Friday, 23 December 2011

Standing Still

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog, and to be honest time has flown by. It seems only yesterday I was waiting for the news to come through regarding selection for the Commonwealth Games. 2010 had been somewhat a breakthrough year for me, finally it seemed I had lived up to a small amount of own expectations.

The initial breakthrough was the Triple A’s 10km in Bristol where I placed 2nd to Andrew Vernon in a huge pb of 29.14 and if that wasn’t enough 10 days later I ran a 1500m pb of 3.45, although, with all breakthroughs it came with a price, my new enthusiasm and confidence lead me to train harder, faster and as a result my body broke down. Only a few weeks later I had visions of breaking 14 minutes for 5000m, and instead I was forced to withdraw after only 5 laps of the race.

After some treatment, and a down period I was able to think clearly again, I trained as normal and relaxed again. This lead to several more appearances at both 5000m and 1500m, although I might not have gotten the result I wanted over 5000m, I certainly exceeded my own ambitions over the shorter distance. This lead to a call up for Northern Ireland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which myself and my family were all super excited for.

It’s now been over a year since the Commonwealth games took place, I missed an opportunity to compete there due to several reasons. Even though it was over a year ago, I still struggled with bad memories from then as recent as September/October this year. Running is a very physically and mentally demanding sport, and between August 2010-November 2011, I’ve had an emotional roller coaster journey. One that has seen myself, family and friends go through a lot. I personally dropped out of uni, quit running, re enrolled in university, took up running again, dropped out of uni, went back to uni, quit running, took up running again. Changed coach several times, and yet each time I made changes to my life I found myself right back in the same positions over and over again.

Faced with the same difficulties that running throws at us, and each time being given the same challenges that runners meet. I was searching for reasons why things weren’t going well, I seen physios, sports psychologists, doctors, nurses, spoke with coaches, and spoke with family. All I wanted was a reason why things weren’t progressing, why my times in 2010 were faster than my times in 2011, why my body and head gave up on me a month before the commonwealth games in 2010, but nobody was going to be able to provide the answers I wanted. I wanted there to be one reason, an infection, an injury, but neither were the cause.

The truth is, my times were slower because I hadn’t done the work required, I hadn’t made the sacrifices that runners must, and I didn’t deserve my times to improve. I was trapped in this bubble of anger, a year long huff were I refused to accept the past and let go. Instead to be honest I resented running, I blamed running for my unhappiness after the commonwealth games, after watching Ireland win under 23 gold medals in Portugal European Cross country. As without running in my life I wouldn’t have had to feel guilty for missing the games, I wouldn’t have felt jealous of the guys who won the gold medals, and maybe I would never have dropped out of university. That was definitely a hard time in my life, but nobody was to blame but myself.

There were underlying injury and health problems that prevented me from preparing well for the commonwealth games. I beat myself up about this pretty bad, I think it hurt more because my dad made such a big effort to fly out there to Delhi, that was heart breaking. After though only I could pick myself up again to train for my last U23 at the European Cross Country, but I did the opposite and made very little effort. Then the championships came and went, yet I felt hard done by, for not making the team.

It’s only recently throughout it all that I’ve realised the issue wasn’t the illness or injuries, because at the time they couldn’t be controlled, the issue was how I dealt with these problems, I chose to huff and lay still, rather than pull myself out of bed and crack on. Unfortunately for a very long time I forgot to make the most of the good days, I forgot how to utilise these in a professional way. Illness and injuries will come and go, and we may be forced to miss things we didn’t want to. My problem was missing the days were there wasn’t and problems, and missing those important days when I should have got things done. Days were I was blessed with full health, and I chose to huff and resent running.

It doesn’t take a physio, doctor, psychologist or family member to explain this to you, this comes from the inside, for some reason I was baffled and still thought I was acting professionally, even if someone had argued the obvious to me, I was still under the impression I was doing everything I could to make things better.

On a positive note I’ve now came through it all, having passed my coursework and exams in London this month, I now feel I’m starting to get things back together. It has taken a lot of effort and time, not just from me, all my support team. I have to be thankful for everyone who has impacted upon my life in various ways, not just with regards to athletics.

I plan a small race over Christmas at the Greencastle 5 mile road race, it will be good to race again with a clear head. I hope things continue to progress well into the New Year, and hopefully with some hard work, and good luck I’ll get some great results.

It’s always good to end a piece of work with a quote, so here goes…

“No matter what you do with your life, there will always be barriers, in a job, a sport, or even if you simply watch television all day. Jobs have a boss or employees you might not see eye to eye with, sports have challenges that could take years to master, and even a television remote can run out of batteries. We must learn to accept when things don’t go as planned, life is easy when things go the way we expected, but life is hard when things blow up in front of us. Success comes to those with patience and those with the ability to adapt. Then no situation will cause you to stay still”

Stephen Scullion (North Belfast Harriers)