The major Championships are always on an athlete’s radar. Every athlete strives to be there. But the deciding factor as to whether you become part of that national team or are left sitting at home watching it on the TV comes down to two things. A qualifying time and your position at the British Championships. It’s the one day of the year where you hope your training comes to fruition. The one day of the year where you pray you wake up illness and injury free. A top-two position secures you a spot at the upcoming Championships and this automatic selection is always the aim. It allows you to refocus and plan towards the major Championships. But falling outside of the top two leaves the decision in the selectors hands which means planning training races comes with uncertainty. Something no athlete wants.
For as many years as I can remember, I have headed into the trials with a really disrupted build up, from food poisoning and antibiotics to stress fractures and torn hamstrings. It’s never been an easy route to the British Championships. However, this year is certainly turning out to be my most consistent yet and I headed into trials feeling good – healthy and ready to run.
The 5,000m is one of the toughest middle-distance events in the UK, with over five girls running qualifying times this year. I wanted my seat on the plane to Doha. But more importantly, I wanted to win. A national 5,000m title is absent in my medal drawer. I’ve won British titles over 3000m steeplechase, 3000m and even the 1500m indoors but I’ve always fallen short over the 5,000m.
From the gun, I set off to run a hard race. Crossing the line first felt good. But crossing the line, fit and healthy, felt even better and I’m delighted with such a strong performance.
Mentally, sport can be tough. We can become defined by the sport. Social media is quick to jump on bad performances and calling out on an athlete’s weakness rather than celebrating their strengths.
It’s important to recognise that every day isn’t going to be a good one. Not all training sessions or competitions will go as planned. Athletes are great at posting about their fantastic performances but are quick to omit the bad days, the DNFs, the problems they face in the sport. I believe it’s important we show the next generation of youngsters that sport isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It comes with highs and lows just like everything else in life. Sport tests you to your limits but can also be the making of you.
Having the right people around is paramount to keeping a good balance and maintaining a healthy mental attitude. I may stand on the start line alone but behind me are some fantastic individuals who help me to keep everything balanced and in perspective. Running is important to me but it doesn’t define me. I’m more than just a professional runner. When I stand on top of a podium or run a personal best there’s a sense of achievement for everyone in the team who has got me to that point. We may be a small team but we’re a mighty one. Without them I wouldn’t be the athlete, nor the person that I am today.
I also loved seeing so many Scottish athletes make the podium at the British Championships. We’ve grown up at competitions together so it feels pretty special to see how far we’ve all come. From travelling to the freezing cold Irvine sand dunes for the Scottish Schools Cross Country to now boarding a plane bound for the middle east – it seems almost surreal. But this history of support and competitiveness has been a breeding ground for our success.
Although missing from the Champs, Laura Muir continues to blaze a trail for the next generation. Showing that not only can Scottish athletes make GB teams but they can compete against the best in the world. However, Laura’s absence from the National Champs also serves as a stark reminder not to take anything for granted. Even the best athletes in the world can get injured.
These recent moments at the Champs help remind me to keep a positive attitude and to keep riding the rollercoaster through the highs and lows because sometimes you can find yourself in a great place. British 5,000m Champion and en route to Doha 2019 – sounds pretty good to me!