“The experience brings the knowledge. The persistence brings success.”
After ten years in this sport, you’d think I would know it inside and out. But every year throws out a different curve ball. Some of which I am prepared to handle but sometimes the scenario isn’t as straight forward and as frustrating as this can be, it eventually brings a greater knowledge. We gain an understanding of what works, what definitely doesn’t and how to overcome the situation should it occur again.
This year I have been constantly battling against my own body and felt I was only operating at 60%, I was fatigued and never able to get into the next gear. I was constantly tired, my quads fatigued and just not feeling my usual self. After slogging through like this for a few months, I slowly started to make some progress. I managed to increase my iron levels and it helped to keep on top of the small things – fuelling, stretching, getting sleep and recovery became my main priorities. These one percents are very easily forgotten about amongst the bulk of running.
I also found myself in a very negative mind space. The summer racing season was rapidly approaching and after some very sub-par performances I knew my chances of making the European Championships this August were diminishing quickly.
Instead of getting bogged down I decided I needed a change of scenery so I boarded a flight to Switzerland for a solo three week trip to St Moritz. At 1800m altitude, it’s classed as being one of the best destinations in the world for elite athletes. I can certainly see why. For the first time in months, I felt energised. I felt refreshed. I felt fitter, healthier and faster. The crisp mountain air and beautiful scenery helped reboot my body but more importantly get my mind ready for a big summer of racing.
A further blood test revealed I had been battling Glandular Fever which explains a few of the symptoms I had been having. The good news was that it was not currently active in my system and I was gradually beginning to feel like myself again.
First up was our British Championships. I went in very low on confidence but finished the race feeling positive and like I had turned a corner. I may have only come third but I was so relieved to be fit, healthy and in one piece. Something I hadn’t felt in a very long time. My legs were finally working which gave me a confidence boost to keep looking forward to the next two races.
Heading into Lausanne Diamond League, I was a little nervous. I was competing over the shorter distance of 1500m in one of the strongest fields ever assembled. Eight of the ladies in the field had broken four minutes which is outstanding. But I had nothing to lose, so I set off hard and did everything I could to hang onto the front pack. I was over the moon to finish just outside my PB with a time of 4.01.9. It turns out that, it was the first time in history that three British ladies had run under 4.02 in the one race – Laura Muir ran a super swift 3.58 and Laura Weightman marginally finishing in front of me with a 4.01 clocking too. The 1500m is going from strength to strength – not only in the UK but across the pond too – with USA’s Shelby winning in a remarkable 3.57!
Next up was the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco, where I had the chance to run a 5000m. It was my first time visiting Morocco and although I made the journey, my luggage didn’t! Luckily I had packed my spikes and race kit in my hand luggage so I could compete. The hotel did give me a travel toothbrush, but I was left feeling a little lost without any of my toiletries or clothes. I tried to remain calm and focus on the job at hand. I had an opportunity to run fast and a luggage bag wasn’t going to help me achieve that! Finally, I was reunited with my belongings just seven hours before my race so I could finally get some fresh gear on to head down to the stadium for my race.
The air was hot and humid but with the temperatures we’ve been experiencing with the recent heatwave in the UK, I felt comfortable. The pace went off hard and there was a split second where I had to make a decision. There is always going to be a split second, where the field starts to split and a decision needs to be made. You either commit or you don’t. Do I go for it? Chase the unknown? Or do I just stay in my pack? Stay within my comfort zone racing the girls I’m familiar with? I had a quick deja vu to my races from last year and after months of feeling flat, I was finally feeling strong. I committed and it paid off.
Sneaking some Diamond League points and coming away with my second fastest time ever, clocking 14.52, made me so relieved. I was a little frustrated to miss my PB by four seconds, but it was a huge season best and a sub-15 clocking, which takes me to the top of the UK rankings, second in Europe and eleventh on the world lists.
More importantly I was proud of the way I attacked the race and ran solo. Typically I would be too scared to brave it alone but with the front six girls running close to world record pace, I had no option but to push on and run in no-man’s land for the remaining four kilometres.
There’s a great quote from Des Linden, an American Marathoner who after years of trying, finally won the Boston Marathon this year, the quote was: ‘Keep showing up!’ This really resonates with me and sums up everything I’ve gone through over the last few months. If you’re willing to keep ploughing away eventually you’ll come out the other side. I’ve been through far worse injuries and illnesses over the years and although they were tough at the time, the experience has helped strengthened me mentally and provided me with a better insight into myself and my career as a professional athlete.
Persistency brings success, so just keep showing up.