By my reckoning it has been about a year since my last post…this is perhaps indicative of the year that I have had since Tomasin was born.
I hope to be able to write a little more over the coming months but even since I have stopped training (as most of you reading this will know I am now retired from athletics) I have still struggled to find the time to write – it seems I am always commuting, working or spending time with the family (which obviously is not a hardship by any means!).
This last 12 months has taught me that it is very difficult to try and perform in an unforgiving sport when you have a lot of extraneous variables in your life. It doesn’t just mean having the time to train but also the time to relax and recover properly.
Ultimately my Commonwealth Games and a lot of my sub-par performances in the past have stemmed from injuries – but if I trace back my career I can actually see that where I was without stresses of a bad job, bad commuting, or another non-sporting problem – I was usually performing much better.
Even this year – until Christmas 2013 I was working at UWE gym with a great opportunity to train during the day and not too stressful a time in the workplace either! Since then I have worked at Simplyhealth (medical insurance) which has been fine, but the commute has taken a lot of energy on top of the 7 hour office slog and family stuff. Therefore it is no real surpise that I held on to some sort of form indoors – winning the Midlands Champs despite having only 6 or so weeks of being able to run fast in training following my severe hip flexor injury. However, outdoors I never really hit top gear. There is another issue surrounding speed training which also made a big difference but I believe that the added fatigue of work and general life was what made the difference ultimately.
This is why funding or sponsorship at the right time can really make or break a ‘career.’ I mean this more as a general point as opposed to moaning that I have deserved more than I’ve had. If any athlete in any sport can exist in a situation whereby they can work part time with plenty of flexibility then they stand a much better chance of ‘making it.’ Often an argument that is made is that if an athlete wants it enough they will do everything they can and evenutally fulful their potential. Personally I disagree. If one athlete is spending half the year training in tropical conditions with no work worries and plenty of physio support, I don’t see how another athlete with similar ability can possibly keep up with that.
As a proud Guernseyman, I would advise any of the current crop of youngsters coming through the club to put everything into the sport at a young age – even university education is a hell of a step below a full-time job in terms of commitment – if you can get any sort of sponsorship before the end of university then you have a chance of making some headway in the sport. Depending on your level, I would also advocate taking part-time work for a period of time to establish what you can really achieve in sport before taking the big step into a “real job.”
For my own part, I was able to avoid full-time work until 2011 thanks to The Garenne Group’s support 2008-10. Although I have actually run faster in 2011 and 2012, I would pick out 2009 as the year in my athletics career in which I showed the most promise. I had started the season poorly as I had some personal stuff going on – but as soon as that was resolved my lifestyle was geared perfectly towards the Island Games that year and I duly turned up a notch on my performances. Strangely enough my PB in 2011 was also taken during a brief stint between jobs and my SB in 2012 was while I was working in a gym environment. Unfortunately, most gym-based roles are not reliable or well paid enough to support a family and I would not be able to look myself in the mirror in the morning if I put my athletics ahead of my fiancée and daughter. I think it is natural that athletes can often end up wondering “what if…” and I am no different. That said – to have such a happy, beautiful daughter when I am still quite young myself is something that I always wanted – and is something I wouldn’t swap for anything else, even if she has created big changes!