An interview with Lynsey Sharp - Women's Running

An interview with Lynsey Sharp

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  December 2, 2014

Sainsbury's British Championships Birmingham: Day Three

If there’s one athlete that knows how to overcome a challenge it’s Lynsey Sharp. From being cheated out of 800m European Gold, to spending 12 months battling with a brutal injury, to coming down with an horrendous vomiting virus just hours before the Commonwealth Games, the 800m star never fails to keep bouncing back.

We caught up with Lynsey to find out how she maintains her incredibly positive disposition through the hardest of challenges and continues to win medals with even more PBs. We also got the low-down on Lynsey’s ‘cheat days’ – it turns out even professional athletes can’t resist coffee and cake every now and again…

Having former Commonwealth and Olympic athletes as parents, running must be part of the family blood. How did you first get into running?

Well my sister Carly was great at sports and I always wanted to do what she did. I started running when I was really young and though the minimum age to join a club was seven-years-old, they actually let me join at six. Mum tried to get me into gymnastics but I just wanted to do athletics.

At what age did you discover your talent for track running? When did you start targeting 800m?

Until I was 14, I did all athletics events – hurdles, long jump, relays and all different sprints but I guess you just gravitate towards what you’re good at and, for me, that was 800 metres. I got the British title for 800 metres, indoors and outdoors in the under 15 Championships.

Your career as an athlete has been plagued by ups and downs. In particular, after winning silver at the European Championships in Helsinki in 2012 you were to find out nearly a year later that you had actually won gold after Yelena Arzhakova was suspended for a doping violation. How was that for you?

The only way I can describe it was a real mix of emotions. I was obviously extremely happy to become European Champion and also relieved but extremely disconcerted by the sport. In fact, it even made me question whether it was a sport I wanted to be involved in with so many breaking the rules.

You received your gold medal this year at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow International Match at the Emirates Arena. How special did this feel to receive the medal in front of a home crowd?

It really was amazing, especially having my dad present the medal to me. Receiving European Gold in January was a great start to the year and set the tone for a good year to come. It gave me a huge drive to defend my European title in Zurich.

You’ve faced a lot of pressures as an athlete. How do you maintain a positive disposition to get back out and perform?

If you’re not prepared to deal with pressures – whatever they may be – you’re not going to survive in a sport. What kept me going through the hardest of times was an eagerness to prove the people wrong that did not believe in me.

This year, you won silver at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow following a bout of severe sickness the night before. How on earth did you manage to perform so well the day after?

It was awful – I was so sick. But Stephen Maguire (the head of Scotland’s coaching team) was amazing. He took me over to the clinic in the Athletes’ Village and told everyone who was trying to come and see me that I would be performing tomorrow and that was it. Hearing him saying that I was going to perform just kind of embedded it into me that I would be running on the track the next day. I was on a drip and was given anti-sickness tablets but the doctors had to be careful as to how much fluid they gave me as there are only so much you should intake before a race.

Aside from this one-off bout of sickness, you’ve also suffered from lots of injury troubles, particularly in the run up to the Commonwealth Games. How did you keep up your training during this time and what advice would you give to runners to keep up their fitness whilst injured?

When I couldn’t run, I turned to the bike. I was putting in loads of intensive bike sessions – twice a day – in the gym and outdoors and it really kept up my fitness.

This August you saw even more success after winning silver at the 2014 European Championships with a personal best of 1.58.80. What is your best advice for runners achieving their PB/ reducing their time?

I think my best advice would be to break your goals down into smaller goals. Set the times you want to achieve at different points in the year with different, smaller events to build up to a bigger event at the end. That’s what I do; for example this year, I focused on getting my qualifying time for Glasgow, and then the next thing to work towards was defending my European title.

What is your best advice for runners to combat race day nerves?

I try not to think about it to be honest. I just try and treat it like any other training day and try not to think about it being the race. My best advice would be, don’t do anything different just because it’s race day. If you always drink coffee or listen to music or whatever before going for a run, then do that on race day. I try not to change my routine.

When you’re not on the track, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have a little dog that I like to hang out with and watch TV with. I also really love cooking and baking!

Obviously, diet is crucial to your training but on your cheat days, is there anything you can confess to enjoying?

Well I absolutely love going out for brunch and in Scotland there are so many gorgeous little places to go out for brunch. Oh and I love cake – coffee and cake is one of my favourite treats.

You managed to fit training/competing around a full time law degree. What advice would you give to runners for fitting training into their schedule?

Yes, I had to manage my time really well. I scheduled out my hours of training vs. the hours I needed to spend studying for my degree and created a timetable to fit it all in. I tended to put in my training sessions in the morning and then I could be more flexible with my time for the rest of the day. I would definitely say training in the morning is a good idea because then you can just get on with what you need to for the rest of the day.

*Sainsbury’s is the official partner of British Athletics. Sainsbury’s partnership with British Athletics reflects its wider commitment to inspiring healthy lifestyles for all, and complements grassroots campaigns such as Active Kids and the Sainsbury’s School Games.







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