As the seemingly endless supply of turkey sandwiches are coming to an end and the Christmas playlist is put away for another year, the realisation is setting in. A new year is upon us. A year which holds the potential to fulfil, at least, one of my dreams. A year in which there can be no mistakes and no injuries. The 1st January 2016 marks the start of the likely end to this three year journey of mine into the world of professional athletics. It is the year of the Rio Olympics, and the year of expectation.
Reflection on 2015 is tough. On nearly every level, I missed my goals. I may have set personal best times in most of the distances that I raced (the mile, 3000m, 5000m and marathon) but I failed on reaching the European Indoor Championships 3000m final and perhaps more importantly, I failed on ensuring early qualification for Rio. Add in to the mix, the extremely poor race that I ran in Stanford and it is easy to start questioning my ability. The thoughts do run through my mind. Am I really good enough to achieve what I want? Am I deluded in my thinking of what I believe I can run? There have been moments over the past year, where my mental strength has been tested to its near limit. I am fortunate enough to have a strong network of family and friends surrounding me, willing me on and supporting me through the tough days. After the disappointment of injury in the summer of 2014, causing me to miss the European Championship marathon in Zurich, I was determined that Berlin would be different. Berlin 2015 would be the one. The perfect course on a perfect day. After training hard and getting into the best shape of my life, it was not meant to be, as injury once more took place. All the pain and sacrifice that I had put myself through, with little to show for it at the end of the day. How then do you pick yourself up after such a low? I call myself a professional marathon runner and yet have run nothing even close to world class times.
I think every runner deep down has doubts on their ability. I am fortunate that I have had some decent races and results in the past. Any time thoughts of failure enter my mind, I think back to those races. They remind me of the simplicity of running. It is sometimes easy to get caught up in hitting times and achieving goals. It took time after the Berlin marathon for me to get back to enjoying running. It has really only been this week, as I have settled back into a routine in Teddington, that I feel ready to tackle the next block of training. A block of training containing two half marathons before culminating in the challenge of the London marathon in April. Last Sunday marked the sixteen week build up to London. This time I need to stay healthy.
I hope that the disappointments of 2015 will make the successes of 2016 taste even sweeter. Everything is in place for me to achieve my potential and my mind and body are ready for the work that is required. I sat down earlier today to read through my first few blog posts from September 2013, the month that I began writing this blog. I had just completed the World Championships marathon in Moscow and was looking forward to embarking on my first year as a fulltime athlete. I was filled with optimism and hope at what I might achieve. As I read down through the pages, a surge of adrenaline was released into my bloodstream. Come August this year, I do not want to be sitting at home watching the marathon on television. In Berlin, I had hoped that my mental strength would be enough to cover the cracks of my injured body. It very nearly was. If I make the London marathon startline in one piece, I have no doubting in my ability that I will go much faster. So, while this new year causes many questions to be asked of the last, it also brings with it a clean slate. A new determination and new goals. The destination of Rio is still the same, I just have to take a different path to the one that I had originally planned.
Resolutions are not set in stone. They should be a guide to what you want to achieve in life. They should contain the flexibility that life requires. Rarely, do things go exactly to plan. It is how you deal with the obstacles and challenges that life presents, that will decide whether you achieve your goals. Why not make this week the new start that you were hoping for. Implement the changes to better your life. While it may be tougher than what you might expect, in the end you will hopefully find the challenge worthwhile. A quote that I once heard springs to mind: ‘The graveyard is the richest place on earth because it is there that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled. The books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared and the cures that were never discovered. And this is all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem or determined to carry out their dream’. It is a sad thought but one which has focussed my mind. I am ready to fight for my place on the Olympic team. I am not ready to give up on my dreams just quite yet. Why not make 2016 the year in which you follow yours?