Stay or walk away

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At the end of the 2017 season Aaron and I had some tough decisions to make.

I had already decided, well I was 99% sure, I was hanging up my spikes but we then had the really tough decision to make on Aaron’s future as a coach.

Aaron started coaching me back in 2007, a full time job around his already full time day job! Additional athletes joined the squad and he put just as much energy and dedication into coaching them too.

Running sessions most days and two S&C sessions a week, alongside all the planning and athlete meetings adds up, which he did on a voluntary basis. Aaron was also travelling all over the UK to support the athletes when they competed. I was earning some money from the sport and wanted to be part of a squad, so initially this justified his decision to not charge for his services.

Aaron is a great running and S&C coach, I’m bias – I know, but his results also prove this. Under his guidance the athletes in the squad started to run very well and some, earn money and/or sponsorship from the sport. It is fantastic that the athletes are progressing and competing at an elite level but this put more demands on Aaron’s time, organising race plans and communicating with agents and meeting directors.

Once I retired, for Aaron to continue coaching at the level he was, we made the tough decision to charge a nominal fee for his time and travel.

Explaining this, to his current athlete’s, was a stressful period but we had decided that if they didn’t think his service was worth paying a small fee for, we would walk away from the sport. It’s frustrating that athletics is so archaic in the UK and if Aaron was coaching in a different sport or in a different country, at his level, he’d be being paid full time to do it. Athletics coaches, in the UK, are the most underpaid and undervalued in coaching and this needs to change.

Fortunately, the majority of the squad have been really supportive and new members have joined since. I have decided to complete my coaching qualification, to assist Aaron, and I’m supporting the squad as much as I can, passing on advice from my experiences.

Interestingly the squad are responding better than ever to Aaron’s coaching and training. We are more organised with his schedules and his time, allocating slots to each athlete each month to sit down with him and plan the months training ahead. This is, of course, in addition to them seeing him on a daily basis for less formal chats. This means everyone gets equal amounts of ‘coach time’. Athletes can choose to have ‘run only’ coaching or a full package where they pay a bit extra to have S&C input including biomechanics analysis. We’ve even built a gym in our garden to cut gym costs!

I hope other coaches will be inspired and brave enough to ask for a nominal fee for their hard work and dedication. Thank you Jenny Meadows and Trev for giving Aaron the courage to do so.

Athlete’s should appreciate their coaches and at least contribute towards travel, hotel or training camp expenses. Let’s start doing the right thing by our coaches, they work just as hard as the athlete. British Athletics, why fund the athlete only? Fund the coach too.

Thank you again, Team T, for being so supportive of Aaron and appreciating all his hard work. Let’s bring on the 2018 race season.

Charlene

You can read more about Aaron’s coaching and Team Thomas by visiting the website I have set up here.

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“I just want a GB vest Aaron, it’s all I want”

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We did it, my first GB vest did arrive, back in 2009, after finishing ahead of Steph Twell and Hannah England, winning my first senior UK champs in the 1500m. Lisa Dobriskey was sidelined at home and she too had ran the qualifying time (QT) so heading into the UK champs, as the only non funded athlete out of the 4 of us with a QT, to guarantee my selection I had to be first past the post, back then it wasn’t a top 2 spot with QT.

After a ‘dream come true’ season (apart from tearing my plantar fascia) and forgetting that ‘all I ever wanted was a GB vest’ my aspirations changed and I then told Aaron that I wanted to be one of the best athletes in the world and win a medal at a major championships. We certainly came close to that and winning the 1500m European Team Championships in 2011 and then recording a time that ranked me top 20 in the world at the end of the 2013 season, you would think, should have satisfied me but we always want more from ourselves.

I think one of the reasons I have wanted ‘more’ is maybe because I have had some unfortunate incidents, which, of course, is the nature of the sport and it’s a brutal sport that we do. At the World Champs in Berlin I was tripped and lost my shoe, after winning the European Team Champs I got injured so missed out on the chance to make the team that headed to the Word Champs that year, when I recorded my PB in 2013 I was tripped up in the final of the UK champs so again missed out on another chance. There can be more lows than there are highs but Aaron and I have always been pretty good at persevering and Aaron ‘picking me back up’ and we have loved the sport.

