The Middlesex Indoor Championships gave me an opportunity to get some PBs in a smattering of events. Having been given an entry form by my coach, Chris, the day before he left on a 3-week holiday, I chose a random assortment of categories, without giving much thought to how I was going to train these over the coming weeks.
My choices were 60m, 60m hurdles, 200m and long-jump.
60m & 200m I felt reasonably confident that I could at least get to the end of a race. However, 10 days before the competition I realised I had no idea how to use starting blocks. Professor Google showed me the way, before doing a quick practical session on our building-site track last Sunday.
I fully expected my first 4 long-jumps to be during the competition. However, last Wednesday was lucky enough to train with coach, Mark Lawrence, at Lee Valley Athletics Centre, where the Indoor Championships were to be held. He gave me a whistle-stop tour of how to long jump. Some of it was much like the indoor preps from back in January- taking off, lifting the knee and driving with the arms; but as soon as I began to take a run up, all of that went to pot. Stuttering runs, no drive, and often with a forward roll at the end of a meagre jump.
Having happily cleared the hurdles at their lower height during my first track session at Heathside (much to Chris’ surprise!), I had felt confident about moving onto the higher ones for the shorter sprint. But with Chris being away and Finsbury Park’s track being dug up, I approached the competition weekend not knowing if I could clear them over the 60m distance, having not been over a single hurdle this month.
During the last weeks, I began to have problems with my achilles tendon, which started from getting over-excited about catching up with someone during a sprint session- quite a rarity.
The first day of the competition, I arrived early- after panics about having no safety pins for my number, and noticing my spikes were blunt and several were missing. Nobody from Heathside was there, and I was thankful for having been there earlier in the week. There were some hurdles and starting blocks in the warm-up area, but with it so crowded with participants of all genders and age-groups, everybody needed to set them at differing heights and distances. Eventually I braved an empty lane and set 3 hurdles to (hopefully) the correct placements.
I went to the call area where I was surprised to be barked at; “673, CAN YOU SIT DOWN!” My four competitors sat beside me, discussing how they hadn’t competed this event for a while. I kept shtum. I had not done this event once, not even in training.
We were told to go to our starting blocks, where we could test them and go over two hurdles, once before the race. We were then asked to stand in front of our blocks. I misunderstood where ‘in front’ was, giving away my amateurism if my body shape had not already done so.
Marks. Set. BANG!
Before I could think about technique, it was over. The others were 2 seconds ahead of me, but I cleared all 5 hurdles. From the adrenaline, I perhaps clearer them by too much, wasting time; but I was delighted to reach the finish line in one piece, having not clattered the metal. 11.28 secs.
I had little time to rest before my next event- 200m.
For this, I had a better idea of what time to expect- at sprint training, I usually keep pace with Mary, who last week got a PB of 31.2 secs. The indoor track’s steep curves supposedly favour a shorter athlete- a phrase I’ve not heard much in my brief time in the sport. I was placed in lane 5, with nobody in the outside lane.
I felt great through the first bend, but as I approached the second at just over 100m, I began to tire and the other women eased ahead of me. Noelle from Heathside was still within my sights as I finished in last place, in 30.7. Though there were 4 seconds between myself and the winner, I was pleased with my time.
On Saturday evening, my body quickly descended into a crumpled heap. My achilles ached and I could barely walk. As Arron accompanied me to the car on Sunday morning, he noted- “you’re limping! You can’t do that- they won’t let you race!”
Things didn’t feel too happy in my legs as I creaked through warm-up drills and strides. Down by the long-jump pit, things weren’t any better. I noted I was about to compete in long jump, yet could barely jump on the spot.
I grinned and bared it through the four jumps, again with any and all hastily learned technique going out the window. I felt sure that I could jump at least 4m. Not today.
2.56m. 2.73m. 3.29m. 3.03m.
I came third of the four competitors, but felt frustrated and in pain. I pulled out of the 60m sprint, which was due to start 30 mins later.
Instead, I watched from the sidelines with two of my favourite people as my teammate Claudia zoomed through to second place in that race, with her own PB. Her joy at her time was far beyond that of any winner I’d seen over the competition, and made a very sweet ending to a slightly painful weekend.
Huge thanks to my coaches, Chris & Mark; everyone at London Heathside; and my wonderful supporters, Arron & Emily.