Sunday, 2 October 2016

Job Vacancy - Female PA

Female PA required to support visually impaired athlete with sporting activities, such as swimming and gym classes at David Lloyd Narborough.

No experience necessary
Car driver essential
Wednesday/Friday daytime
Aprox 2-4hrs per week
£8 per hour and 45p per mile

To apply please send CV and covering letter to:

Closing date: Tuesday 1 November 2016.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Rio Paralympics

So Rio 2016 has come to an end. Initially, I imagined my thoughts on the Paralympics would be very similar to my thoughts on the Olympics. However, the Paralympic experience for me was completely different. I guess because it is closer to home in the sense that whilst Athletics features in the Olympics it isn’t actually an event I could ever participate in.

It is terrible to say, but I wasn’t inspired by the Paralympics this time. Maybe it isn’t physically possible to be inspired over and over again. The concept of people overcoming adversity and achieving great things in sport isn’t something that is new to me. Don’t get me wrong, there were some amazing performances and acts of courage. They just didn’t feel relevant to me. This could be because we had a very limited number of visually impaired athletes competing, so very little visually impaired sport was televised. We had no Goalball teams, no blind football team, no S11 swimmers, which would be my classification and whilst I know we sent athletes in the Judo, I’m not sure if anyone managed to medal. Apologies if they did, but it must have passed me by. We did grab a handful of medals in the athletics, swimming and cycling from athletes who are mostly partially sighted. It makes me wonder how totally blind young people can aspire to represent their country at a Paralympics if they have no role model to follow. Personally, watching Tracey Hinton in Beijing was my first glimpse of what a totally blind athlete could do on an athletics track and later she became my rival.

Despite not seeing visually impaired sport, I did watch the Paralympics religiously every day and enjoyed it overall. The Channel 4 coverage was cringe worthy at times with stuttering presenters and their lack of knowledge, yet I know Channel 4 tried their best, which is all you can ask. I did surprise myself how much I know about not only Athletics, but other sports too when the presenters gave incorrect facts. It was common to see on social media incorrect classifications and facts too. To be fair the classification system is a tough thing to get your head around. I know the Athletics classes inside out and I’m reasonably familiar with the classifications in other sports. That’s because I’m involved in disability sport. For the general public including my parents, they find it confusing. They asked me what is the difference between a T34 and T54 athlete, as to them they both compete in wheelchairs. Also, in the swimming they were cheering the athletes with amputations because visibly to them they must be more impaired than someone with all four limbs. I noticed that the LEXI guide to classification wasn’t used much, as there was simply no time due to the amount of British performances that needed squeezing in.

The medals just kept on coming. 147 later and as a spectator I was a little bit bored with all of the winning. The medals didn’t feel as special compared to the Olympics especially when some people managed to collect three or four. In future I think they need to reduce the amount of events for certain classifications. It is a bit bizarre that some athletes are able to compete and medal over so many different disciplines. That isn’t possible to do in the Olympics, so it shouldn’t be possible in the Paralympics. I do know in the athletics that they took a fair few 200m races out so some athletes were unable to double up. This process needs to be continued on a class by class basis.

Reading back, this does seem to be quite a negative post. So to end on some positives…

Rio delivered. They got the crowds in and backed their athletes whole heartedly. When Brazil clinched the Bronze in the final swimming event, a relay of some sort, it brought a tear to my eye, as on classification points it shouldn’t have physically been possible. The crowd’s reaction was mind blowing. And I say I got bored of us winning all of the time, but 147 medals for Paralympics GB is an incredible achievement. Only China with a disabled population of a mere 65 million could beat us.

