Michael Johnson once said ‘life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter. Long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best’.
On Monday 28 July at 10:35am it was finally time for me to have my moment. For so long I had dreamed of and worked towards representing my country, competing at the highest level and feeling like a world class athlete. When my name was announced to the crowd and 44 thousand people cheered in reply, it made all of the struggles I had ever faced in life fade away. At that precise moment in time, I had proved to myself that it is possible to do anything you put your mind to.
Lots of things appeared to be going wrong on the morning of my race, but nothing was going to faze me on my day. So what if I ripped my number, as I was pulling on my sprint suit and there was nothing I could do about breaking the zip on my running tights. None of that was going to prevent me from running. I had to have my left knee and right ankle strapped up by the physio team before registering at the England Athletics office and then going for breakfast. In the past eating before a race has been a challenge for me with the nerves usually getting the better of me. However, not on my day. A bowl of cereal, two croissants and a strawberry yoghurt went down a treat. We caught the 8.15 bus to Hampden Stadium and I was still feeling calm. Whilst warming up, my ankle began to throb. I had sprained it four days before by missing a couple of steps in the village. I wasn’t going to let it stop me and told myself the pain was purely psychological.
In first call up I was feeling ready. In second call up there was a misunderstanding and they didn’t allow us to use the warm-up track inside to do a few runs before going out to race. Everybody was in the same position, so that was that. The noise of the crowd didn’t over-whelm me when I went out to the stadium. I made sure I came the day before to soak up the atmosphere. I had prepared, I was ready.
When it comes to athletics and training, I am a very serious and focussed athlete, rarely cracking a smile. However, a smile did creep across my face when my name was announced to the crowd. As I climbed into the blocks and tightened the guide rope around my hand, the nerves swelled inside me and I felt my arms shake slightly in the set position.
I unfortunately didn’t go on the b of the bang, as the last thing I wanted to do was false start. This meant my start wasn’t as electric as I would have liked, but I drove out of the blocks and got up to speed well. For the first time in a race this year, my turnover felt snappy and I was coming off the track nicely. My guide runner and I were running in perfect harmony.
Another smile spread across my face when I crossed the line because I had done it, I had lived the dream and it honestly felt amazing.
The smile quickly faded when I learnt the time, as I was convinced I was going to sprint to a personal best performance. On the bright side I managed to come second in my heat as predicted, behind the athlete who would go on to win silver in the final. There were three heats with the first in each progressing to the final and one fastest loser spot. I just missed out on making the final, as I was the second fastest loser meaning I finished fifth overall in my first major championships. It was gutting not to make the final and not run as fast as I would have liked, but I placed much higher than I was predicted, remembering I was running against T12 athletes who have some useful vision.
In dreams events go to plan. In reality you never know what’s going to happen. I represented England and competed at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games finishing fifth in my first major championships. Nobody can take that away from me.
Dreamed it, lived it, loved it!