My 2017 Season
Trying to condense a whole year of hard work, experience, and emotions into a single post is no easy feat, going forward I promise I will cover my experiences throughout the season, but to get the ball rolling lets take a journey through the rollercoaster that was my 2017.
I kicked off the year with a stint at the HATC in Iten, Kenya. This incredibly special town remains one of my favourite places on earth. Training at 8000ft elevation is undeniably tough, but the strength gained both physically and mentally greatly outweighs the short-term discomfort. My winter training had been the best I could possibly have hoped for, and I found myself able to train harder at high elevation, and excited to see where this hard work would take me. Uninterrupted, productive training is the goal for every athlete, and I continued smoothly building my fitness right the way through my April camp in Flagstaff, AZ, until it was finally time to race!
Our group set off for Payton Jordan, CA, to open the season. In reality the first competition out for athletes is usually treated as an opportunity to dial back in the feeling of racing, and get the hunger for competition back, but I knew I was ready to take a big leap forward. I know I’m in shape because I feel more nervous than usual before toeing the line, it’s a sign that I’m ready to do something special, and I embrace those butterflies! Sure enough, on an unseasonably cold May evening in California I raced my first 3000m steeplechase of 2017. I ran a 19 second PB, secured a qualifying time for the World Championships in London later that summer, and won the race. I was on cloud nine! It felt so satisfying to have worked so hard, and be able to pull everything together so effectively on the day. Naturally I was very excited for what the summer had in store for me.
As in all walks of life, progress is rarely a smooth transition. 2 weeks after this breakthrough season opener I was dealt a major blow, and diagnosed with a stress response in my fibula. Having landed awkwardly off of one water jump, I had managed to jam up (a technical term!) my ankle. I was having physio, it didn’t hurt that much, and I had some amazing races lined up, so I ploughed on with training hard. Within a fortnight my fibula couldn’t handle the additional strain and gave up. It was stupid, if I could change it I would, but I’d been dealt my hand and had to deal with it. I was 8 weeks out from my first world championships, in my capital city, and I couldn’t run, let alone hurdle.
This period was the toughest I am yet to manage as an athlete. The Loughborough ladies were on fire, dashing all over Europe clocking up awesome results. I was SO pleased for them, but whilst they were fine tuning their racing, I was sweating my tits off doing bike sessions in the altitude chamber, and living the glamorous life of hitting lactic in the middle of a 50m pool during an aqua-jogging session (If you know you know!). It was really hard. I cannot thank the people that helped me at that time enough. I spent most of June with a permanent resting bitch face, or bursting into tears, but I carried on working hard.
Slowly, but surely, my leg healed, and attentions turned to reintroducing running. In an ideal scenario when returning from a bone stress injury the buildup back into training is very gradual so as to minimise the chances of reoccurrence. Having a World Champs 4 weeks away is not an ideal scenario! I needed to be the best I could be to toe the line in London, and I put 100% trust in my coach, David Harmer, to get me there. Harmer faced this challenge head on, and by adapting training, using the expertise of everyone around us, and just generally keeping everything as positive as possible he managed to take me from complete offload, to running an 800m PB in a time trial at 6000ft in Font Romeu within 3.5 weeks. The man’s a sensational coach! I headed to London confident, and ready to take to the track.
A championship in your home country is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. The crowds at the Olympic Park were phenomenal! The day of my race arrived, it poured with rain solidly for the whole day, but I’m used to training in Loughborough, a bit of rain is nothing! The weather certainly didn’t dampen the support, walking out onto that track in front of a sellout crowd is something truly special, the memory still gives me goosebumps. The gun went, I had an action plan, and was ready to execute. Disaster struck at the first water jump, I fell. It’s every steeplers worst nightmare, but I was remarkably calm, picked myself straight back up, and just focused on getting back in contention. On reflection the next few laps were some of the strongest I’ve ever run. I never panicked, gradually worked my way up the field, and was back in with a chance of qualifying for the final (top-6 finish). I’d expended more energy than the others due to the fall, so sought to relax and run with the group until the closing stages. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be, fate really wasn’t on my side, and I clattered the back straight barrier, sending me crashing to the track hard. I don’t actually remember the second fall, just dragging myself back up off the track. All hopes of qualifying from the heat were lost, but I ran as hard as I could to the line regardless.
Obviously my World Champs campaign was far from successful. I received a lot of messages of support following the race for which I am so grateful. It was lovely to hear that people saw promise in me for the future, and that they were impressed by my sheer determination, but in all honesty all I felt was intense disappointment, and a real sense of having let down my team. I was sure of one thing though, my 2017 season was not ending on 2 falls on a rainy London day after all the work I’d put in!
Luckily I’d secured some fantastic races to close out my season, and I stepped up to each of them with renewed goals, and a real point to prove to myself as well as others. The following 3 weeks were brilliant. I achieved a 3000m PB at Birmingham Diamond League, a 3000m steeplechase PB at Zagreb World Challenge, and a road mile PB at the Great City Games. Throwing myself back into competition was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It just further cements the fact that sport can be a real rollercoaster, but that’s what makes it so popular. Ups and downs are an inherent part of life as an athlete, so they must be embraced,
2017 taught me more about myself than any other year of my life. I matured beyond recognition in certain ways, and am entering the new competition season stronger, more experienced, and with an even greater hunger for success. Low points are inevitable, but I strive to deal with them as well as I can, and the challenges make the successes feel all the more rewarding.