Middle distance runner Sarah McDonald is starting to make a habit of qualifying for major championships. Ahead of the Commonwealth Games, the following is an excerpt of an interview that will appear in full in the next edition of Backtrack.
Before taking up athletics your sport was figure skating. Did you have any interest in athletics when growing up?
Not in particular. I would watch the Olympics and participate in school sports days, but my main focus was always on the ice. There was no suggestion that I would ever be destined for a life on the track!
Who first spotted that you had a talent for athletics and how did you get started in the sport?
When I was 15 I had big injury troubles with my hips and after seeing numerous specialists and surgeons it was decided that I would have to undergo two significant operations, at the time I was heartbroken as it meant I probably would never be able to skate properly again.
On 6 May 1954, in 0.6 seconds under four minutes, Roger Bannister ran himself into the sporting history books to become the national treasure, an athletics legend who we now recall with awe and admiration.
The attempt had been in doubt until 30 minutes before the start, because of the wind. Then Roger noticed that the flag flying from the nearby church tower had dropped. The threatening wind had eased, and he indicated his willingness to go ahead.
After the enthralling, nail-biting mile race at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, the crowd eagerly awaited the announcement of the result.
The announcer got as far as “winning in a time of three minutes…..!” Nothing more could be heard, as the ecstatic crowd erupted, cheering in the knowledge that athletics history had been made.
Thursday 10 August saw one of the largest gathering of BASC members - other than in an athletics stadium - when around 180 members attended a Question and Answer session with Lord Sebastian Coe (IAAF President) and Richard Bowker (the new Chair of British Athletics.)
Getting Seb Coe (as we are part of the athletics family we have been allowed to drop the ‘Lord’) was an idea almost a year in the planning yet it was only in July that we could confirm it as a reality and invite members. Seb Coe’s diary showed 20 minutes to be with us provided we arrange something in the hotel where he was staying. His staff said he would be able to stay for a maximum of 30 minutes and in the end, we luckily got 40 minutes of his time.
Because of the limited time available with Seb Coe, we asked members to submit questions in advance. This was simply to enable questions to be asked quickly but we had many questions on similar topics and this allowed questions to be consolidated. Just the questions we had from members relating to drugs in athletics and the work that the IAAF is doing to make the sport as clean as possible, would have taken more time than we had available, but we started with that topic.
Saturday – After watching Mo win the Gold Medal on TV on Friday night – I couldn’t wait to get to the Stadium on Saturday morning – for my weekend watching the Heptathlon, among other things! Everything went well on the first morning – we arrived in plenty of time, and entered via a small queue on Bridge 2 – before finding our excellent seats right above the High Jump area. Katarina had a good start in the hurdles, but unfortunately couldn’t find her form in the High Jump and only jumped 1.80m.
Once the session was complete – we were switching sports to football – catching the train from Stratford to Southend – to watch Southend beat Blackburn – so that was worthwhile. Then it was back on the train (with my fish & chips!) – to the stadium, arriving in plenty of time for the big evening ahead – concluding with the men’s 100 metres. The sound in the stadium was amazing – every time a British athlete took to the field – a roar went up went must have been worth a few centimetres or seconds – depending on the event!
For the second time in the space of five years the British Athletics Championships was doubling up as trials for home global championships. London 2017 beckoned for successful athletes. A top two finish and a qualification standard book a place in the World Championships. The bonus for spectators was the mouth-watering prospect of some fiercely fought competitions, with multiple qualifying times in several events. Men’s and women’s 200m; 1500m; women’s 400m and long jump; all eagerly anticipated.