WATCHING Jessica Ennis cross the finish line in the Olympics, I felt truly inspired and immediately wanted to dust off my running shoes.
“Rio here I come!” I thought, and made a promise to myself to train for some sort of big event.
But where does someone like me start? I had dabbled in football and athletics as kid, but like most teenagers, copped out of training when boys came along.
Initially I was thinking BIG — Bolton Ironman, boxing, three-day eventing.
These all seemed possible when I was watching the Olympics, secretly picturing myself storming my way to a gold medal.
And then I went for a run.
It was awful. I could barely breathe, I staggered up the hills and, to top it off, my feet were covered in blisters—and I’d only managed three miles.
I decided I was going to need some serious help, so who better to ask than Bolton’s own Team GB athlete Stuart Stokes.
Not only is Stuart Britain’s former number one at the 3,000m steeplechase, he also managed to juggle working full-time as a teacher and bringing up two young children in the run-up to the London 2012 Games. If any athlete knows the meaning of hard work and commitment, it’s this 35-year-old. On meeting Stuart at the track at Bolton Arena, he says: “In the months leading up to the Olympics I would get up at 4.30am, run down to the track as a warm-up, do an interval session, run home and be in school for 7.30am.
“People perhaps don’t realise the long and often boring hours you have to train as an athlete. You have so many lows with injuries and competitions throughout the years, you only have a few high points in your career, like the Olympics.”
As we drag the steeple chase barrier across the track, he sizes it up and adds: “Looking at that now, I’m not sure I could jump over it. I don’t how I did it.
I’m still running 10 to 15 miles every morning, but I suppose I’ve lost the drive to train so much because my body’s so battered after the Olympics.”
Stuart explains the training session he’s planned for me: three laps of the 400m track at a jog to warm up, followed by eight laps of interval training — 100m of a steady run, followed by 100m at a faster pace.
It sounds pretty straight forward and the warm-up is a breeze as we chat about sport.
But as we hit lap two of the interval section, the talking stops as I can’t possibly run, talk and breathe at the same time.
Seeing the strain on my face, Stuart says: “It can be a drag sometimes when you have to do this on your own.
I won’t lie, it can be boring.”
But I’m not bored, I just have a taste of the dedication and commitment it takes for athletes to keep their Olympic dream alive for so many years. So congratulations Stuart, you did Bolton proud.
● Charlotte is running the Great North Run, which is over 13.2 miles, for the Stroke Association. To donate go to justgiving.com/ dobsontherun16092012