When people who don’t run for a living get to spend time with the Britain’s elite athletes, amazing things happen.
Unbelievably, the company I work for (Müller) hosted Olympic athletes including Dina Asher-Smith, Adam Gemili, Emily Diamond, Martin Rooney, Eilidh Doyle, Hannah Cockcroft, Darryl Neita and Kadeena Cox for a day last week.
It marked Müller’s partnership with British Athletics, but more than that, it was a celebration of the power of performance, commitment, ambition and winning.
I couldn’t make it (gutted!) but it was powerful enough to see how the athletes stories had affected my colleagues and by all accounts, the hundreds of primary school children who were also invited to attend.
Why? Because their experiences had relevance. They might be elite sportsmen and women but the journeys they are on were familiar.
So what did my colleagues learn, and what did they take from the experience to inspire them and re-employ in their own lives? I asked them to try to summarise and this is what they said:
• They’re fierce competitors – they just love to win individually and collectively.
• They absolutely love sharing their experiences and inspiring others. It gives them real pleasure.
• They experience bumps along the road, but they are able to turn disappointments into learnings
• They really root for each other, developing deep and supportive bonds, and they are proud to be part of the British Athletics family
• They know that they are part of a generation which is changing the face of Athletics in this country
Eilidh Doyle, Scottish 400 metre relay runner, hurdler and Captain of the British squad at last year’s World Championships in London squad shared some highly personal stories about her own journey during her visit to Bellshill dairy in Scotland.
A multiple medalist, she spoke of being at the cross roads during her time at University, of lacking the belief required to optimise her talent and deciding for a time to give up her running. But those around her urged her on, gave her the confidence she needed.
She spoke about her lifestyle – a relentless regime of training, stretching, physio, diet, rest, repeat. And of the help she gladly accepts from professionals and people she trusts when things weren’t going so well on the track.
She spoke of the sense, early in her career, of being overwhelmed in a stadium environment with the noise, the lights but mostly the feeling that compared to the other athletes to her right and left on the track, she wasn’t good enough.
And she spoke of her approach now, by contrast, which is about concentrating on her own performance, on what she can do, and on what she can control – the basis of her success.
And lastly she shared a very personal story of her room-mate, Laura Muir, now breaking British and European records at 1,500 metres, with much much more to come.
It wasn’t always this way.
At her first major championship, the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Laura was expected to do well. But with 200 metres to go, she was clipped, losing her balance and she trailed home in 11th place. At her home stadium, in front of her family.
Eilidh found Laura back in her room, devastated, unable to contain her disappointment. They spoke for a long time and there’s no doubt in Eilidh’s mind that this early experience in Glasgow helped to make Laura the athlete she is now – resilient, tough, focused and in control. She is a winner, even when she doesn’t come first.
The experience will have a lasting impact on those who met these athletes last week. I think they’ll have enjoyed it too. By all accounts it was incredibly powerful.
Because these people are like us, with speed.