to try and keep a strong pace and get as close to my PB as I possibly could. The support on the last 4k of the course was brilliant – not only from people watching on the sidelines but also from fellow runners running on the other side of the road. The course was an out and back format which I really enjoyed. It was a real buzz to hear runners shouting and cheering as we doubled back towards the finish.
When I crossed the line in 32.30 minutes, I couldn’t believe it. I’d run a 20 second PB and broken the course record by over 80 seconds. I knew I was in shape but not for this type of course; I am renowned for being absolutely rubbish at any sort of incline. It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence that training is going well and that my fitness is continuing to head in the right direction. I’m now having to resist the urge to find a flat 10k where I can knock another big chunk off my time. Patience is key unfortunately, so I’ll have to stick to my plans. Those seconds will have to come off in 2017 instead.
I have also had some good news this week regarding my funding. After initially being omitted from the selections, my appeal was successful and I’ve been granted support for 2017. Naturally, I had been disappointed not to be selected as I thought I had met every criteria deemed necessary for support. I’m excited now to be part of the programme. It’s nice to feel that my achievements last year have been recognised. I’ve had so many messages from athletics fans and fellow athletes and so I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone for their support. It’s greatly appreciated.