TAKING part in a race for the first time in nearly a year last weekend was an unbelievable feeling. A massive relief, but also a real joy.
Since returning to full-time training at Loughborough I’ve felt a proper part of the athletics community again, because I’ve got a very similar Monday-to-Friday routine as all the other middle-distance runners there. But as any professional sports person will tell you, you never feel fulfilled in your work if you are only training: for that, you need to be competing too.
That’s why it was so great to run at the Tom Jones Memorial meeting out here in Florida. No matter how fit you feel, no matter how hard you have worked, nothing compares to getting your spikes on, getting back on to a track and giving it everything you’ve got in a race. And on Saturday night, after so many months in limbo, I felt again that I was the person I’m meant to be: the person I moved down to Loughborough to be.
I deliberately selected a fairly low-key competition for my comeback and didn’t even tell my mum until afterwards. The only pressure I felt before the race came from myself, while I got a lot of support from the other athletes who are on this British Athletics training camp – above all from the three others with whom I ran a 4x400metre relay: Emily Diamond, Desiree Henry and Anyika Onuora.
Competing in a relay was useful, as it gave me an idea of what my top-end speed is like and let me know what I’ll need to work on if I want to be part of Scotland’s 4x400 squad at the Commonwealth Games. Now, however, my focus is firmly on my main event, the 800m.
I’m at this camp in Florida until 12 May and after so long on the sidelines, I’m really eager to get back to regular 800m competition. I need to produce a second qualifying time by 8 June to be selected for the Commonwealth Games, That deadline, plus the knowledge that the opening ceremony is now less than three months away, has heightened my awareness of how urgent things are now.
But at the same time, I have to ensure I remain patient. No matter how tempting it may be to try to hurry things along, I will resist the urge and race only when I’m ready.
There are lots of meetings in Florida and further afield over the next few weeks. I’m sure that our coaches have pencilled some in for potential participation – not just by me, but by some of the others here. But so far, I am not targeting any. I will definitely not take part in the Penn Relays this weekend and have yet to take a close look at the rest of the calendar.
It’s been great to see so many Scottish athletics doing well in the US over the past few weeks, with several getting the qualifying times they need and others coming very close. In some cases, they are running personal bests simply to ensure that they are eligible for selection, and to be in such good form at this stage of the season has to augur well for the rest of the year.
My case is slightly different. Where others are breaking new ground and excelling themselves, I’m aiming first of all to get back to where I was in 2012, when I got to the Olympic Games and became European champion.
Of course, I’d love to run a personal best, and I have every intention of doing that later in the season. The first step, however, is to record that second time, below 2 minutes 2.80 seconds.
My own PB is 2:00.52, so the qualifying standard should not be a hard one for me to get. But before I go for it, I could still have a couple of weeks’ training sessions to go.
It’s not just about doing lots of hard work, because if that was the case I’d have run the time already. It’s about making sure I’ve done the right kind of work in training, so I can have both the endurance and the turn of speed you need in the 800.
Our coaches are monitoring training closely and it’s up to me to prove to them that I am ready to race, and to get the time. Yes, time is of the essence now, but I simply cannot allow myself to rush into competition before I’m completely ready.