Hannah England on Commonwealth Games 2014: I hope for a medal but the brutality of 1500m means it's reckless to think too far ahead
The Independent columnist is keen to add to her collection of medals in Glasgow
Friday 25 July 2014
In the past, when I opened the door at home to go training, it used to be a case of, “I wonder what the Kenyans or Americans are doing?”
I might have woken up in the morning thinking, “What’s Helen Obiri, the leading Kenyan and Commonwealth runner, doing today?” But the mentality has shifted.
The reality of what I’m up against is much more in your face with the strength in depth we now have in British middle-distance running. Now I wonder what Jess Judd and the two Lauras, Muir and Weightman, are up to.
If you’re beaten by a Kenyan, sometimes you can explain it away, but against the British girls there are just no excuses. They’ve got the same genetic make-up as me, they’re training in the same conditions, it’s one and the same.
Genuinely, I love that rivalry and it’s quite special being part of a set-up that’s got so much strength in depth – it’s exciting and competitive. It’s odd to think I’m now the older athlete of the group at 27.
I remember when it wasn’t so long ago that I had started and I was looking up to the likes of Lisa Dobriskey. I don’t think those girls do the same to me. The fact is I’m their rival so they can’t do that – they simply want to beat me on the track.
Quite where I lie right now in the pecking order will become a little bit clearer after the weekend – in fact, just around lunchtime on Monday – for my first heat of the 1500m.
People ask about expectations, and it’s not something I’m entirely sure of. Everything started late with my training this year partly because of illness but also partly because of the fact that I’m doubling up in the Commonwealths and European Championships, so I’m wanting to maintain a longer late-season peak.
The best I’ve run the distance this season is 4min 5sec and, obviously, I would love to have gone faster, but the signs are that things are coming together at just the right time. At the trials for the Europeans, I was only third and that’s hardly the inspirational sort of running that I aspire to.
My last race was an 800m and I ran a very fast time and that sort of speed should hold me in good stead come the 1500m. I should be thinking of getting in the medals if you look at my last two World Championship experiences – a silver in 2011 and fourth place last year.
But the brutality of the 1500m means it’s reckless to think too far ahead. At the last Games in Delhi, getting through the heats was actually quite easy. Now there is strength in depth in the UK and the Commonwealth, meaning a place in the final is by no means guaranteed, although I’ve run enough major-championship heats to know I have the tactical wherewithal to get through.
Delhi was an interesting experience. I got struck down by the notorious Delhi belly and was in an apartment where the toilet broke. I know people panicked a bit when news of the norovirus broke here in Glasgow but that’s nothing in comparison with Delhi! I still loved the experience, as I did Melbourne four years previously when I only went as a 19-year-old spectator.
Glasgow has been different. For the first time in my life, I experienced an opening ceremony. I toyed with the pros and cons of going, being on my feet for so long and up for so late and I nearly bottled it and gave it a miss. I’m grateful I didn’t. It was incredible to be a part of and to see Chris Hoy and the Queen.
The one thing I’ve not managed to do yet is meet Sir Bradley Wiggins. As far as I can work out, I’m about the only person I know who hasn’t met him in Glasgow.
As for my own performance, I appreciate there’s little I can do to alter how I’m going to be on race day. I’m confident enough to know not to do too much in training now except to give furtive glances to the Kenyans when they’re out running in training at the same time as me.
Then there’s the matter of my husband, Luke [Gunn], who’s also in the England team competing in the 3,000m steeplechase. The apartments are single-sex so we’re obviously not sharing here as I guess you can’t suddenly have a random man loitering around the women’s quarters!
Instead I’m sharing with Jess but it’s great having Luke here as a voice of reason. Not many people get to compete with their husband for their country at a Commonwealth Games. It’s a very special feeling. Hopefully, we’ll have something to celebrate next week.
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