AFTER racing in Brussels on Friday night and only getting a few hours’ sleep before catching a flight back to the UK, I was a bit nervous about competing in the Great North CityGames on Saturday afternoon. I needn’t have been. Everyone was so friendly, and running the 500 metres against Eilidh Child and Christine Ohuruogu among others was a really enjoyable experience.
There was no pressure compared to taking part at major championships, and because it is a rarely-run distance there was no expectation either. But, while there was a relaxed atmosphere, it was also very competitive. I didn’t really plan to go into the lead from the start, but once I found myself in that position I thought I should try and stay there for as long as possible. In the end, Christine was just too strong for me, and I finished second ahead of Eilidh.
To be honest, if I’d been forced to predict the result beforehand I probably would have tipped Christine, not just because she had been able to rest the night before, but really because she is such a great 400m runner and is renowned for finishing strongly when others are tying up. As an 800m runner, by contrast, I’m used to gradually increasing my speed, so attempting to sustain the pace off a fast start was a novel experience for me.
It would be great to have more street athletics events in future, and I would love to take part in them. In ideal circumstances I would not have to catch a 6am flight to make it to the start line on time, but that was an unavoidable consequence of what is proving to be a very busy end to the season. The previous night’s race at the Diamond League meeting in Brussels was both frustrating and satisfying at the same time for me. Frustrating, because I’m convinced that, had I run a little more smartly I would have won rather than coming second behind Brenda Martinez of the USA. But satisfying, because I beat world champion Eunice Sum again, and my time of 1min 58.94 was just outside my personal best of 1:58.80.
Having also beaten Eunice at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham last month, I’m confident that if I’m in the right place with 150 or 200m to go I have a good chance of winning. So the key, obviously, is to ensure I get into that position – which is what I didn’t do in Brussels.
Instead, I was a wee bit boxed in, and knew that whenever I chose to get out, it would cost me a fraction of a second. Coming down the home straight I thought I was going to get there, but it was that fraction that cost me the victory, as Brenda crossed the line 0.1sec in front. Still, to get a podium finish in a Diamond League meeting was very satisfying, as was my third place overall for the season – and those achievements are all the more pleasing when I look back to the end of March, when I was in a wheelchair after a leg operation. My season began a month after that with an eighth place in a time of 2min 06sec. Back then I was not even sure of making the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games, so to have won silver medals in Glasgow and then at the European Championships has been amazing.
Whenever I feel disappointed after races like Friday’s, I have to bear in mind how much I’ve progressed this season. It was only in July, after all, that I ran under two minutes for the first time, and it was only last month that I broke Susan Scott’s Scottish record and ran that 1:58.80 PB. But of course it’s far better to be dissatisfied than to rest on your laurels. I’m confident I can keep up the progress I’ve made this season, so while I’m happy that I’ve come a long way in a fairly short amount of time, I keep telling myself that I still have a long way to go.
At this stage of the season everyone is feeling a little fatigued, but I still feel in reasonable shape, thanks in part to a relatively swift exit from Glasgow after the Commonwealth Games. Some team-mates who were not competing for Great Britain at the European Championships were able to hang around and enjoy the incredibly atmosphere, but I had to start preparing for Zurich almost immediately. The amount of support we got in Glasgow was overwhelming, not only before and during our events but days afterwards too, so it was beneficial for me to return to Loughborough for a short time and focus on the Europeans.
Now that the end of the season is in sight, I should be able to put everything I have left into my last race, in the IAAF Intercontinental Cup in Marrakech on Saturday. Myself and Marina Arzamasova of Belarus are representing Europe, and if the conditions are good – and I avoid getting boxed in – I could set another personal best.