“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
So as promised here is my latest blog post… its actually one I started writing a while ago but at the time it felt a little too personal for me to be posting all over the internet. It delves a little deeper into some of the things I spoke about in my recent Telegraph interview. I share this in the hope that people will show a little more compassion before judging athletes so harshly based purely on numbers they see on a screen.
I have come to dislike talking about my junior successes.
If you really want to get under my skin ask me how many races I went unbeaten when I was 15 (which was 10 years ago, it’s probably time to let that one go you guys, I know I have) or maybe try suggesting I should now scrap the shorter sprints altogether and move up to the 400 as it seems like a “better fit”.
To me these things are so far in the past it almost feels like a different life time, its certainly a different “Jodie” and as for moving up to the 4, why can’t I try my hand at all 3? I am a sprinter after all, you can rarely be good at one without another.
Yes, I have struggled.
Yes, I was a talented junior athlete.
And yes, I still run (🙄)
To shed some background light on my “story” I was pretty shy as a kid/teenager, I had very little self confidence growing up and I always felt more comfortable being alone than constantly surrounded by other people (later in life I discovered that I was just an introvert with a side of social anxiety but I digress).
Anyway long, slightly uncomfortable story short, I started running fast and lo and behold everyone wanted to be my friend, weird awkward kid or not.
The problem with this was it taught me from a very young age that my success and my value as a person were interlinked (see “Failing: The Key to Success?”) The faster I ran and the more I achieved, the more praise I got from my peers (and later on the media). What I had failed to realise was that people had stopped talking to me as Jodie “the person”and were now approaching me as Jodie “the athlete”. They were not interested in anything other than being associated with someone who they saw as successful.
Now, you team my innate need to overachieve with this new external validation and you had a recipe for disaster.
I quickly became overly focused, track was my be all and end all. If I was not succeeding on the track I would spiral into a deep depression. This was manageable when I was doing well all the time as I was on a constant high, I could keep the negative thoughts at bay because the positives always outweighed anything else. However as soon as I stopped running fast or even worse could not run at all, I kind of lost the plot.
Who was I if I wasn’t the fast kid that always won?
What else did I have going for me?
What the **** do I do now?
I suddenly realised I no longer had any idea who I was as a person, the only thing I actually knew about myself was that I could run fast.
I knew I needed to take a step back from track and rediscover why I even ran in the first place… so that’s what I did, it took me a long time and it was hugely uncomfortable but as they say “great things never came from comfort zones”.
In this sport, especially in Britain, we are so quick to jump on the next “big thing” and breakout performances that we don’t allow athletes to simply progress at their own pace, we forget that these are human beings that are going to meet obstacles along the way, after all the path to success is very rarely linear.
Now don’t get me wrong we should 100% celebrate these performances, they deserve to be praised and valued for what they are. I’m just pointing out that if these performances aren’t immediately backed up or these athletes have a few seasons purely finding their feet, let’s not write them off as quickly as we jumped on them and move on to the next breakout star.
We always talk about that infamous struggle transitioning from a junior to senior athlete, in fact its almost always the first thing that is brought up when someone new appears on the scene, we discuss it so often I feel it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, as if we are waiting for these athletes to fail instead of nurturing them to succeed.
So my advice to all you current and future “Child Prodigy’s” and “Teen Superstars” please remember to live a little, experience life, find yourself, take your time, explore your other interests.
Don’t buy into your own hype, surround yourself with good people that you trust, they will be your saving grace.
Learn to separate what you do from who you are.
Remember you are just a kid and you have your whole life ahead of you to do serious adult things (believe me its not that fun when you HAVE to do them).
By all means take your sport seriously and yes you should train hard, look after your body and try to do the right things but attending that one party all of your friends are going to is not going to hamper your chances of being an Olympic Champion, trying something new is not going to take anything away from what you are already good at and believe me being happy with a positive attitude will take you much further than “grinding” non stop.
Please don’t burn yourself out before you have even begun.