Next up Tokyo 2020. This last four year cycle I didn’t aim to become a Paralympian. Dare I say it, but I would love to be in Tokyo. I wish I didn’t love athletics so much, as I would consider doing a different sport to aid my chances, but the truth is the only sport for me is track and field. To get there as a sprinter would be a tall order. If I’m lucky we may have a relay team by then or I may discover a hidden talent for another event. It is always good to dream.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Baths, Boiled Eggs and Back Cracks

Taking baths, eating boiled eggs before training and having treatment on my back are just a few of the changes I made this year to enable me to run an illegal 13.52 and a legal 13.61 over 100m. My previous PB was 13.93 set in 2013 and it was a relief to start making progress again. Tomorrow I begin winter training, so thought I would take the time to reflect on my season before starting anew.

Whilst I am pleased with my progression, I had a real reality check this last week watching my event at the Paralympics. Fifteen out of the sixteen athletes who participated ran faster than my best time. The slowest time set was 13.99. Again I was left thinking, how on earth do these girls do it?! I train so hard, yet seem to be forever chasing. One of the most difficult things to accept was the re-classification of some T12 athletes moving down into my T11 class. This is something that could keep happening and pushing my classification on further. However, there is nothing I can do regarding that situation and can only concentrate on improving myself as a sprinter.

Yes, baths, boiled eggs and back cracks have contributed to my progression, as well as my nine pound weight loss. My friends all thought I was crazy when I told them I was trying to lose weight. That’s nine pounds less to drag down the track though. Also, I am managing to do drills that I literally physically couldn’t do before.

Each year I learn more and more about what it takes to be a world class athlete. For instance, I know I wasn’t able to lift heavy enough in the gym last winter, so there was only so much power I could expect from myself come the summer. This is something that is going to get fixed this time around.

I managed to run under fourteen seconds on six occasions this year demonstrating my ability to be more consistent as an athlete, which is a positive. I took just under four seconds off of my previous 200m PB, which is remarkable considering I don’t train for the event. I was given the opportunity to compete for Great Britain in front of fifty thousand people at the London Anniversary Games, which I was incredibly grateful for. These small achievements are what I need to remember moving forward.

Winter training is going to be tough. It is going to hurt. I am not going to enjoy it. However, I know it is going to be worth it.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Rio Olympics

I was excited for the Olympics to start of course, but I didn’t realise how hooked I would get. For two solid weeks my life revolved around the games. I’m already motivated when it comes to achieving in sport, I bleat on about it regularly enough on here. However, watching the Olympics inspired me further, encouraged me to run faster, aim higher and become stronger. I was in total awe of every single athlete competing on the greatest stage of all. So much so every time someone won a medal or just missed out, it caused me to well up. Even now when I watch the highlights, I can’t stop the eyes from filling. I’m not sure if it is old age or simple recognition and appreciation of the hard work every athlete puts in. They all spoke of the sacrifices they had made and it’s so true. As an athlete you feel you are constantly saying no to things because you need to train or compete or rest before training or competing.

Prior and during the games Rio received a lot of negative press to put it mildly. Many people argued that they shouldn’t have been awarded the games at all. Personally, I think this is unfair. They were very much a developing country when they were awarded the Olympics and it really shouldn’t be an event that only the rich are allowed to host. The Olympics is a place where all countries come together. This shouldn’t be in a magical land where no bad happens. Having the Olympics in Rio gave the games a touch of realism that I liked. Ok so the venues were half empty, but the organisers shouldn’t have made ticket prices so high. The Rio public came out in their thousands to watch the free events, such as the marathon. They are like Britain, a nation that loves sport and in my opinion deserved to host the games.

Britain had a great games winning more medals than ever before. This meant I ended up watching more sports than ever before and really enjoyed doing so. In particular the gymnastics and diving had me gripped. Ultimately, the athletics was the best of the rest though. It was a shame it was on so late meaning I recorded it each night, avoided the news and social media in the morning in order to gain the full experience. The athletics did not disappoint. Although I never expected to enjoy the men’s 400m final more than the men’s 100m final, which were on the same night. This year I didn’t doubt BBolt’s ability and superiority to the others. I knew the men’s 400m would be impressive, but seriously didn’t predict anyone breaking Michael Johnson’s World Record. That takes some class or at least a very fast South African called Wayde Van Niekerk. I was pleased that our Super Saturday stars from London 2012 were able to medal again, a feat that was by no means easy or a given.

