For the next month I will be concentrating all my efforts on being in the best possible shape for the world championship trials from 12 to 14 July in Birmingham – which is likely to be my first race of the season in the UK.
It’s a venue I’ve always enjoyed, and I’ve tended to run well there. Having won the Olympic trials there last season I’m especially looking forward to going back this time, even though the competition could be significantly stronger than it was last year. I also won my first junior AAAs title there as an under-15, so the happy memories go back some way.
Not having raced in the past month has left me more time to catch up on what other Scottish athletes have been doing, and there have been a lot of really impressive early-season performances. The whole focus of this season may be on the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August, but for us there is also a real sense of momentum and excitement building about next year’s Commonwealth Games.
This time last year it would have been easy to worry about the state of the sport in Scotland, but now dozens of Scottish athletes have already recorded qualifying performances for the Commonwealth Games. It’s always an inspiration when you hear of team-mates doing well. Eilidh Child, in particular, has had an outstanding start to the season, with personal bests in both the 400-metres hurdles, her main event, and the flat 400, and I was delighted when she was named in the Great Britain team for the European Team Championships in Gateshead next weekend.
Speaking of Glasgow, I would like nothing better in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games than to see a Diamond League meeting at Hampden. It’s a really exciting prospect, one which would set the stage perfectly for the Games themselves.
As far as I can see, there is nothing that would stop it taking place – provided, that is, that the organisers agree to host a meeting there. Everything will be in place at Hampden by next summer, and it would be so exciting to take part in an event like that on home ground.
The stadium is in place already, of course, with the main change for the Commonwealth Games being the installation of a running track. As long as that gets done on time, everything will be in place to hold a Diamond League meeting.
Nothing like it has taken place in Scotland before. Edinburgh has hosted two Commonwealth Games, of course, in 1970 and 1986, and we have had good one-off invitation events, but not the strength in depth from around the world that the Diamond League can offer.
There have already been Diamond League meetings this season in Doha, Shanghai, and Oslo among other places. The next one is the Birmingham Grand Prix at the end of this month, then London will hold a two-day meeting towards the end of July before the series ends with meetings in Zurich and Brussels. It would be great to see Glasgow on the calendar for next year. I’m sure if the will is there it can be done.
While I’m looking forward to the trials in Birmingham, there is a very important date in my diary before then, at the end of this month: prizegiving at The Mary Erskine and Stewart’s-Melville Junior School, where I spent seven very happy years before moving on to The Mary Erskine School for my secondary education. I was meant to present the prizes there last year, but I was selected for the European Championships, so was in Helsinki on the same day.
The school was still able to fix up a video link to Finland so I could say a few words, but I promised then that, competitive schedule permitting, I would be back in person this year. So it’s important to me that I make it along this year – not only to fulfil that promise, but also in recognition of how supportive the school has been.
My mum is a teacher there, and last summer they allowed her time off from work so she could go with me to Helsinki, even though they would have been perfectly within their rights to say no.
She has always played a really important part in my career, not least because she is a former athlete herself. And she has been very supportive as a mother too.
It’s a few years now since I left school, but that generosity they showed last summer was just one more reminder to me of how helpful they have been throughout most of my life. So now it looks like I will definitely make it to prizegiving, to hand out the prizes. It will be very strange to be a member of the platform party, as I remember from my years in the junior school looking in awe at the people presenting the prizes and thinking how grown-up and sophisticated they were. The other thing I remember from prizegiving is playing percussion in the school orchestra for the school hymn – Summer Suns Are Glowing. I was so proud to do that, as I’d always wanted to be good at something other than sport.
In my first years at school I used to watch the people playing drums at prizegiving, so I decided to take lessons. This year I’ll look out specially to see who is playing percussion.
I’ve always felt really welcome whenever I’ve gone back to school, and I’m sure this time will be no different. I have a very strong link with the school and I’m sure I always will have. It’s played a huge part in making me the person I’ve become, because of the values it instills and the confidence it breeds. Even after you leave you still feel like part of a big family, and the school remains a part of you for the rest of your life.
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