Amy Allcock: 2018 was a “make or break year”

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Amy Allcock at the 2018 Athletics World Cup. Picture: MV4R Photograpy

For European bronze medallist Amy Allcock, recent years in athletics have been tough.

Injuries, university commitments and other distractions stalled her promising start as a youngster, making her believe she had reached the peak of her career.

But Amy and her coach decided that 2018 would be the year the stalling ended. The only real question was how it would end.

“2018 was kind of a make or break year for me,” says Allcock, “I was at a stage where I’d torn my hamstring, but had run good times for the two years I’d been with my coach Glyn (Hawkes), and got back to a level I was happy with. But I was never going to be happy if I wasn’t making teams and wasn’t one of the people in the 4x400m squad for the World Indoors.

“So I sat down with Glyn in January and basically said ‘I’m 24, I can’t commit to this for much longer because I need to earn money’. It was very much a grown up chat between the two of us where we said ‘let’s give it everything’.

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“I’d also just come back from having tonsillitis through all of December. So I was in a pretty bad way and I wasn’t fit enough to even run a 400. I said ‘this is where I’m at and if I don’t make it then that’s it’.”

While Allcock does admit that it would have been hard to simply walk away from the sport, she needed something to give her hope. It came at the British Indoor Championships in February, as she stepped up to the 400m final that would offer her the best chance of achieving the world indoor dream.

“I remember at the British Indoors I sort of went into fight or flight mode,” says Allcock, “when I got to the final I thought ‘I’ve got nothing to lose’. I can’t remember the actual the race but I do remember seeing the time which at that point was a PB, so that made me think ‘this season could actually go really well’.”

Allcock came third and clinched bronze in a time of 52.74s, leaving her poised for eventual selection as a member of the relay squad less than a month later.

The first aim of the year was now complete. Yet the Aldershot athlete had no idea how unforgettable her experience at the World Indoors in Birmingham would be.

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With the race finished with Britain in fourth, the final result was delayed after second-placed Jamaica were disqualified for having one of their athletes in the wrong order when receiving the baton, moving GB and Allcock up to third.

“That was an interesting experience,” says Allcock, “a weird one because it was such an emotional time. We all cried, we were stuck in a pen for two hours, we didn’t know what was going on, it was just surreal.

“But at the same time it was one of those moments where I thought ‘I’m so glad that I do this sport’ because I wouldn’t have an experience like that anywhere else, so that’s going to be an interesting memory that I’ll keep forever.”

Bronze was of course “the colour of 2018” for Allcock, coming third at the British and World Indoors, along with the British Outdoors and in the European 4x400m final.

The outdoors saw a nail-biting finish between a group of closely matched athletes (below), but Amy stepped up to the plate again with a 52.10 PB.

Anyika Onuoura, Laviai Nielsen, Amy Allcock, Zoey Clark in the 400m at the 2018 British Championships. Photo: MV4R Photography
Anyika Onuoura narrowly wins from Laviai Nielsen, Amy Allcock and Zoey Clark at the 2018 British Championships. Photo: MV4R Photography.

But it was at the Anniversary Games in London (below) where she found herself “in a bit of shock” and really raised the roof. Her 51.36s clocking was a big breakthrough moment that knocked off one and a half seconds compared to her 2017 best.

There was no question that she earned her individual place at the European Championships in Berlin. While they didn’t hold quite the same amount of drama as Birmingham, it was another huge challenge in what capped off a great year for the 25-year-old.

“Europeans were always going to be tough. Poland are a really strong team. At the time I knew that the leg I ran was going to be my last race of the season. But once again I actually can’t remember it if I’m honest, I ran into a complete bubble. You tend to be able to tell if I’ve had a good race because I usually can’t remember it!

“But I think by that point all the experiences I had left me emotionally drained, so I was quite detached from the situation. One of my highlights though was the fact that all of the girls got to come up onto the podium. Everyone normally forgets about the people who run in the heats, so I liked that they included them in the ceremony.

“It’s the only competition I’d seen it happen in. There were eight of us which is a lot of people to sit on a podium so it’s fair enough sometimes, but it’s nice for everyone to get the recognition at the same time.”

By this stage, Amy and her coach had gone from contemplating quitting to achieving everything they wanted. Yet, 2018 was not the first time Allcock had pushed herself to rectify her athletics career.

University was a positive experience overall, Amy showed off her class by winning three British Universities’ titles between 2014 and 2015. But it put a spanner in the works, leading to another pivotal decision she made when her time at Loughborough was coming to an end.

“I probably wouldn’t be a runner anymore if I didn’t split my final year (into two years),” says Amy, “I hadn’t made any teams or any significant changes in the rankings at that time.

“In my head I was doing more than I’d done the year before so thought I should have be running better. That made me think that maybe that was it, maybe I’d reached the peak. So I made the decision to give it everything for one year and then if I didn’t improve, I would know my answer.

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“I ran better and more consistently throughout all my races, so it kind of clicked that I could make the sport into a career.”

Now with 2019 underway, the focus and circumstances are different, with a place on the British Athletics 2018-19 funding programme giving her much needed breathing space to kick on from last year.

The main focus for the European bronze medallist is for the outdoor season. “I’m still getting into the swing of international competitions again,” says Amy, “because travelling and things like that take its toll on my body quite badly. So although the European indoors is only in Glasgow, there are other competitions I’d rather target.

“The World Relays in Japan are quite a big travel stint for me that I haven’t been exposed to before. Doing a long haul flight and then racing is something new for me that I want to do.”

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“Because the season’s so long it’s a case of how to stay there mentally. Everyone hits a peak at some point and for me in Berlin I was hitting a peak because I’d had so many races and ran better than ever before.

“The emotions of a PB are always so high, but it was also quite draining so I took a step back from Berlin and said ‘we need to solidly prepare so that come the World Champs 2019, I’m not hitting the edge’.”

Amy Allcock’s had a bumpier ride than most on her way to becoming a professional athlete, but in doing so she has proven that the path to success isn’t always a straight line.

In giving it everything in 2018, she cleared a huge hurdle, came away with special memories and the GB international now has the flexibility and the determination to make 2019 a momentous year.