The start of the year always marks a turning point in my training. As the bells chime to announce 2019, my mindset becomes narrower, focussing on my aims for the 365 days ahead. Over the winter months, my training is a little monotonous; bigger volume; shorter recovery; more repetition. But as the new year beckons things switch up a gear. I always spend Christmas with my mum (who as you know, is also my coach) which gives us both an opportunity to sit down and work out my plans for the year ahead. What are my goal races for 2019? When do I need to peak? Where will I go for a training camp? What sort of training should we be doing during this period? These are just a few of the questions that we will work through to generate an overview plan for 2019. It’s a plan that’s never set in stone as we can’t account for illness, injury or any other set backs that may occur along the way but we set out exactly what we want to achieve throughout the year.
Admittedly it’s not an ideal situation having my coach in another country as all of my sessions are done ‘solo’ but it has made me much more independent and strong willed. I don’t need someone to hold my hand or to make sure I’m doing all my training – my motivation is internally driven. I want to succeed and more importantly I want to make my family proud.
Being on my own means that I have to make sensible decisions about when to slow down. As an athlete, you always want to push the limits but sometimes this attribute can be an athlete’s downfall. Many will end up injured or fatigued because they don’t know when to stop pushing themselves. I’ve certainly fallen foul of this in previous years but I’m much more in tune with my body now and I also have the added help from my partner, Michael. Michael (Rimmer) is also a professional athlete and he’s been in this sport much longer than me. Having learnt from his own mistakes over the years he helps me avoid making the same ones.
From the outside, it may look like I operate on my own and to an extent that’s true but I have the most amazing people in my corner, supporting me every step of the way. Not only do I have the knowledge of a world-class coach within my mum, I have the help and support of someone who knows me better than even I do. My mum is the brains behind all my training but it’s Michael who is with me on the ground, standing in the freezing cold, timing my sessions on a dark, Saturday morning!
So what does 2019 have in store? Currently, I am out in Doha ahead of the Ooreedo Marathon on Friday. Thankfully I won’t be doing the marathon just yet! They have a 10K race that I enjoy running every year as it’s a nice way to end a three-week spell with my family over Christmas.
Training continued to pick up over the last month and I’ve just finished one of my highest ever blocks of mileage. It’s been a gruelling slog and my legs are feeling more tired than ever but hopefully that the work will pay off when it comes to the summer season. However, it does mean that I’m not aiming for fireworks in my first race of the year this week. There won’t be any personal bests to report but I have to stay mentally strong through these hard training periods and accept that it’s part of our long-term vision to make sure I peak at the right time.
2019 is a strange year for athletics as it’s the first time a major championships event will be held in October. This is two months later than usual. The reason for it being so much later is that the World Championships are visiting Doha, Qatar for the first time and because of the extraordinary heat during July and August, the champs were moved back by a few months. This then impacts the rest of the racing season, shifting everything back by around eight weeks and so, we as athletes, need to make sure we are at our peak a full two months later than normal.
Usually I would be enjoying a three week break in October but hopefully that will not be the case this year. All my focus is on competing at the Doha World Championships. Qatar is a country I frequently visit as my mum lives and works here. It’s become a home away from home for me with a host of new family and friends from around the world. The facilities are world class and the new Khalifa Stadium looks more spectacular than any I’ve ever seen. I want to give myself every opportunity to be on fine form come October.
Before that is an opportunity to compete in Scotland once more! Its not often that Scotland hosts international athletics events but in March this year the European Championships head to the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. When I was a kid, I grew up racing in the Kelvin Hall Arena most weekends. As it was the only indoor area we had in Scotland it hosted all of the junior races. I constantly begged my parents to drive me through to Kelvingrove for the weekend to compete. Since it’s closure, I haven’t raced indoors in Scotland so the European Championships would be an amazing experience for me, taking me full circle having competed indoors so frequently as a child.
Knowing that these European championships are in Glasgow has given me extra motivation. It’s fuelled a fire. I’m sure all the other Scottish athletes feel it too. We want to be competing in front of a home crowd.
Scotland has been host to some fantastic sporting events over the years and I have no doubt that Glasgow 2019 will be one to remember. We are a proud sporting nation with such a rich sporting history. I’m doing everything I can to be part of it.