WHEN you are a marathon runner, very little is instantaneous. That’s the nature of the beast. Everything is a journey, everything takes time.
Even in that context, Freya Ross has had a long wait. She posted the qualifying time for this year’s Commonwealth Games back in November in Yokohama, but her place in Team Scotland was only confirmed on Wednesday, scottishathletics waiting until after the London Marathon to finalise their selections which were then, finally, rubber-stamped by Commonwealth Games Scotland.
“It is really nice to now see it in black and white,” says the thrilled Ross. “Until it was official, you can’t be 100 per cent sure. People kept saying ‘oh, you’ll be fine’ but until it was confirmed and I had something in writing, I wasn’t taking anything for granted. I’m sure this is going to be an amazing event so I really want to be part of it.”
She will. And although this will be her second opportunity to represent Scotland at a Commonwealth Games, she knows it will be a vastly different experience this time around.
Four years ago, the jamboree was in Delhi, with all the cultural challenges that brought. Four years ago she was focusing on lap after lap on the track as she competed in the 5,000m and 10,000m. This time she has home advantage and she has long-since swapped the arena for the road and piled on the miles, with a top-ten place in the marathon the new target.
“Both those things will be major changes. Last time it was very exciting to be in Delhi and it was a different culture altogether. It was also my first major games and my first multi-sport games. There was a lot to take in. But this time I will be doing the marathon and it will be in front of a home crowd.”
The bonus with the marathon is that unlike other home athletes this summer, she does not need to beg, borrow and barter to get enough briefs to ensure family and friends can get along to lend their support and share in the experience. One of only three non-ticket sporting events at Glasgow 2014, the public can line the 26.2 mile route for free. She hopes that means there will be a big crowd and vocal and enthusiastic backing for the Scottish athletes.
A late call-up for Team GB at the London Olympics in 2012 after Paula Radcliffe decided she wasn’t fit enough to compete, Ross was the first Briton home, in a time of 2.32:14hrs. That offers her insight into the highs experienced when competing in front of such a large and expectant home support.
“I was really lucky to get to London but with the Commonwealth Games being in Scotland, I think it will be even more exciting for the Scottish athletes. It definitely means you want to make sure you do your best but there will hopefully be a lot of support along the route. Everyone wants to see the home athletes do well so there is a greater level of expectation, but it’s nice that people have high hopes and will be willing you on. That support can really help. Sometimes that can give you such a lift.”
A family of athletes, her brother, sister and husband have all competed in events with her and she is grateful that they share her passion for the sport and understand the hard work and dedication needed to get her to this level. She will also be grateful if she can pick them out, along with other members of the family and friends, as she eats up the miles around Glasgow.
“It gives you an extra wee lift every time someone calls your name,” says the 30-year-old. “When you’re racing, you usually have your surname on your number so people know who you are and people shout and that’s great, but when you hear your first name that’s even better. It’s usually a voice you recognise. You don’t spend the race looking for familiar faces but sometimes hearing that familiar voice or hearing your first name can be great, especially if you are at a tough stage of the race.”
The tough part in Glasgow will not be recruiting the support needed to carry her around the course on a wave of enthusiasm and goodwill, it will be tapping into it just enough to get an emotional or psychological boost without allowing it to turbo-charge the adrenaline and have her charging off at a pace she cannot sustain.
“You still have to pace yourself, or you are going to get to ten miles without any problems but then you will start to find the rest of the race extremely tough.”
The excitement is already building but, now that selection is secured, she will soon remove herself from the hype. “I will go to Colorado for some altitude training in early June and come back in July, just a couple of weeks before the games start. I want to finish as near the front as I can and I definitely believe that the British women will be competitive.”
If they are anywhere near the front runners as the finish line approaches, the noise from behind the barriers will be something few will forget.