Wow. What an experience.
I thought it would be good to do a post on my British Champs experience; to update you all and tell you what an amazing experience it was. Whilst it didn’t quite go as hoped, it was an experience I will never forget, and something that I will build upon to make me stronger into the future. As you will all know, every race teaches you valuable lessons that you can take into the future.
My build-up to the race was far from ideal. For over a week, I had been suffering with a stomach bug that didn’t show any signs of shifting. As the race got nearer, my nerves got bigger, in my head I knew racing probably wasn’t the best idea, but in this case, I wasn’t going to miss it at any cost. Had it been any other event, I would’ve counted my losses, but for the Senior British Champs, I was going to race no matter how bad I felt.
Arriving in the athlete warm up centre and being surrounded by countless professional athletes and athletic hero’s was incredible. Callum also loved the warm up area as you were supplied with free yogurt, coffee, and biscuits. As it was such a hot day, they had regulated the temperature of the arena to 15 degrees, which didn’t even feel cool when it was 31 degrees outside! We were given lanyards to identify who we were and our race numbers, a number I am going to treasure forever.
We had to be in the call room 25 minutes before our race, so with an hour to go until my race, I began my warm up. Given the temperature, warming up wasn’t a problem! I went off for my usual warm up jog, along with the likes of Melissa Courtney and Laura Weightman! From the get go my legs felt like jelly and were lifeless, but I thought nothing of it and carried on as normal. I took a few of the energy chews I take when I feel as though I need a little pre race boost, and continued with my warm up drills. To be at an event where next to me on the warm up track was Eilish McColgan, felt pretty surreal.
With about 15 minutes to go, we headed out on to the boiling, heat saturated track. I did a few strides with my legs still feeling lifeless, but relied on this going away as soon as the gun went off. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
The first half of the race went as well as any other race. I felt strong and composed, and although the pace was tough, I felt as though I had the strength to stick with it. Gradually as the race ensued, the composure faded away. With every lap I could feel my legs less and less. It wasn’t a lactic acid build up type pain, it was numbness, an emptiness. As the time ticked by, I was beginning to fight my body more and more. My body was desperate to stop, but I wouldn’t let it. I was determined to get to the finish no matter what. As I approached the 3.5k mark, my body won the battle, and I collapsed. I couldn’t feel anything, my legs felt numb as they went from underneath me and I was left lying on the track. All I remember was it wasn’t long before a medic was with me. What she was saying, I don’t know, but all I can remember wanting was water. Before too long, I was wheel-chaired off into a medical room and attached to lots of wires.
Something I do remember vividly, as I began to come back round, was what I said to the doctor. I said, you will see me here again, but next time, not in the medical tent; I will be on that track again! Whilst it wasn’t a pleasant experience, it hasn’t affected me in any bad way. It has taught me valuable lessons and given me tonnes of experience for the future. And I’m definitely not a quitter, so not finishing a race is not taken lightly!
If anything, the British Champs confirmed something for me. This is, that one day I want to be competitive at that level. Whilst I am a complete underdog at the minute, I am so determined and driven to get there, and I know I will in time. Just in one piece and when the time is right for me.
Not everyone has the same motives when it comes to running, we all have different goals and aims. For some of us, running is something we turn to when we need an escape from the world. This may be 5 times a week, but it may only be once. But for some of us, running is a major commitment. Don’t get me wrong, it is something I also turn to when I need to escape the world, but it is a commitment I have given myself, to train day after day.
Some people may choose to skip a run because it’s raining, and that’s fair enough. If it’s not something you want to train at everyday, why would you force yourself to run in the rain? But there is also the proportion of us, who no matter what the weather, when training calls, you go. And this is the big decision to make.
We all hit that point in our lives when everything can become chaotic. That’s when we have to decide what it is we want to focus our energy on, and what we don’t. The point of this decision can come at any point in someone’s life. It may be at school, it may be when you start work, or it may be when you start to build a family. Whenever this point comes, you will know.
