Athletics: Merry makes fast change by running slowly

A British sprinter is rediscovering her form via the unorthodox training methods of Linford Christie. Mike Rowbottom met her

BEING very good, very young can create its own problems. Since setting world age bests for the 600 metres and 100m as a 14-year-old, Katharine Merry has seen her career frequently fall prey to injury. "If I had listened to some people I would have packed it up long ago," said the 23-year-old who, in her unofficial role as Britain's golden sprint prospect, attracted a succession of colour supplement writers to her family home in Dunchurch, near Rugby. "Now the thing is to come out and do the times that will make those people eat their words."

Merry seems surer of her capabilities right now than she has been for years - and for that she has to thank Linford Christie.

Last October, having experienced four successive seasons in which hugely promising beginnings were followed by hugely disappointing endings, she moved to Cardiff and became installed as the only female member of Christie's training group.

After slogging through winter schedules set by the former Olympic 100m champion, and spending two months warm- weather training in Australia with Christie and the other members of her group - boyfriend Andrew Walcott, Jamie Baulch, Paul Gray and Darren Campbell - she feels stronger than ever before. The niggling back problems, and the knee injuries which have required two operations in the last couple of years, are - she hopes, she believes - things of the past.

By way of demonstration, Merry opened her season recently with her first 400m race, on a windswept Welsh track in Barry, which she won in 51.7sec. As shows of strength go, it was impressive, confirming both to Merry and her coach that her preparations had been well judged.

Merry, who was previously coached by Keith Antoine, admits she was taking aback by some of the training methods Christie employs. Specifically, she was surprised by how slowly she was expected to run for much of the time. But this, as she soon discovered, was an essential part of the Christie approach, something which had been handed down by his own long-time coach, Ron Roddan.

"It's no good running your heart out in December and January when it's the summer that matters," Merry said.

"Throughout the winter Linford got all of us running at an even pace, concentrating on tempo, with the odd speed session thrown in. It's not as intense as the work I did previously and it suits me to a tee considering my history of injuries."

So steady was the pace, indeed, that Merry was able to run comfortably alongside her male training partners. "It has benefited me a lot," she said. "I feel a lot stronger now. The last few seasons have been very frustrating because I have begun each one by setting a personal best and ended each one with injuries. When it happened again last year, that was the final straw. I just felt I needed to make a fresh start."

Merry talks like a veteran and, indeed, it seems as if she has been around for a long time. But that, as she points out, is because she became so well known so young. Her early achievements have proved a hard act to follow. Apart from anything else it took her nearly five years to better the time of 7.35sec she had set for the 60m.

"I was running so quickly then," she said. "I don't know how I did it. But when you are young, you can do everything..."

She does not accept, however, that her precocity has worked against her. "Everything happens for a reason," she said. "But now I feel as if I am starting again."

The 200m, in which she set a personal best of 22.77sec last season, will be the main focus of her attention. She plans to earn selection as Britain's representative in the European Cup at the end of next month. Thereafter comes the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

"It's exciting," she said. "Things are going so well at the moment that I can't wait for my races."

Merry and her training colleagues are being supported this season by someone whom she describes as being "from a different planet" - medical therapist John Sales. "I've seen so many medical people over the years that when we were recommended to see this person I thought `Oh yes? Well, let's have a look...' But he's been brilliant. He works to the Chinese pattern of points on the body which correspond to other parts. he doesn't use acupuncture, he applies pressure. For instance, there is a point on my ear which corresponds to my knees... It sounds odd, but he's got me through from October to now and I've only had to miss two training sessions."

Success is beckoning once again to an athlete who has suffered from having too much, too soon.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all