Now it isn’t long before the Paralympics begin. Naturally, I will be watching.

Friday, 19 August 2016

TPT Guest Blog

Recently, I was asked to guest blog for Thomas Pocklington Trust. I wrote about how athletics has helped me deal with my sight loss in the hope that it encourages other visually impaired people to get involved in sport. You can read my post by clicking here.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Feeling Great at 28

At the moment I’m fairly satisfied with life. I had a great birthday. The day before I went to see an audio described performance of Mamma Mia at the Birmingham Hippodrome with some friends. Then the day of my birthday, I had lunch with my family and raced in the evening where I finally broke my 100m PB after three long years. I knew the PB would definitely be broken this year as I’m running better than ever, but it was good to get that monkey off my back. MyPB from 2013 was 13.93 and twice this year I got agonisingly close to it clocking 13.96 both times. Then on my birthday I managed to drop it down to 13.61, which was a time I knew I had in me and was so pleased to actually produce it. To prove it wasn’t a one off, last Saturday I ran 13.52 but the time is illegal, as the wind was just over the allowed limit. Nevertheless, with a few races left of the season, I hope to continue running mid 13s if not even better.

A few days after my birthday I was given the opportunity to represent Great Britain for the first time at the London Anniversary Games over 200m. It would only be my second 200m in four years and it is an event that I do zero training for. However, I couldn’t give up the chance to race in the Olympic Stadium in front of a crowd around fifty thousand people. With it not being my primary event, I was able to really enjoy the experience as I didn’t have any pressure. I have to admit the second 100m of the race felt like hell. The lactic really kicked in and I was seriously hurting. My previous 200m PB was 30.54 which I ran a couple of weeks before. I knew I would run faster than that and was happy with 28.91. In my head I really wanted to run twenty-eight something. To put my 13.61 and 28.91 into perspective, they would have got me 4th at the Europeans in June. Things are heading in the right direction, but I know they are just the beginning. I need to keep progressing and not wait another three years to break my PBs again.

I also have a new job, which I hope will be more successful than the one I had last year. It is a zero hour contract, but that works for me. I only want to work a couple of days per month so it doesn’t disrupt the athletics training yet gives me a boost to my income. I will be working as an Expert by Experience. Basically the job entails helping inspectors with their inspections of health and social care provisions. I have enjoyed the training and look forward to starting properly later this month.

On my last birthday I remember feeling a bit lost with life. This year I’m feeling more positive. I’m lucky to have a small number of close friends both sighted and visually impaired. I’m grateful to have found a job that will compliment my athletics career. I’m confident that my hard work is paying off and I’m going to reach my athletics goals. I’m privileged to have a supportive network around me. Ok so I’m not getting married or having babies anytime soon, but I’m living life and loving it.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Big Thank You

I’m pleased to report that my crowd funding campaign was a success. There was a period where I was convinced that I wouldn’t reach my £500 target then the next thing I knew it had not only been met, but smashed. I now have enough funds for approximately a year’s worth of sports massage/physio, which is going to be a massive help. It relieves me from a financial strain and will definitely have a positive impact upon my performance as an athlete and enable me to train and race at my best.

I’m so incredibly grateful for the generous donations and hope to do everyone proud in the future. A big thank you goes to-

Pam Banks
Matthew Clark
Eugene Creighton-Griffiths
Azam and Barbara Dassut
Emma Gaskin
Julie Grafton-Reed
Cheryl Gupta
Charlotte Fisher
Christine Huber
Thomas Norton
Sally Nutt
David Playfoot
Michael Thornton
John Turner
Julie Watson
Bridgid Weaver
Warren Wilson
People for Research

And a special thanks to VICTA Children and VISTA for promoting my project.