I had a great few months of training in Kenya and Doha over the Christmas period and coming off the back of a 10K road personal best my endurance was stronger than ever. It was exciting to feel fit and healthy heading into my first major championships of the year – Glasgow 2019.
The European Championships had been on my agenda for a long time. As soon as it was announced that the Europeans were being hosted on my home soil I knew I had to be a part of it.
Training was going better than ever until I hit a stumbling block whilst training out in South Africa. If I’m perfectly honest, I still don’t really know what happened but suffering insomnia over days and weeks, getting progressively worse made hard training a recipe for disaster. My immune system was seriously weakened – my upper body was covered in some sort of small red rash, I was overly fatigued, heavy legged and struggling to put one foot in front of the other, never mind trying to run. There were a lot of other symptoms going on alongside these and none of them really improved for around four weeks. I was prescribed some sleeping tablets which gave me a medicated three-hour sleep, but I continued to operate like a zombie.
Travelling back from South Africa, I was feeling very low. Here I was again feeling like my body had let me down. In previous years, injuries used to be my nemesis but sensible changes to my training programme had reduced those massively. Now I was fighting my own immune system.
It became apparent that I would have to miss the British Championships which was the qualifying race for Glasgow 2019. This was a big hit. I had had visions of myself competing in Glasgow, in front of all my family and friends battling for a medal over the 3000m. Having won a bronze two years previously at the last European Indoors in Serbia with none of my family there to experience it with me, I wanted that moment to be shared with the people who have supported me the most. But instead, here I was, lying in bed upset that I wouldn’t be a part of it at all.
As my sleep was improving we decided to race Birmingham Grand Prix in February which would be a last-ditch attempt to qualify for Glasgow on 1 March. I was still feeling pretty rough and to be honest, a lot of the race is a blur. My mind was so focussed on running the qualifying time that everything else was irrelevant. I did it. I qualified for Glasgow 2019. But instead of feeling elated. I felt anxious. I knew my body was still not cooperating and that time was running out.
Time did in fact run out and unfortunately my performance in Glasgow 2019 was extremely poor. I hit the front of the race early on knowing that I was neither in shape to sit and kick or to take it out fast but mentally, I wanted to be competitive. That mentality to push hard is still very strong but my body was not in any state to play ball. Although I was upset to have performed badly I knew my body wasn’t ready or healthy so I took a bit of solace in knowing that even with these problems I was still there. I was still part of a spectacular GB team. I had still had the opportunity to experience Glasgow 2019 in all its glory and that’s something that I know many other Scottish and British athletes would trade places for.
The night after my 3000m race, I was awoken at 3am with excruciating stomach pains. Nothing like I had ever experienced before. This led to a lot of blood tests, internal scans and further investigations into what has been going on. Finally, after almost eight weeks, I am starting to feel more like myself.
We are now into the second half of March and this has been the first week that I’ve felt like running again. I’ve wanted to go out the door for a run. I’ve wanted to feel the cold air in my lungs and the ground beneath my feet.
It’s crazy how fast the year goes by. As an athlete, I’m always planning years ahead towards the pinnacle of my sport – The Olympic Games. It can sometimes feel like that four-year cycle takes an eternity but as the months pass by you’re hit with an overwhelming feeling of pressure. Knowing that, in fact, Tokyo 2020 will be here within the blink of an eye.
Time constraints are a pressure of all professions and within athletics it is no different. We are given a date of a major competition, years in advance, and it’s up to us and our coaches to make sure we are ready to perform on the given hour of that given day. The map to get there may look relatively straight forward but in actual fact, it rarely follows the perfect straight line to success.
Running is something I love to do. It’s my passion. So when I feel like I no longer want to do it, mentally or physically, that’s when I know there’s something not quite right. But my body is becoming responsive again. That internal drive is switching back on and I’ve got some big goals for 2019 and one blip in the road isn’t going to stop me.