“I was the future once,” is one of the Cameron quotes that have been noted in history and, whatever your politics, it is a saying that has been lodged in the books and speaks to the ephemeral nature of time passing.
Nine years ago a teenager from Falkirk called Sarah Inglis was selected to represent Great Britain in the World Cross Country Championships in Poland. Almost a decade later she has been picked again for the European 10,000m Cup at the Parliament Hill track in Highgate, London, ending a lengthy exile. As you would expect, the story behind such a break from international recognition is an interesting one.
Like many Scots before her, Inglis sought a new start in Canada, and has flourished. On Thursday she maintained her excellent 2019 season, finishing second in the Canadian 10,000m championships in the city of Vancouver she now calls home.
The Lothian Running Club athlete took second place to Canadian Olympian Natasha Wodak with an impressive run, smashing her own PB by almost 25 seconds, at 32.11.42.
It marks her down as one to watch over the summer heading towards this year’s World Championships in Doha, but behind every headline lies a story and Inglis has a good one to tell.
Confidence is a key weapon in sport but it sometimes has to be coaxed out and the Scot recognises that her talent was spotted by others. She freely admits to enjoying a night out in her past but is determined to make the most of this rich vein of form. But how did she end up in Canada, working herself up to GB-standard qualification after a decade off the scene?
“I was just graduating from my PE training at Moray House and I had my probation year coming so I thought just give it a year and see,” said Inglis of the offer from Canadian former Scottish Athletics head coach Laurier Primeau to go to North America, do a Masters degree in PE and keep on running. “I was still running every day with Lothian Running Club. But I was starting to become a bit more social and wasn’t that competitive,” explained Inglis. “But he [Primeau] kept in touch, asking if I wanted to come out. He’d been working with me since I was 15, 16 at training camps in Portugal and stuff.
“I was like ‘why are you still getting in touch?, I’m not really running that well’ but he must have seen some potential in me.
“I took a gamble and it paid off. I was working at Falkirk High School and it was near the end of summer term and I remember telling my department I had this chance to go to Canada. It was that crunch time where I could get a full-time job or do I take a gamble?
“I managed to get a few days unpaid leave, they flew me out, I visited the school, met the coaches and some of the team and thought ‘you know what? This would be great and I’ll get a Master’s Degree out of it as well’. Everything was paid for so why not?
“I made the best of the time, I got super fit, running PBs and was working with the same coach I do now, Mark Bomba.”
Looking back to that first experience in a GB vest Inglis said: “I remember the trial at Liverpool more than the actual race in Poland.
“I felt I ran pretty well out in Poland but I finished about 50th. The trial was fun though, it came down to a sprint finish which I always love. I think it was [fellow Scot] Beth Potter and a bunch of girls on the home straight and I managed to pip Beth on the line to guarantee my place. The cross-country in Poland was so-so but it was a great experience and all those girls went on to do really well.”
Those “other girls” include Eilish McColgan, who will be on the British team at Highgate, but Inglis admits she didn’t quite kick on in the way that Steph Twell and Eilidh Child (Doyle) did from her peer group.
“I took a different path,” said Inglis. “I liked the social side of life, going out and having fun. That became more of a priority than running I suppose until it came back around again.
“All those girls have gone on and got so many GB vests and I feel I’ve slipped a bit by the wayside so it’s nice to be back.”
In the Canadian wilderness a bit but not off the UK athletics radar, a run of 32,30 in San Diego this year no doubt set about assisting her cause, and Inglis is grateful that her exploits have been noted here.
“Mark Pollard [National endurance manager at Scottish Athletics] has kept in touch. I had a good year in 2017 and then around this time last year I was injured, had fluid on my knee and had to get an MRI then three months off,” she said. “It’s the first real injury I’ve ever had. Even when I wasn’t taking my athletics that seriously I was still running every day so having three months off was tough. I gradually worked my way back and this year everything has clicked into place.”
It was GB legend Helen Clitheroe, who won 3,000m European Indoor gold in Paris in 2011, who is now in charge of the GB team for that event in London a week on Saturday.
“You never know, there’s loads of girls in with a shout of that. It’s funny because Helen Clitheroe had my Scottish number and had a few problems getting in touch with me. Eventually she did and it was a nice phone call when it came,” said Inglis.
A week on Saturday Inglis will be fully focused on delivering her best at a fun athletics event she admits is very much her scene. She may not be partying on George Street anymore but is all for athletics meetings being a fun occasion,
“The European 10,000m Cup at Highgate is great. There is a lot going on,” said Inglis,
“I was there in 2016 for Rio trials and there was fire going off, Brazilian dancers, drums, people enjoying themselves in the beer garden. Athletics should be fun.
“My brother and sister are coming down and a few other friends as soon as I was selected. I’m sure they’ll have a good night, my mind will be on the running though!”