Expectation. Pressure. Opportunity. Pride. Failure.
Which one of those words strikes you as the odd one out? Pretty obvious isn’t it? Last weekend I related to every single one of these words and within the space of about half an hour, I went from a girl with an unbelievable dream to a girl with what felt like a crushed reality.
Expectation. I’d prepared for this moment for years, but so intensely and specifically for the last 7 months. If you put it this way, I’ve had this dream since I first put on a Welsh vest at the tender age of 14 at the inter-regional triathlon championships. I’m now 22. Eight years. Eight long, hard but incredibly fun years of training, racing and challenging myself to become the best athlete I could possibly be and represent my country at a major championship at senior level. I expected a lot from myself, but I expected that I would be able to live my ambitious goal.
Pressure. Not necessarily from others as much as the pressure I put on myself. As an athlete, you naturally put pressure on yourself to achieve. It’s part of the innate competitive nature that we are so often masters of. I’ve never been one to handle pressure well; it can overcome every ounce of my being and I have lost count of the number of times I have broken down due to this self-imposed pressure. But there is that part of you that responds well to pressure. You choose which way to go. You let it crush you, or you let it push you to bigger and better things. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the negative aspect of pressure last weekend. Of course I did, it was probably the second biggest race of my life (second only to the Youth Olympic Games)! I believed in the unnecessary pressure from outside, which I’ve now come to realise didn’t exist. No-one would be disappointed IN me. They were disappointed FOR me. Those people close to me wanted me to succeed for me, not for them. It’s this act of selflessness and support that you lose recognition of in times of disappointment.
Opportunity. If one of these comes your way, grab it and run with it. If you don’t, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. I had an opportunity that a very select number of people are given. Should I race to the ability I knew I was capable of, I could be given the opportunity to represent Wales at the Commonwealth Games. How many people can say that? Not many I can tell you that now. I wanted so desperately to be one of those people. So desperately that I made beyond average sacrifices. I can’t remember the last time I went to bed after 10pm. The last time I lay in past 7.30am. The last day I didn’t once think about training. I gave up time, effort, money, and possibly regretfully I gave up relationships. But I HAD to do it. These opportunities don’t come your way every day and the sacrifices are worth it.
Pride. I am proud of myself. And I’m not afraid to say that. In this country especially, we have adopted this culture where we seem almost ashamed to be good at something. How ridiculous is that! I remember the days of assemblies at school, the headteacher reading out sporting results, music results or any achievement by pupils. Whenever I received a mention, I was shy. I never wanted to stand up and say ‘Yes, I’ve done that. And I’m so proud of myself’ for the fear of being ridiculed. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. Four years ago this summer, I made history by becoming the first ever Team GB representative at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. The name Elinor Thorogood has been written in the history books for that reason. Why shouldn’t I be proud of that?! No-one else has that. NO-ONE ELSE. JUST ME. I, Elinor Thorogood was the first Team GB competitor in Singapore. Stand up, shout about your achievements and be proud. There is a fine line between pride and cockiness; if you cross it, it won’t be received well. But you have to be proud of the extraordinary things you achieve in your life.
Failure. Uhoh. The burning feeling of failing at something is horrible. Truly, truly heartbreaking . Initially I felt like I’d failed on a rather large scale at the weekend, and failure is something no-one likes to experience. My first thought when I had the puncture was fear. Fear that I’d let myself down. Fear that I’d thrown away an opportunity. Fear that I’d disappointed everyone. But then reality kicked in. I was angry. Angry at the fact I hadn’t been able to showcase my ability to the extent at which I knew I could. Angry that my equipment had let me down. Angry that I was going to have to leave Turkey with a DNF beside my name. Feelings of failure gradually became anger, which turned into uncontrollable tears, which soon became realisation that it wasn’t the end of the world. Refocus. Don’t dwell on it.
Although the experience in Turkey wasn’t what I wanted, I can’t change what has happened. What’s done is done. But one thing is for sure. I sure as hell am not going to let a puncture crush my dream. I am fierce. I am fabulous. And the fat lady is yet to sing…
“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won and all the fears you have overcome.” – unknown.