Ethiopia 01

Athlete in Ethiopia

The London 2012 Olympic Games were exhilarating and as you can imagine it took all of my physical and mental energy to perform at my very best. I raced close to 70 kilometres on the track this year compared to 17 kilometres in 2011 and this took its toll. I was depleted and blood tests indicated that I was low on some of the vital vitamins and minerals.

So we decided to send me to Ethiopia!

I first travelled to Ethiopia in 2006, invited by Richard Nerurkar as a guest runner in the Women’s First 5km Run, which forms part of the Great Ethiopian Run series of events. Back then the country captured my heart and I returned in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

In 2010 and 2011 Ethiopia did not feature in my plans but the country, its culture and its people remained with me. Before races I would often listen to Ethiopian music or try to speak a few words of Amharic with my competitors.

I was lining up behind Gelete Burka for the heats of the Olympic 5000m. “Ambasa” I said, meaning “be strong as a lion”. She was astonished to hear some Amharic, we both smiled, laughed a little and it calmed the nerves before the big race.

So after all the excitement of the summer it felt right to return to Ethiopia and get back to running in its purest, simplest form. The country produced Olympic Champions in the 5000m, 10000m and marathon so there must be something we can learn…

 

Olympic Rings

Reflecting on the Games

Four months have passed since the London 2012 Olympic Games, how time flies! I am tremendously grateful for the support and interest I have had from so many people. There are two questions which I am definitely asked the most:

1. What was it like to compete in the Olympic Stadium? and…

2. Were you surprised by your progression and performances this summer?

I think you can guess my answer to the first question. It was, of course, an energizing, electrifying experience and one which I shall never forget. I remained relatively cool and calm, was excited at the opportunity and enjoyed every minute of it.

My answer to the second question is maybe a little different. I liken my Olympic journey to a tightrope walk over Niagara Falls. You embark on the challenge knowing that everything has been considered and all is in place for you to complete the crossing successfully. There is no other way, you either make it or …! You do not always have to press onward, you can stop and rest for a time, readjust your step, you also have a balancing rod to assist you. In the context of my athletics the balancing rod was and still is my ‘troop’ – coach Nic Bideau, physiotherapist Mark Buckingham, psychologist Dr Steve Peters, amongst others.

With Nic’s precise coaching I was able to sense my increasing level of fitness week on week. So much so, that before the qualifying race in Stanford, USA, I wrote down my aims – 31.30 and 5th on the UK all-time list – and went on to run 31.29! A week before the Games I stated that I was ready to run sub-31 minutes and finish in the top-8, the rest is history.

Maybe this sense and awareness does still surprise me just a little but as Wilson Kipketer said to me a few years ago “YOU-know”. Look deep within yourself and listen to your gut feeling.

 

 

 

 

Autumn 01

Autumn colours in the Surrey Hills

Kevin and I are based in the Surrey Hills and I cannot imagine having a more enjoyable running ‘playground’ right on our doorstep.

A 422km² Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Surrey Hills has three long distance paths running through it (the North Downs Way, the Greensand Way and the Pilgrim’s Way) and its summit, Leith Hill, is the highest point in south-east England.

Autumn is always a special time of year, with frosty mornings and the changing colour of the leaves. Running straight up Leith Hill is a good way to warm up and the reward is always a breathtaking view across the Weald. Sometimes it is a little harder to get out for an afternoon run as the temperatures drop and the nights draw in. That is when I encourage myself out of the door with the promise of lighting the toasty wood-burning stove on my return!