Lynsey Sharp is a British track and field athlete who represented Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympic Games and is a former 800m European Champion. Lynsey is the current Scottish record holder for the fastest 800m as well as the 3rd fastest British woman of all time to complete the 800m.
As a Former Pupil of The Mary Erskine School, Lynsey took the time to chat with our PE Department and pupils during their lockdown series ‘MES Meets…’. Here we share some excerpts from her chat with Mrs Miller including how she got into running, tips for staying motivated when things get difficult and useful advice for any young, aspiring runners.
Why did you start running?
I have an older sister who is 3 years older than me and she used to run. Like every younger sibling, I just wanted to copy everything that she did! My mum and dad were both athletes as well so I kind of grew up running around the track or the grass. I’ve tried a variety of different sports like gymnastics and hockey but running was the thing that I naturally felt amazing from doing and I had success at it too so that’s just what I wanted to do.
Were you always a top-class athlete at school?
I think that a lot of people would presume that “you could always tell she was going to be good” but you will also remember (from my time at MES) that I used to play hockey and I would always get so frustrated because I wasn’t the best and I wasn’t in the A-team. But that was something that I enjoyed doing as well, so it wasn’t all about being the best.
Did you have an athletic role model when growing up?
The one that stands out the most for me is Kelly Holmes. I can remember in 2004 when she won two medals at the Olympics and that as a fourteen-year-old was so inspiring to me, to realise that someone from my own country could achieve that.
How do you get noticed as a young athlete?
The thing that I would say, is that it is your life and your career in the sport, so you have to take the initiative to think, “what do I want to do?”, “who do I want to coach me?”, “who do I want to train with?” and “what do I want to achieve?” You have to put those things in place yourself because it is only ‘you’, as running is an individual sport.
When did you decide that you wanted to focus on the 800m?
I did a variety of different events when I was younger, and I think that’s really important as you don’t know what event you enjoy the most or what you are best at. I reckon that I focused more on the 800m from age 13/14 but even since then there are years that I have focused more on the 400m, perhaps if I’ve been injured, or if I haven’t been able to train as much and I’d like to do something different. I do think it’s very important to try different events and not to specialise too early.
Some of our readers may not be aware that you also have a law degree from Edinburgh University! How difficult was it to balance the demands of training and studying?
I really enjoyed having something else in my life other than training, especially after coming out of school where your life is so structured. I had to be really careful about how I used my time. There were times when I had assignments due and I had classes, whilst training far away as well so I really had to set out a timetable for my day, like what I had when I was at school. I had to be sure to be disciplined and there were definitely social things that I missed out on but if I didn’t organise my time well then I would just get stressed about it. My dissertation was actually due the same year as I was training for the 2012 Olympics!
How do you stay motivated at the moment?
I definitely have good days and bad days like I’m sure everyone has over the past month or two. There are days when I just think ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘what am I actually training for?’ It’s hard to push yourself when you usually have a goal. However, I’m sure most people will agree with me that exercise, as in getting fresh air and going outside, has really helped me to get through this. It’s been a release. I don’t want to sit in the house all day and training takes up a large part of my day, so I’ve got nothing else to do anyway! We’ve not had access to a track and we obviously don’t have the gym which is a huge part of our programme, but we are very lucky that our sport doesn’t require loads of equipment so we can go out and run.
What positives can you take from the current lockdown?
I think it’s actually made me realise that you don’t always have to be doing something. I love being on the go all the time, I’m usually always away on training camps and this is the longest time I’ve probably ever spent in the country and definitely the longest time I’ve ever spent at home. It’s actually not been that bad, I’ve really enjoyed it! Just having that slower pace of life.
How do you feel about the Olympics being postponed?
I definitely think that it is the right decision. At the start of lockdown, athletes were concerned as they weren’t able to train properly as they couldn’t access the track. So, I think everyone just wanted a decision to be made and now I think it would have just been impossible for everyone to travel from all over the world to the Olympics. It’s sad, as the Olympics never really ever get moved, but it’s 100% the right thing. Also, you never ever get a second chance at training for the Olympics and that’s what we’ve been given this year, a dress rehearsal. So, you’ve got to look back and say, ‘is there anything that I have done on the lead up to this Olympics, that I would do differently again?’ There are things that I would definitely change and I think that I would approach my winter training differently.
Do you have any advice for young runners, especially those in S1?
Scotland is repeatedly producing world class athletes and it is not unachievable. We were all the same as you when we were in S1. I think in S1, the most important thing is to keep it fun and to make sure that you’re enjoying it and it’s a sociable thing to do.
Thank you, Lynsey, for taking the time to speak with us and catch up with her old PE Department, as well as sharing both her story and valuable advice with pupils and the community.