Rachael Franklin: Going the extra mile ahead of The Isle of Man Running Festival

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Rachael at the British Championships 2018. Photo: Adrian Royle.

After a frustrating knee injury back in 2015 which tainted her 2016 season and parts of her 2017, Northern 1500m champion and silver medallist at the Island Games, Rachael Franklin, has been on an arduous journey back to her quick kilometre ways.

The 1500m specialist talks to us about her solid 18 months of training post niggly knee injury, and how she’s been putting in the work ahead of this weekend’s Isle of Man Easter Running Festival.

Since 2014, Rachael has been on the podium at the event for all three distances. Along with good friend and multiple-winner Ollie Lockley, the pair made history last year over Easter weekend, becoming the first Isle of Man athletes to claim both titles. Even back in 2016 whilst struggling with injury, Rachael still managed to win the Douglas 5km in an impressive time of 17:32. However, her injury prevailed and that 5k would be her only race of 2016.

After running pain free at the back end of 2016, her 2017 was a lot more promising and the beginning of her bounce-back from something that no athlete wants to have to deal with. That season saw her 1500m time drop back down to 4:25. She also clocked a 17:17 5km in Douglas and achieved a silver medal at the Island Games in Sweden over the 1500m.

2018 was an excellent year for her though, and she was most definitely back on top form. Most surprisingly, as she stresses, was her 800m time at a Trafford BMC in July where she clocked 2:05.85.

“It was such a surprise and a real highlight. We went through the bell in 61 or something like that, so I just hung on for dear life!”

After a solid block of training under her belt, her times naturally began to drop again and her 1500m time of 4:15.87 was a big highlight for her and some 7 seconds quicker than her previous lifetime best. Support behind the scenes has been a massive help for Rachael and she gives a special thanks to Isle of Man Athletics and Sports Aid, as well as her sponsors SkancoIT and Tower Insurance, for getting her this far.

“I don’t think people truly appreciate how expensive it is to travel to get decent times as a Manx Harrier, we’re talking a couple of hundred for just one race!”

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That’s the 2018 track season finished and a season I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I never would have  thought I would run the times I have. Making the British Championship final, getting medals at the North of England and England Champs were a few of the many highlights of the season. I just want to say a massive thank you to my sponsor SkancoIT for taking a chance on me at the start of the season. Having you guys back me really made me train harder and want to prove I was worth the support. Also, a big thanks to my strength and conditioning coach, my coach Foxy, and most of all my best friend Ollie and my boyfriend Alan for always believing in me! I really appreciate the support from everyone too. Looking forward to a nice break to recharge the batteries and then get another hard winter in me. Cross country season I’m coming for you.

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Like Ollie, Rachael is currently on a training camp out in Albufeira, Portugal.

Since my injury, my training has been going really well. I do a couple of double runs a week, with two or three normal sessions as well as strength and conditioning. “I’ve had the best winter I’ve had for a while, and I’ve really begun to appreciate races.”

Her hard winter training has involved a lot more miles, as this year she hopes to take all three Festival titles.

“Last year I was the runner up in the 10k. But, I’ve been working really hard this winter on my weaknesses and improving my strength has been a big part of that”.

Her 49th place finish at the Inter Counties in Loughborough was a part of that more-mile motivation.

“Obviously as a track specialist, the Inter Counties was a bit too far for me as it was another 10k, but it’s all part of my winter and good practise”. Along with a 24th place finish at the Nationals, she’s had quite a successful cross country season, which she’s naturally very proud of.

Now she’s back on track, Rachael has set herself a few goals for this year. “My long term goal would be trying to achieve 4:12 for the 1500m, but I know that won’t be easy. I really want to make the British Champs final and win Northerns again this year too”.

2019 is also an important year for many Isle of Man athletes, as the Island Games takes place in Gibraltar in July. The Championships are a big event on islanders’ calendars, and Rachael means business this year. “I’d love to get the Games record for the 800 and 1500.” The records currently stand at 2:11.37 for the 800m, which is well within her capabilities, and 4:24.15 for the 1500m set by Anna Tait of Orkney Islands in 2017.

With the Easter Festival taking place this weekend, she hopes her efforts pay off and speaks very fondly of the event which she’s won multiple times. “The festival is just amazing and there’s so much support. When you’re running round, especially in the lead, and they see your local vest everyone is just cheering for you and pushing you on”.

Concocting a wonderful blend of celebrations and excellent distance talent, Rachael is passionate about competing at the event on her home turf. “I think the event is really great for the island and the sport in general, as the festival always tries hard to attract all abilities. There’s so many abilities that compete, literally. And the universities really make it too! You have Manchester AleHouse and Leeds Doss rivalries and they’re always dressed up or doing stupid stuff, but they’re actually all really fast! That’s the thing, the event attracts really fast runners! Everyone is just cheering you on when you’re trying not to die and you still feel great even when you’re at the back!”

Being a popular event, with established sponsors, there’s a significant prize fund for winners to get their hands on too, which is another big incentive for athletes. “The prize fund is big too! They’re giving away something like £4,500 grand this year, so there’s really good prizes and great incentives to run. It’s actually really nice to get paid then at the end of the race when you win, which I’m not really used to. If I win, I think I get 300 quid or something like that”.

As it’s more within her running range, Rachael is a big fan of the Douglas 5km. “The 5km is my favourite. It’s along the prom and essentially a 2.5km stretch, then you turn around and run back. It’s beautiful and you can look out and see England when it’s clear”. However, she does also love running the 10k. “The Friday is great and we actually get to start the (10k) race with the men which is good. We run around the south of the island and of course all the local crowd are out”. To tackle Saturday’s Peel Hill however, like Ollie, she suggests decent trail shoes, with her other tip being “Just try not to walk! It’s just so steep”.

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“Follow the leader leader leader, follow the leader” #peelhill#beautifulday#isleofman#runner

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Once the distances are out of the way and the celebrations can begin, Rachael expresses the notorious Isle of Man delicacy is a personal favourite. “The highlight is definitely the ice cream, we produce our own you know. Oh, and everyone tries cheese, chips and gravy. Some people refuse to try, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!”