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While a serious of unfortunate mishaps followed by the Covid-19 pandemic may have spelt the end of Kate Reed’s exciting plans for the summer, the 37-year-old Team GB Olympian (over 10,000m; Pb’s 10,000m-31:37, Half Marathon 72:44) has taken it all in her stride. In this post Kate shares how she dealt with her recent setbacks and speaks about the importance of turning the Covid-19 lockdown into an opportunity.
Some 11 weeks ago, I flew to Stellenbosch in South Africa for what should have been the start of my 2020 Olympics campaign. The sports world was focused on the forthcoming Summer Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I had several spring road races in the diary for when I got back to the U.K. plus a flight to the US booked for April so I could run some early season track races. Olympic years always feel more intense, each race a stepping-stone to gaining qualification times, with any disruptions seeming like a major crisis. Everything is focused on being the best athlete you can be, in the hope you will be good enough to get selected for the biggest show on Earth!
Sleep, training, diet; no stone is left unturned. What should have been the perfect start to the year for me, very quickly began to unravel. I was trying to train on a very sore heel, doing my best to ignore the pain signals, taking anti-inflammatory medication so I could keep going. I arranged several medical appointments for when I got back to the U.K. in early February, hoping I could get it sorted as quickly as possible. Little did I know, I would contract a serious bout of food poisoning the day of my flight home and end up being taken off the plane at Heathrow airport in an ambulance destined for Hillingdon hospital. The symptoms continued for 11 days before the culprit was identified and I could be given the correct antibiotics to kill it. I had lost over half a stone in body weight and had barely moved from the couch in two weeks. As we reluctantly began cancelling all the road races I was due to run in, I started to worry that my plans for a successful summer were gradually disappearing. Yet the world was about to change on a scale unknown to most of us!
You didn’t have to be a genius to realise the Tokyo Olympics wasn’t going to happen. Weeks went by where athletes were being urged by our relevant sporting bodies to continue to train for Tokyo 2020 whilst tracks, gyms and physio clinics closed their doors around us and potential qualifying races were being cancelled. Finally, on March 24 we got confirmation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the games were postponed. I felt a big sense of relief. I didn’t have to rush back to peak fitness, and I knew I now had the time to get myself 100% healthy, regaining the strength and energy I lost after food poisoning and allowing my heel injury to properly settle.
I feel very privileged that I have felt a sense of inner calm over the past few weeks - quite a contrast to the turmoil the world is facing right now. I am adhering to the government’s advice of going out only when absolutely necessary and am happily staying at home with my parents. I have never been more thankful that I purchased a treadmill and a spin bike with my winnings from several road races last year. At the time they seemed rather extravagant purchases but they mean I can now continue to train in the safety of my home.
Last week I did my first ever online Pilates class which my cousin (a Pilates instructor based in London) held for free (you can join in to at her website, https://lottypilatesandbarre.co.uk ). I’m ashamed to say I never realised how good a teacher she was. It was a brilliant class and nice to exercise alongside others (not something a lot of us distance runners do very often!) She is planning to do these a few times a week, so I have added these to my normal strength training routine.
During this unprecedented time, I have also been taking time to focus a lot more on my diet. I eat a very healthy diet all the time (I have a degree in Human Health and Nutrition so have zero excuse not to) but since the bout of food poisoning, I have really tried to focus on getting enough pre/probiotics, and vitamins and minerals. I know my immune system would have taken quite a hammering from the illness and antibiotics are also known to affect your gut flora. Prior to being ill I was taking one Revive Active sachet every other day, yet now I am taking them on a daily basis first thing every morning. I follow that with a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit, plain full fat yoghurt and gluten free granola followed by a Revive Active Krill Oil Capsule to make sure I’m getting my daily dose of healthy omega’s. After a milky coffee, I start my first training session around 10am, which at the moment has been cycling anything from 30 minutes up to an hour on my spin bike (12-25 miles). We have been blessed with some glorious spring weather so I dragged my spin bike from the conservatory into the garden to enjoy the sun and top up my vitamin D levels at the same time!
Lunch tends to be rather light, something like a poached egg on toast or a pita bread stuffed with tuna or ham and salad, followed by a small piece of whatever sweet treat I have made, plus a Revive Active Joint Complex sachet.
I spend most afternoons baking. It has always been a great joy and passion of mine and a way for me to relax and switch my mind off from running - you can’t train 24/7. I have been trying to use up what we have in the fridge so we don’t waste any food. We’ve had several beetroot-inspired chocolate cakes, brownies and muffins as well as carrot cakes, cheese tartlets, ginger biscuits, loaves of gluten free bread (I’ve struggled to find these in the supermarket recently) and fruit crumbles, putting last year’s bags of harvested blackberries to good use and freeing up some much needed freezer space!
My second training session starts around 3:30 or 4pm when I either run on the treadmill for 30 – 60 minutes (at an average of 6:30 a mile pace) or spin bike again, followed by an hour of core stability and light weights.
Evening meals have been planned out a week in advance. We’ve been quite fortunate that the supermarkets near us have been very well stocked with lots of fresh vegetables and we’re also lucky to have a good butcher close by, meaning we haven’t had to go without anything we normally like to eat. After our evening meal, we avoid listening to the daily news and instead enjoy watching antique programs or films on Amazon Prime, or we FaceTime my sister and her husband in California. I think it’s important for our mental health to take time to switch off from the current situation and make sure we don’t go to bed in a worried frame of mind.
I haven’t run outside since the lockdown partly because I need to drive to my usual running routes and I would feel irresponsible for doing that. I think we can all limit our risk of catching Covid-19 by limiting our movements, and it seems only fair to those key workers who are risking their health for us to adhere to the official advice of ‘stay at home’. I am still food shopping for my parents but limiting this to a maximum of twice a week.
I speak with my coach everyday via WhatsApp video but our conversations seem a lot more relaxed with an element of silliness involved. As we have no idea of when we will return to racing it seems only sensible to make the most of this time we now have. It’s a chance to heal from old injuries, strengthen muscles we don’t usually work on, and free our minds from the highly focused and regimented state-of-mind we need to compete at the highest level. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t thinking about my next race. Even when I’ve had surgery for an injury, I badgered my doctors about how quickly I could return to training and racing. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the normality of my everyday sporting life, but I am determined to embrace this time with a positive attitude and ensure I’m ready to race when we’ve won this battle!
On a final note, never has it been more important to tell our friends and loved ones what they mean to us, while also sharing our praise and thanks to all the selfless individuals all over the world who are fighting this battle from hospitals, labs, cabinet offices and food stores and warehouses.
Stay well everyone, and hopefully see you next year Tokyo!