Libby Clegg on staying composed for Glasgow 2014

Libby Clegg runs with her guide Mikail Huggins in the 100m event during the London 2012 Paralympics. Picture: AFP/Getty
Libby Clegg runs with her guide Mikail Huggins in the 100m event during the London 2012 Paralympics. Picture: AFP/Getty
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NOT long to wait now. For years we have regarded 23 July, 2014, the date of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, as some distant event. But not any more.

It’s this month now, just weeks away, and many athletes will spend a lot of time in the coming weeks trying to remain calm and ensuring that every aspect of their preparation goes smoothly.

It does all feel that it’s come round very quickly, but even so, I don’t feel nervous yet. Perhaps it’s because I have a couple of races to focus on first before my mind turns to the Games, or maybe my previous experience of big events like the Paralympics helps. But be that as it may, I’m sure the nerves will start to make themselves felt soon.

My guide, Mikail Huggins, and I raced in Berlin recently and it went fairly well – it was only my second race of the season, so I didn’t expect too much. The dominant feeling was simply that it was just good to race again.

From now on, obviously, I’ll be putting a lot more pressure on myself. I’ve got a low-key league meeting in Loughborough this weekend, racing against fully-sighted athletes, and then it’s on to the Diamond League in Glasgow next weekend.

That will be an excellent opportunity not only to measure my form against that of some of my main rivals, but also to get to know Hampden and how everything will work at the Games. It may sound silly to people who have not competed at this level, but apparently minor matters such as getting to know where the toilets are located can in fact be very important.

Think of it as your first day in a new office. You want to know where everything is, you want to know how long it takes to get from one part of the complex to another, and you need to know where the toilets are. Until you have that information, you can feel anxious, and that can detract from your performance.

I know that I’ll be up against a couple of Great Britain team-mates in the Diamond League, but in general I never know who I’m due to race against – and I never make any attempt to find out. I know what I need to do myself, and in a 100-metre race there’s not exactly any time for tactics in any case, so I always just concentrate on my own preparation.

Mikail and I tend to do our own things in the warm-up, because I like to be in my own space and have time to make sure I’m in the best frame of mind. He knows me really well now, so there’s no need for any last-minute discussions or rehearsals. While I’m easy about who I’ll be racing against, he’s really excited, because his step-brother is a guide runner with the England team. They have a friendly rivalry, which might just get that bit more serious in the coming weeks.

Away from the track, I was sad to hear that my old school was leaving the site where I have so many happy memories. I had a fantastic experience at the Royal Blind School at Craigmillar Park in Edinburgh, and they really helped me develop as a person.

The school will still exist on a different campus in Morningside, but all my memories are of that old building in the Grange, and I was sorry that my work commitments in Loughborough prevented me from travelling up to to Scotland to be there for the final day. I began my education in a mainstream school, where I felt isolated and ignored, and I felt a world of difference when I moved to the Royal Blind School.

There has been a massive push for kids with needs like mine to go into mainstream education, and provided the facilities are all there, that can be a good thing. But for me, at the time, there was nothing like the help, both educational and personal, that I got in the Royal Blind School.

In fact, when I was there I had the best of both worlds, because I joined a mainstream athletics club – Edinburgh City, or Edinburgh Woollen Mill as it was called then. I was a middle-distance runner then and I really enjoyed being part of the club.

The spirit there was an example of how good morale can benefit everyone, and I hope I can remember that example and continue to learn from it when we all get together as Team Scotland in just a few days’ time.

• Support SSE Home Nation ambassador Libby Clegg and her team-mates ahead of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games by tweeting #GOSCOTLAND, and by doing so help fund the next generation of athletes in your community. Follow @ScottishHydro to keep up to date.