RW Interviews: Helen Clitheroe

Following her game-changing European gold medal win in March, Helen Clitheroe reveals her big ambitions for 2012's London Olympics


Posted: 9 May 2011

When Helen Clitheroe took 3,000m gold at the European Indoor Championships in March, the athletics community shared her medal joy. It was the popular athlete's took first major championship win in her fourteen-year international running career.

Clitheroe decided to turn her back on the 3,000m steeplechase last October to focus on distance running on the flat over 5,000 and 10,000m - and the switch appears to be paying off. We caught up with the 37 year old after her gold medal win, as her attention turned to competing in the Bupa Great Manchester Run 10K on March 15.

Congratulations on taking gold at the European Indoor Championships. What does that medal mean to you?

I'll be using that victory to motivate me for a long time. It was amazing, because I've been trying so long to get on a podium. Winning a medal was really special. It seems like I've surprised a few people by running a PB in Birmingham over the 3,000m [at the Aviva Grand Prix in February 2011] and then going on to win at the European Indoor Championships despite my age. I've had such great feedback from everyone and they appreciate my perserverance. I'm one of those people who have often been on the team, but who has always missed out.

Has your win in Paris changed your goals or career plans?

I think I've still got the same goals. However, it has definitely made me believe in my training and proved that I'm going in the right direction. I've had a huge confidence boost because I've seen a noted improvement over the indoor season based on my 5,000 and 10,000m training. It's exciting to still discover new techniques to improve my running.

What made you switch to longer distances?

After last summer I'd just had enough of the steeplechase. I'd had a few bad experiences, a few injuries and I'd lost a lot of confidence in hurdling the barriers. The event was making me feel quite negative, so I made the decision not to do it anymore. I ran the 1,500m again, which I absolutely love - it's the event I started my running career with. I competed in the 1,500m at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and I got it out of my system. I realised if I wanted to compete in London 2012, I'd have to select the event in which I'm most likely to make the GB team. I decided it would be worth trying longer events. The week after the Commonwealth Games, I went to a Kenyan training camp and started upping my mileage to compete in the 5,000 and 10,000m.

Which races will you be competing in this year?

I'm going to altitude training camp again, then when I get back I'm going to run in the Bupa Great Manchester Run. I'm planning out my track season at the moment. It'll probably be one more 10,000m event, then various 5,000m races for the rest of the season. I'll see how I fare in the 10,000m and I'll try to qualify for the World Outdoor Championships in Daegu. I'm using everything at the moment as a learning curve.

How will you adjust your mental approach for longer distance races?

I'm going to have to concentrate more! I've run that distance on the road plenty of times, but to see 25 laps on the lap counter will probably be quite daunting - especially after seeing just three laps previously. In training you just have to be focused and get through the sessions. On race day it'll be a case of just toughing it out, rather than thinking about tactics as much as you have to during shorter events.

You've competed at a home Commonwealth Games. What would it mean to you to compete in London 2012?

It was amazing to compete at a home Commmonwealth Games in Manchester back in 2002. I won the bronze medal in the 1,500m and it was the final night of athletics. The England team had already won lots of medals that night and there was an unbelievable atmosphere in the stadium. The crowd were all singing the anthem, it was like the Last Night of the Proms. When you think how much bigger the Olympic Stadium will be, it would be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete there.

Throughout your career you've suffered a variety of injuries. How have you picked yourself up each time?

Once you get the running bug, you're not satisfied until you've achieved certain goals. Whether you're a club runner or an elite athlete, we've all got goals we want to achieve. It's an unfortunate part of sport that you will probably get injured at some point, but getting through that and fighting back makes you strong. When you're injured, you realise how much running means to you and that makes you more determined to keep going. If you keep faith in your goals and you run because you love it, then that's all the motivation you need. Whether I'm running for a place in the Olympic Games or just for my fitness, I'll always run - it's an important part of who I am and what I do.

Helen Clitheroe is an ambassador for ASICS and was speaking at a photoshoot for AYAMi - ASICS' female fashion-inspired performance apparel. For more information go to www.asics.co.uk/ayami


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What an inspiration Helen is to us all!  It just goes to show you should never give up.  Helen should Captain the 2012 Team, expereince, talent, motivation and vision!  Well done Helen, an Olympic Medal has your name written on it.
Posted: 09/05/2011 at 22:11

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