What was your first reaction when you found out you were off to Australia?
I was relieved! I got the qualification time at the end of the season, and I knew it was going to be very tough to get selected because England has so many people with qualification standards. After it had sunk in I was very excited about the opportunity. For 4 years it had been in the back of my mind but I wasn't sure how realistic it would be, so to achieve it felt really special and it was a big confident boost.
This is my first major senior championships after I competed at the European U23s in 2015, so it's a great next step.
How have the early announcements affected your training over the winter, have you done anything differently?
I have had to change my focus, it is unusual to have a track season that lasts from the beginning of April to September, so I have had to be a lot more patient with my training and not push for cross country. I had a couple of niggles October/November which was frustrating, but it's just one of those things. I have been working hard to get strong and I'm now getting back to my summer fitness.
What's your favourite CWG memory?
I enjoyed watching the Steeple at the last Commonwealths. It was the first games where I actually knew athletes competing and they did so well, it was really inspiring.
What are your aims or the Games?
My aim is to get stuck in and see what I can do. The steeplechase is such an unpredictable race and I'm excited to give it all I've got.
The Australians won the Ashes this summer and there's always a bit of friendly rivalry but who's going to come out on top?
Oo that's a tricky one, I'm useless at predictions... I literally have no idea! I know we have a strong team but you never know. I'll go with us, we have to go in with a positive mind set don't we. I don't like predicting races as that's where you begin to settle for a pre-predicted place, there are some athletes who are flying at the moment so it could be an exciting, very fast race.
How has the build up to the Games gone so far? The UK winter is very different to the Australian summer
My build up has been a mixed bag. I got a few niggles early on in winter but since then I have managed to get in a good solid block of training. I am just back from South Africa where I have spent the past 3 weeks. It has been my first time at altitude and the first time I have gone away for a long period of time where training is my only focus - it was really great.
What will be the highlight of the Games for you?
I have never been to Australia so just being there will be a highlight. I'm hoping to do a bit of travelling the week after the games have finished which will be fun. Steph Twell said about going to the waterpark from the Inbetweeners in Byron Bay after her race, so that may be a highlight off the track! On the track, I'll enjoy watching all of the events to be honest, but I couldn't pick one.
What event specific training do you have to do?
I do mostly the same as I would for any endurance event as I know it will be my race fitness that will get my furthest in the race. To improve my technical side I do hurdle drills, and once a week I do hurdle training. In some sessions I put hurdles out during my reps to get used to hurdling on tired legs.
In 2017 what was the turning point in the season?
Winning the British Championships. It was a real shock as I wasn't sure what shape I was in coming back from injury. It gave me a lot of confidence for the season ahead and gave me the self-belief that I could get the qualifying time.
The CWG are always a good platform to breakthrough from. What is your advice for athletes targeting to next CWG in 4 years time on home soil in Birmingham?
My advice would be;
- Don't get fixated on it as a goal. I find the trouble with a big events is your training could be going perfectly leading up to the event, then during the qualifying period injury strikes and that's really hard to take. If you try and focus on the little things, the small steps, like making sure you're doing your prehab, focusing on getting strong and fit and enjoy each race as it comes. If you qualify for these big championships then that is a bonus, and enjoy the journey - whatever that may be.
- Don't worry what other people are doing/have done. It is hard not to look at other peoples performances and training online and think 'ah I'm not as fit as them...I'm going to race bad this season...etc' It is easy to get into a negative mindset. But we are all different and we all train differently. We all peak at different times in the year and all race better in different conditions to others. Just focus on yourself and your own progress and compete when you are in the race not before it.
- Never say never. Don't write yourself off if the build up to a season hasn't gone perfectly. All of the years of running you have in the bank will mean you can get fit quickly. Running is as much of a mental game as a physical one.
- Be patient. It is easy to over train/ over race and push yourself too hard. Everybody suits different mileage and our bodies are delicate things that we have all our lives! Gradual progress, a long career with a balanced lifestyle is a lot better than burning out too soon.
You can follow Iona's journey here.