For me, this came when I went in to sixth form. Alongside my A-levels I no longer had the time to study, run, play netball, play hockey, go to basketball club, and dance club, nor did I have the energy to be able to do those all to my best ability. Nor was I eating enough to be able to sustain doing all of those! So I had to decide, did I want to do everything with my friends, but never quite fully enjoy what I was doing, or did I want to give all my attention to running? And that was when I decided running was what I wanted to do. I may miss out on some aspects of a social life, but this was a decision I made, and I have never regretted my decision. Plus I can still do all the socialising I want to do!
Whilst we are never forced to training day in and day out, there is a part of us, no matter how horrible the weather, and no matter how tired we are, that knows we will feel better having done it.
There is also a clear time I remember growing up, when you reach the higher years of school, when talent within a sport no longer works. There was a time when you could turn up to a race, having done no training, and win. But this is definitely not how it works as you grow up. I think this is the definitive point where you are forced to decide what it is you want out of the sport. You either want to train your hardest and give up your time in order to improve, or you are happy to run as and when and not worry too much about the hard training.
I think this is an important thing to distinguish when you are determining what your goals are. No decision is correct, and no pathway is better than the other. It’s all about what works for you, and what you want to do. Whichever you choose make sure you are happy with your decision and you don’t miss spending time doing what you love.
It is incredible how one sport can bring so many stories and people into your life. The things you learn about people and those you get to know simply by asking how their day is when you are at the gym is amazing.
I have always had a tendency to say hello to a lot of people I bump into. Whether I’m in the gym, in the pool, at the track, or out on a run, I will always say hello to the people I pass, just because I enjoy a chat. Some of the time I say hello and get no response, but the majority of the time you are so pleased you started the conversation as you can learn some incredible things from other people.
Aqua jogging in most people’s eyes, is not the most invigorating of activities. Whilst I will admit it isn’t ‘exciting’, I do enjoy the people I meet from it and the interesting conversations I have. It is amazing how much faster the time goes when you have someone with an interesting story to tell to chat to. More often than not the conversation starts with someone wondering what it is exactly I am doing. From there the conversation begins to flow. I have met some incredible people, and made some true friends through simple saying hello when aqua jogging, because you never know where the conversation may go.
Whilst some people don’t want to be disturbed in the gym, others are open to a chat. Again, a core workout goes a million times faster if there is someone to talk too. Talking to people in the gym has confirmed to me, you can never judge an individual before you have spoken to them. The individual experiences people have been through are all unique, and everyone has a story to tell. This is what makes it interesting. It is great to hear about the different goals people have, some for fitness, some for performance, some just for enjoyment.
However, being on a run tends to be a different story. Whilst on a run, I don’t particularly want to start a full on discussion with someone I’ve never met before, a polite hello doesn’t go a miss. One thing I have learnt is not to be afraid to be ignored. There are plenty of times I run past someone, say hello or morning, and they continue to run straight past you as if you are invisible. However, there are times when you get a jolly hello in response. Sometimes a simple hello is all it takes to brighten your day. It is crazy how much such a small thing can influence an individual's mood.
We are all out there with a similar goal, whether it be in the gym, the pool, or on a run. Why not learn about each other’s goals and journey’s, running related or not, it makes the whole process a lot more exciting, and I promise you, you will meet some incredible people.
Next time you fancy a chat, but don’t know anyone around you, just say hello to a random stranger. It is amazing how easily the conversation will flow and how much you will learn. Oh, and, you’ll find those non running activities go a lot faster.
As runners and as individuals, we shouldn’t be defined by a number, whether that be a time for a race, or a number on a scale. Those digits do not represent or define completely who we are.
It can be very easy for people to become preoccupied by their weight; never feeling happy with how much they weigh. We may not be unhappy with how we look, but we are unhappy with the number on the scale. Even if we are training hard and eating what we need to fuel ourselves properly, this digit on the scale can still hang heavily in our minds.
A few years ago, I was weakened by the belief that the numbers on the scale did define who I was. I believed the lighter I was, the faster I would be, and consequently I would be happier. I always thought lighter would mean happier. Therefore, I needed to get the number on the scale down. But, this is NOT the case at all. In fact, it was the complete opposite.
