It’s four years since I last raced at the Monaco Diamond League, and as it’s one of the most prestigious races on the athletics calendar I couldn’t wait to return. Not only is it beautifully scenic, it’s renowned for being fast and with the World Championships just around the corner – every athlete toeing the line is eager to shine.
In 2013, I was happy with my 5th place in the 3000m steeplechase but remember being a little disappointed not to have come away with a PB. This time around, competing in over the same distance but without the hurdles, I was determined to walk off the track, knowing I had given it absolutely everything.
This season has been so up and down – my performance at the indoor championships was a high but the recent muscle tears has brought the lows. However, training had been going really well and after a full week of training in the beautiful mountains of Font Romeu in France I felt confident. This is quite rare and it’s usually my lack of confidence that prevents me from really attacking races. Ahead of this race my last two sessions were great, much faster than I had ever run and at an altitude of 1800m. I was also very fortunate to have Gary Lough (Paula Radcliffe’s husband) pacing me on the bike which helped me focus on hitting my times and increasing my speed even further.
Arriving in Monaco, I felt ready and almost went into hibernation mode. My roommate, Lynsey Sharp, genuinely couldn’t believe how much I was sleeping but I obviously needed it. The day before the race, we headed down to the track to do a warm up and some strides. I had forgotten just how beautiful the stadium was and how close the stands are to the action. I watched Usain Bolt go through his pre-meet routine and made sure I did my strides as far away from him as possible so that I didn’t look like a snail!
My race was one of the last events by which time the wind had died down but the air was very warm and muggy. As I walked out to the track, I saw Paula Radcliffe’s daughter waving at me, she’s one of the kit carriers, so I jogged over and placed my running kit with her. Then as I lined up, I could hear her shout ‘Good Luck!!’ It was nice to see a familiar face seconds before the gun went off.
I had made a conscious effort to start faster than I usually do. After a lap or so, the African athletes started to up the pace which is usually the point where my lack of confidence takes over and I fade back to sit amongst the athletes I’m comfortable beside. When I looked up, I could see Laura Muir battling amongst them and in that split second I made the decision to just go for it.
Over the last few years, I’ve watched an abundance of Scottish athletes achieve truly world-class performances. These guys are people I grew up with – we travelled the length and breadth of Scotland on minibuses to run around some muddy fields together. Yet now, all these years later, these same friends are battling to the line with some of the best athletes in the world. It’s created a belief that we CAN compete on the world stage. I’ve always thought Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes were unbeatable but after watching the likes of Laura Muir and Chris O’Hare competing amongst the best, the mental barrier I had created has slowly been shattering. If they can do it, why can’t I?
I pushed on, running the middle laps entirely on my own and with 600m to go I realised that I was starting to reel some athletes in. One by one, I was closing on the leaders. After running the last lap faster than the entire field, my hard work paid off as I ran a huge twelve second personal best, taking 4th place and finishing only half a second behind Laura.
I couldn’t believe it! Not only had I managed to rank 6th on the UK all-time lists but I had also broken my mum’s personal best by three seconds. It was an amazing feeling. My mum has been saying for years that I was capable of breaking her PBs and so it was brilliant to finally fulfil her prophecies.
This has been an enormous confidence boost. It’s my first step into top flight athletics and makes me excited to see what the future holds.
Next up is the World Championships in London – the big event! Hopefully I can continue this forward momentum and take a big chunk of time off my 5,000m. The jigsaw is slowly coming together and for once, it seems to be piecing together at just the right time.