After making the decision to retire from professional athletics, which I am very happy with and feel very fortunate to have finished in one piece and without a major injury dictating that I should, it’s only really now that I can look back and appreciate what we did. Appreciate and be proud of what we got out of an athlete that was never really that talented, never won English Schools or made a GB team as a junior and out of a sport that I think, is the toughest and most competitive sport you can do. Aaron, you are the talented one. My talent is that I have always worked bloody hard, been extremely stubborn and determined and probably, most importantly, persevered with it. When I stopped enjoying competing on the track, at some point in the last year, I knew it was time for me to stop before I fell out of love with the sport. I do enjoy the training and will use my fitness to pace make next season and help athlete’s achieve QT’s and I’ll also look to compete on the road for fun.

I’m now super excited to be the best assistant coach to Aaron as I can be, support the athletes in the squad – Team Thomas, as much as I can and see how the squad can develop and progress. I am also keen to help others and I’m looking forward to the future where I may offer my services as a mentor or team manager. I know that if I work as hard as I did during my time as a professional athlete, persevere and be just as determined Aaron and I can achieve even more to be proud of in the sport.

Thank you to CSPC physiotherapy and Doug at Dynamic Chiropractic who have always managed to put me back together and will not be getting rid of me just yet and Saucony UK who continue to support me in my new endeavours.

Thank you to you guys for the support and following my journey so far, stay tuned!

Charlene

RUNAWAYS: YORKSHIRE

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Inspired by the Saucony Runaways I thought I would share, one of my favourite running routes in West Yorkshire. I feel extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful county with a variety of different scenery from the dales to coastal.

Rolling hills, dry stone walls, woodland and farm land were just some of the stunning views on offer for today’s run. 

Plenty of hills in Yorkshire

Today was my first Sunday long run back, after my end of season break, and to help me round, my training bud Nick Hardy joined me. I was glad to have him there, to drag me up a couple of the particularly steep hills that we have in abundance here in Yorkshire. 

One of my dream houses. Maybe if I win the lotto

This is the first year, where Coach Thomas and I have decided that I should continue to keep in touch with some easy running during my ‘athlete break’. 

Bird Spotting Red Kite

Previous years, at the end of my season, I haven’t ran a step for 2 – 3 weeks and have then found it really tough to get back into training, without picking up an injury. For me, ‘switching off’ from being an athlete is more important and over the last fews weeks all discipline around my diet, sleeping and daily strict routines have gone out the window. I even stayed up past midnight one night! Wild.

They’re pretty good at dry stone walling in Yorkshire 

For the last couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed just running for fun, without wearing my garmin or worrying about what route to run. I’m back wearing the garmin now and avoiding tree roots and will begin to increase my mileage gradually over the next few weeks.

Eccup reservoir

Before Christmas I like to run on more challenging, hilly routes to toughen me up and hopefully prepare me to compete in some cross country races, all being well. Believe it or not, I actually love cross country and have missed competing on it over the last few years.

I love a good hay bale

I’m pleased and excited with starting this winter with some fitness and hope to train even better this winter and compete more. Prevoius years I have struggled to put back to back seasons together and this is another reason why we have decided to keep some running in during my ‘athlete break’.

All smiles now with the sun still on our backs

As I build up the miles and start to bring in some sessions I’ll keep you updated and hopefully have some cross country race results to report back on, as long as I have the energy to do so.

Both Nick and I are rocking the best mileage shoe out there; the Saucony Triumph ISO 2

Click on the images to check out the Saucony apparel we were wearing 

So close…

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Some days I’m still really struggling to get over the disappointment of missing out on fulfilling my lifetime ambition of qualifying for an Olympic Games. I’m struggling, I think, because I came so close to achieving that dream.

Finishing 3rd, outside the top 2, only 0.08 of a second behind 2nd, at the Olympic trials and national championship made my task of qualifying for the games that little bit more challenging. It meant that I had to run a time that would rank me inside the top 22 in the world, or something like that, which was, at the time, 4.04.3, much quicker than the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) qualifying time of 4.07.00. After a great block of training and setting PB’s in my sessions I was confident, in the right race, that I could achieve this and I had also hoped that my performance at the trials was good enough to convince the selectors to pick me for the European Championships. Unfortunately, neither of these things happened. The races I had lined up after the trials, before the deadline, just weren’t quick enough to run the faster time that was now expected and I’m still unsure why British Athletics didn’t select me for the European Champs, when other athletes that performed well at the trial without qualifying times were selected.

