Alisha Rees: Meet the fastest woman in Scotland as she prepares for Commonwealth Games

Meet, then, the fastest woman in Scotland.

Alisha Rees broke the Scottish 100 metres record this season which had stood for 48 years. Picture: Bobby Gavin/Scottish Athletics
Alisha Rees broke the Scottish 100 metres record this season which had stood for 48 years. Picture: Bobby Gavin/Scottish Athletics

At 23, Alisha Rees is in the form of her life and will head to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham revelling in her new found status.

The Aberdeenshire sprinter broke one of the country’s longest standing athletics records when she ran the 100 metres in 11.39 seconds at Dagenham on May 1.

Her time was a hundredth of a second faster than the mark set by Helen Golden at Crystal Palace 48 years ago. Golden, a sprinting star of the 1970s and widely considered the best Scottish athlete never to win a Commonwealth medal, had held the national record for almost half a century.

Rees’ achievement also meant she secured the qualifying time for Birmingham and she has since gone on to better her own record, running 11.30sec in Stratford in mid-July.

For an athlete who learnt her trade on a grass track in Banchory, the chance to now run in her first major senior championship as the Scottish record holder is a significant moment.

“It’s definitely been a breakthrough for me,” she said. “I feel like it has always been coming and I just hadn’t reached my potential. Running the Scottish record has been in my sights for a good couple of years and it’s definitely something I’ve been wanting to do and this year everything has fitted together.

“I finished my degree so I was focusing on athletics. I haven’t been injured this year and have definitely been putting a lot of emphasis on treatment and pre-hab and making sure my body was 100 per cent.”

Alisha Rees, centre, in action at the DNA Athletics indoor meeting in Glasgow earlier this year. Picture: Bobby Gavin/Scottish Athletics

Rees, who studied sociology at Loughborough University, just missed out on qualification for the last Commonwealth Games so to book her place in the team for Birmingham was a huge relief. And being able to call herself the fastest woman in Scotland is, she admits, special.

“I feel like the record had always been in my sights and I was just grateful to get it in the first race of the season,” she said.

“It’s cool that people say ‘you’re the fastest Scottish woman ever’. Whenever I go to Scotland now I’m thinking, ‘everyone of you is getting beaten in a race!’ I’m sure walking down the street no-one will really notice or care, but it’s nice that I know.”

Rees has always been fast but sport in her teenage years was divided between athletics and football. She played on the right wing for Deeside Girls but eventually opted for sprinting and ran in the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2015 in Samoa, winning bronze in the 100m and silver in the 200m.

Alisha Rees, left, says Scotland team-mate and fellow Loughborough sprinter Beth Dobbin has been an inspiration to her. Picture: Bobby Gavin/Scottish Athletics

“I’m not sure I’ll be replicating that at the actual Games but it’ll be really good to go and see that happens,” said Rees who will not run the 200m. “Birmingham’s a little less exotic than Samoa but I think we’ll have the crowd behind us and I think the atmosphere will be amazing.”

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Raised in Torphins, a village in Royal Deeside, she was inspired to take up athletics by her older brothers Benjamin, 28, and Daniel 25, tagging along when their mum took them to the local club in Banchory.

“I really looked up to them and when I was younger and as soon as I was old enough I started going and I really enjoyed it.

“Living in Scotland and having a grass track it would get waterlogged every other week so a lot of the time, especially on Saturdays, we’d meet at the track then get in cars and go to paths along the River Dee which have long straights and which are quite nice to run on. And we’d do some runs in the local woods by Scolty Hill.”

Long distance running was never for her and she settled on sprinting early on in her career and remains in thrall to the 100 metres, the most instant of athletics disciplines where there is no margin for error. Rees has started seeing a sports psychologist in the past year and feels it has helped her marshal her thoughts.

“My mind tends to wander around on what might happen in the race. So I’ve been speaking to him about it and it’s definitely helped bring me back in the moment and to focus just on what I can control.

“I don’t think there is any other sport like the 100m sprint. You’re all in one line, ready to go as fast as possible and there’s not really anything else like it. I do get really nervous beforehand because you just can’t afford to make a mistake. There’s no time to correct it because it’s such a short race but at the same time the adrenaline helps loads.”

Rees also takes inspiration from her Scotland team-mate Beth Dobbin, the Scottish 200m record holder who reached the semi-finals at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

“We train in the same group at Loughborough. She’s had a long road to success and she’s a really hard worker and I definitely look up to how she trains and her mindset. Everything she’s achieved – it’s definitely inspirational to train with somebody like that.”

Rees will also be on relay duties in Birmingham in the 4x100m squad alongside Heather Paton, Rebecca Matheson, Sarah Malone and Taylah Spence.

They also broke the Scottish record recently, another feather in the cap for Rees who is aiming to improve once more on her individual mark at the Alexander Stadium on August 2-3.

“I just want to go to Birmingham and run as fast as I can and for me that means turning up and running a PB. Obviously, the competition standard is going to be really high come the semis, and maybe the final but I’m hoping all the girls there are going to be able to push me along to something quick.”

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