The more and more I tried to reduce the number on the scales, the unhappier I became and also the slower I ran. It became a goal that I was constantly working towards. Rather than shedding digits off a time, it was a weight, my weight. When you are constantly feeling as though you need to be lighter, the enjoyment of daily life reduces. If you wake up and weigh yourself, but don’t see the number you want to see, it can ruin your mood for the rest of the day, but why? Why does this even matter?
We shouldn’t use our competitive disciplined mindsets against ourselves, nor should we focus on our body weight. The weight will take care of itself when training, and whatever this may be in terms of a number on the scales doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the scales say.
At times I was guilty of weighing myself far more often that needed. Now, I NEVER weight myself. I don’t care how much I weigh. As long as I am eating enough to feel energised throughout the day, strong in sessions, to recover well, and look strong and healthy, that is enough for me. What this translates to on a scale is irrelevant.
By not weighing myself I am so much happier in myself as an individual as there is no number in my head defining me.
So, what weight am I now? The answer is healthy, happy, and strong, not a number on the scales. We are not defined by a numerical digit.
I for one find it difficult to be completely happy with the results I get in races. I think it is part of an athletic trait, but we are always focusing on the next goal and the next race as soon as we have finished the previous one. There is always an element of us, that no matter how well we do, always wants to do better. As mad as it sounds, sometimes the races that don’t go so well are easier to comprehend as we find it easier to criticise ourselves than to praise ourselves. I try to always finish a race positively and find multiple lessons I can take away from each race. This may be things that have gone well, but most frequently it is things to improve on and work harder to master. Whilst this is a good thing, it is important to take the time to reflect on how far we have come and how much we have actually achieved!
The MK5000 on Saturday was a great example of a race that caused me to reflect on my progress and actually take the time to be pleased with a race result.
I went into the race on Saturday very nervous. I was against a lot of fast girls and to be honest with you, I felt completely out of my depth. However, I know if I want to get faster I need to race against much faster people. So, this is what I did.
Going in to the race I had a lot on my mind I was worrying about. I found out this week my iron levels had dropped quite considerably, and I wasn’t sure how this would affect my performance. Also, I was due to start my period that day which I was also worrying about happening mid-race! The worries of being a girl! However, as soon as my foot was on the start line, all of these worries disappeared from my head. It was just me and the race ahead.
I had no goal in this race other than enjoyment. I had told myself just to enjoy the race and gain experience from racing against girls a lot faster than me. I wasn’t going for any time in particular and I just wanted to get used to racing in a high-quality field and lap up the atmosphere. And that is what I did.
Throughout the race I felt so much stronger than I ever could’ve expected. I worked hard, constantly pushing myself that bit further whenever I felt as though I was beginning to relax into the pace too much, but I wasn’t going for a set time. I just wanted to see what I could do.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I crossed the line in 16:24, exactly 1 minute faster than the PB I started the season with. I never imagined that would be a pace I could run at. However, this progression didn’t cross my mind for one second, until I was reminded of it at the end by somebody else. Until now, I have never really thought seriously about the progression I’ve made. Whilst I may have acknowledged it, it has never really sunk in. I now realise how important it is to do this. To reflect on your progression and relish every result you get.
Throughout the season we are constantly on the go; training and racing, and training and racing, that there is little time to reflect on our progression. Saturday was a little nudge in the arm, reminding me how important it is to acknowledge the higher moments and take the time to look back on how far I have come.
This time last year I had just started running again and was doing 3-4 1-minute jog reps (but that was more than I could’ve wish for after 7 months without running!) and this is something I forget. I forget that I was out for nearly a year and when I look at the progression I’ve made, I am just grateful to be happy and healthy, but most importantly…to be running! I have a long way to where I want to be, but I have made bounds of improvement over the past 6 months that I should reflect on and be proud of. We are always looking at how far we have to go that we forget how far we’ve come, and this is what is important!
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!