I did manage to pick myself up, run 4.05.98 in Belgium and was looking forward to competing at the anniversary games in London. Cruelly, the day before the race, I began to feel unwell. Covered in an all over body rash, breathing like a ’50 a day smoker’ I tried to convince myself it was just allergies, got some antihistamines in me and prayed I would be okay still to race. It wasn’t to be and I pulled out of London, hit rock bottom and it took me a while to get well again and start back training. I was determined to compete again this season but after missing quite a bit of work I was running like an absolute donkey and it was depressing to feel so unfit and the shape that I was in – lost.

IMG_20160729_104914I’m now on my ‘athlete break’, running just for fun, falling in love with my adorable new kitten Wilf and trying to take away the positives from this season. My husband/coach, Aaron, has been super supportive, picked me up (quite literally after collapsing in floods of tears after my ‘last chance race’) and reminds me that my SB of 4.05.98 has been my quickest recorded time since 2013 and will, hopefully, count as a qualifying time for next years World Championships in London.

We’ll dream some more…

Thank you to CSPC Physiotherapy, in particular Graeme Everard, my chiropractor – Doug Clark at Dynamic Chiropractic and Aaron, adding even more strings to his bow, as my fantastic soft tissue therapist for keeping me fit and healthy. With this team, I am more confident than ever that I can put a back to back winter and season together, something that I haven’t managed before and come out even faster and stronger next year.

Thank you Saucony for continuing to support me and provide me with the best apparel, running shoes and spikes that are out there! My feet have never been so happy and this has also been key in keeping me fit and healthy.

LOVING IT

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Every year I notice how winter training starts in September, feels a drag to Christmas but then all of a sudden we are already into February and the track season will be here before we know it!

My winter training didn’t start too well, after my usual end of season break I started back running but then had to have a short stint on crutches, after annoying my heel fat pad, followed by a bad chest infection, it ended up that I had an extra unplanned month off so I was really unfit! This, at the time, really frustrated me and I was annoyed not to be in shape to compete, before Christmas, in some XC races and in particular the Euro Cross trials and cross challenge in Liverpool. I had wanted to be in good shape for that race and to see how close I could get to making the team. I suppose though these things can end up being a blessing in disguise because I now feel my fitness levels are peaking just at the right time, ready in another month to start bringing in a bit more quality.

I’ve been training hard since fully recovering from the chest infection, probably the hardest I’ve trained in a couple of years. This is because I’m pain free and I’ve not had to manage any niggles or nurse my foot through plantar fasciitis. I’m also enjoying it so much more because I’m not worrying how my foot will respond or hobbling round on warm downs. I’ve been consistent with my training, apart from a not to serious cold over Christmas, and this is key.

I’m now looking forward to, all being well, a few races in February. I’m excited about competing but I think I’m even more excited about the break from training hard and freshening up a bit! Firstly I’ll don my Saucony Racing uniform for a 10km planned and hopefully a PB, then my first ever trip to Ireland to compete in the Armagh International. At the end of the month, I’ll dig out my club vest – Wakefield and District Harriers and compete in the National XC champs. Into March, it will be back into training and readying myself for the track season.

12507369_1019591928084747_2907888251914993017_nIt was great to be back representing GB again, when I competed in the 4 x 1km relay in Edinburgh and hopefully I’ll get my chance again this summer. This will be no easy task and I’m not thinking too much about the Olympics or Europeans. I’m just concentrating, at the moment, on getting myself as aerobically fit as possible and robust enough to start running a bit faster in the spring. Coach Thomas and I have changed a few things this winter to make that transition smoother so fingers crossed, in the summer, I’ll be fit, healthy and loving my running and sport as much as I am now.

Thank you Coach House Sports Physiotherapy Clinic and Dynamic Chiropractic for helping me me stay fit and healthy so far.

Charlene