THIS year has been a horrendous one for me, with so many things going wrong – above all the injury that kept me out of action for almost the entire season.
But before I happily say farewell to 2013, it’s important to acknowledge the positive things that have happened: things that mean the year was far from being a total write-off, and that will help me begin 2014 in a very positive frame of mind.
For a start, there are not many people who become European champion while in America, but that’s what happened to me back in April. When Yelena Arzhakova of Russia was banned for a doping offence, she was stripped of her ‘victory’ in the 800 metres in Helsinki last year, and of her gold medal from the 2011 European Under-23 Championships in Ostrava as well. I was second behind Arzhakova in Helsinki, so I was moved up to gold; and I was a bronze medallist in the under-23s, so that has become a silver.
Two months after that ban became public, European Athletics officially amended their results, and speculation immediately began about where there might be a medal presentation ceremony. Unfortunately, after all this time, it remains speculation.
So many people involved in athletics keep asking me when I’m going to get my gold medal, but the fact is I don’t know. Scottish Athletics have done everything in their power, as have UK Athletics; but both of those governing bodies are dependent on European Athletics announcing that they have a medal ready to present to me.
Justice has been done with the two-year suspension of Arzhakova, but it should also be seen to be done, and that means holding a ceremony and presenting the rightful winner with her medal. I’m officially European champion until the event is next held, in Zurich in August, and I think it’s important that there is a public recognition of the rightful result while my reign lasts.
Arzhakova’s reported failure to return her medal is not an issue here. Of course she should return it, but that medal is engraved with her name so would not simply be passed on to me. To the best of my knowledge, every major championship has some medals held in reserve in the event of cases such as this, so it cannot be too difficult to engrave a new one.
As 2013 comes to an end, that remains a source of frustration, but the original announcement in April and the confirmation of the amended result in June were at least helpful chinks of light in what was otherwise an increasingly overcast period for me. So, too, as we approach what is literally the darkest time of year, is the fact that I’m now back in full training.
The two operations on my leg are behind me, and I’m running again properly, as well as having resumed my usual weights programme.
Because it was a leg injury, I was able to continue upper-body work for much of the time, so it’s not as if I’m beginning that side of my training from scratch.
On the other hand, when it comes to running, I’m building up the sessions gradually. Apart from needing to increase my stamina, there’s a difference in my calf sizes because one was a lot less active during my injury, so patience is called for, no matter how eager I am to get back to peak condition.
For any athlete, being out injured is always a frustrating time, and there is a natural tendency to try and make up for lost time. But whatever residual frustration I may feel now is more than outweighed by the sheer pleasure of being back on the track.
Throughout my time on the sidelines I always said that I needed to be running by December to give myself the best chance of being in top form for next season. I managed that with a couple of weeks to spare, so everything is now back on schedule for 2014. It’s not as if 2013 never happened, but at least I’m now at the stage where I can honestly tell myself that the worst events of the past 12 months are now firmly behind me and no longer have an effect on what I’m doing.
So now I’m looking forward to what will by necessity be a very short Christmas break back in Scotland, and then in the first few days of the new year I’ll be flying out to South Africa to a UK Athletics training camp in Stellenbosch. My training programme over the next couple of weeks will be specifically geared to ensuring that I’m fit enough by the time I go there to train as normal.
The facilities are excellent in Stellenbosch, and it’s simply a warm-weather camp, not at altitude, so there will be no problem in adjusting to that. It should be an excellent start to the new year – training full-out, and with the sun on my back. No matter how much I love home, this is the toughest time of year to train in British conditions, so getting away from the gloom is a very appealing prospect.
After that I plan to spend some time in the USA in the spring, then it will be back to the UK in time for the start of the outdoor season. I’ve been scrutinising the Diamond League calendar recently, and some of those meetings look very appealing.