19 years ago I was sat in a classroom at Thornhill School writing my ambitions page for my end of school record of achievement. On that page I wrote that I would like to become a physiotherapist or a PE teacher or if I stuck in with my athletics and train really hard become a full time athlete and one day represent my country at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games at the marathon.
The PE teaching went out of the window after a couple of weeks work experience in a local senior school during college showed that I would probably be up on an assault charge if the kids gave me as much cheek as they did their teachers in that school! A few years later the physio dream followed the same path out of the window when I didn’t gain a place on degree course.
Instead I studied sport and exercise development at uni, graduated and got a job in sports development followed by a job in running retail. Throughout all of this though I did stick in with my athletics and trained damn hard and over the years I’ve been rewarded for this work with some good results and the honour of representing my country on 6 occasions.
Now, 19 years on from writing that ambitions page I have eventually achieved one of the things I set out to back then. I am very honoured, proud and extremely excited to finally be able to announce that I have been selected to represent England at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in the marathon.
Whilst I’ve already represented GB at three World Championships, to finally get the chance to compete at a big multi-sport championships is very exciting. The last 20 odd years of running has never been a smooth journey, in fact it’s had more ups and downs than the biggest rollercoaster at Alton Towers, but to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’ve never had anything handed to me on a plate; I’ve had to work damn hard for everything I’ve ever achieved. I’ve spent time in both Ethiopia and Kenya living in what most Westerners would call poverty, but it’s toughened me up, it’s made me the athlete and most importantly the person I am today. These trips opened my eyes to the fact that if you want something bad enough and you are willing to put the hard work in then you will achieve it.
Two of the toughest weeks of this journey have been the last two. Anyone who may have ever doubted my ability to keep a secret should never doubt again. I was given the good news of my selection nearly two weeks ago but I was told I had to keep it secret for a week until the team was officially announced. However, due to unforeseen circumstances the week turned into two and just as I thought I was going to burst keeping it all in they finally made the announcement just short of two weeks after letting the athletes know. This has seriously been one of the toughest two weeks of my life!! Keeping this quiet for the last two week has been horrendous. All I’ve wanted to do is shout it from the rooftops. I’ve had friends, family and strangers asking me if I’ve heard anything and all I could tell them were that the team would be announced on Monday and then that there had been a delay and it would be announced in due course.
A lot of people saw my selection as a formality but until you get that phone call and then the email confirming everything you never let yourself get sucked into these ‘formalities’ as anything can happen to make things change. Now I know for definite I can fully concentrate on my training and make sure that I get to the start line in the best possible shape.
I’ve already had people asking me what I’m aiming for at the Games and the honest truth is I don’t know. This is a major championship marathon and as any marathon geek will know, anything can happen at these events. You can go into the race ranked outside the top 20 and come away with a medal just the same as someone ranked highly can come near the back of the field. All I can say is that I will be doing everything possible under my control to make sure that I get to the start line fit and healthy and then I will give it my absolute all on the day. I plan to leave every part of me out on the roads of Glasgow on July 27th. If that is good enough to earn me a medal then that would be fantastic, if it’s not then it’s not the end of the world. As long as I walk(or crawl) away from Glasgow Green and can honestly say that I couldn’t have possibly given any more then whether that places me 3rd, 13th or 33rd that is all what I can ask from myself and I will be happy and proud.
Needless to say, I am very excited about everything that is happening but right now. There is all the exciting bits (not that training isn’t exciting!) like going to the kitting out day and receiving all of your kit, but I need to remember that there is still a lot of hard training to be done between now and July 27th and this has to be my priority and not let anything jeopardise this otherwise there could be tears come race day!
With confirmation of my place at Glasgow I can now also confirm my race schedule up until the Games. On Wednesday night I will run the local Newburn River Run as my weekly tempo session. It’s a shorter tempo as this weekend I am over in the Czech Republic racing the Olomouc Half Marathon. I’m not looking for any earth shattering run at this race and I think a PB will probably be just out of reach at this point of training but I am looking for a good strong run. After this I will be running the Tyne Bridge Harriers 5 mile road race, again as a tempo session and then my final tune up race will be the Great North 10k at Gateshead two weeks before the marathon. The Gateshead 10k will most likely be one of my crazy ‘run 14 miles to the start’ races to prepare the body for running hard and hopefully fast, on tired legs.