TVH Athlete spotlight – Tracy Barlow

We are introducing a new regular feature “Athlete spotlight” which will shine a light on some of TVH’s stars – across all ages, and taking in throwing, jumping and running. We’ll find out what makes them tick, the experiences that have shaped them and hopefully learn a thing or two about how we can all become better athletes.

First up is Tracy Barlow, who lines up in the London Marathon on April 23 with a genuine shot at clinching a place in the GB team for the home 2017 World Championships.

Tracy Barlow running 5000m as TVH win the European Champion Club Cup in Leiria, Portugal, 2016

Tracy has achieved a remarkable progression over the last few years into one of the UK’s finest distance runners. Initially a sprinter, Tracy has honed her distance running skills through a combination of smart planning and native grit, all while being a great team member for TVH in cross country, road running and track.

Tracy’s rapid development saw her set a series of club records at marathon and half marathon on the way to winning England international honours in Toronto two years ago. A 2:32.05 marathon in Frankfurt last October ranked her fourth in the UK last year and a 72:48 half marathon in Barcelona this year puts her in the same position for 2017.

Tracy has put in a fierce winter of training to ensure she lines up for the London Marathon in a couple of weeks in even better shape than last year when she won from the championship start. Best of luck from all in the club.

Performance progression:

1. How did you get you into athletics?

I’ve always run from when I was little. At primary school I took part in all after-school sport activities and in high school I was a member of Aberdeen Athletics Club. I was a sprinter at this point and raced 100m and 200m. When I went to University there wasn’t an athletics club there so I would go for a run on my own as a way of keeping fit. Then when I moved to London I joined TVH after searching for athletics clubs online. I initially joined the sprint group as I thought 400m would be more my event. However after taking part in the cross country over the winter to help make up the numbers in the team I found I quite enjoyed the distance running and I actually improved at it. I then became a member of the distance group at TVH.

2. Which achievements in the sport are you proudest of?

I’m most proud of winning from the championship start at last year’s London Marathon. My parents were in the crowds watching so knowing they were witnessing it made it even more special. Once I had crossed the finish line and had got my medal and bag, I couldn’t wait to get to my parents and share the moment with them.

3. What have been the biggest factors in your development?

The biggest factor in my development has been being coached by Nick Anderson. Before I met him I wasn’t really following a training plan outside the club nights on Tuesday and Thursdays, and doing the standard long runs at the weekend to build the mileage up. I didn’t do any threshold work – I didn’t really know what that was at the time. When I began working with him my training became a lot more structured with each session having a purpose. I also went into my first marathon with him having a race plan. Previously I would line up and just run without much idea of how the race would pan out.

4. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is finding the work/life balance to suit training. I have always been someone who crams everything into my day and likes to be on the go all the time. I realise that this isn’t conducive to the elite level of marathon running that I’m now at. I recently stopped working and became a full-time athlete. Trying to relax during the day and not do much is actually quite hard for me. Having been used to juggling full time work with the training it has taken a lot of adjusting to. But I’m getting better at it.

5. Who have been your heroes and role models?

I take bits of many sports men and women and use that as my inspiration. Watching sport people perform at a high level and see the grit and determination to push themselves to the max, go through the pain barrier and achieve more than they have before inspires me to go out and try and get the most out of my training. When I’m in the midst of a hard session I try to picture a certain sports person pushing themselves to the max, such as Laura Muir when she’s in the last lap of her race, or the Brownlee brothers when they did the Olympic triathlon. It helps keeps me focused and keep pushing myself.

6. What part has TVH played in your development?

Having been a part of TVH for many years now I know so many people there. It’s a great club to be part of and whenever I race on the road I will have some support from a member of the crowd cheering for The Valley. I have been financially supported by John Smith for a few years now which has enabled me to start working part time initially, and then more recently becoming a full time athlete. Without his financial support I wouldn’t be able to train as I do and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

7. What are your top athletics goals – for the near-term and the long-term?

My main focus for this year is to qualify for the World Championships. The London marathon is the qualifying race for this so I need to be one of the first two British female athletes in the group to finish. The plans for the rest of the year rest on the outcome of the marathon. There is the Commonwealth Games in 2018 but for now my focus is on the Worlds.

8. What are your interests and aims outside athletics?

I enjoy socialising with friends when not training or running. Most of my friends happen to be runners as these are who I see the most. I love exploring different parts of London, so meeting up with friends to do so on a Sunday afternoon for some food and drinks, is my way of relaxing and having a social life. I also try to see my family as much as I can. As they live up North I don’t get to see them as much as I would like, but they come down to visit regularly.

9. What’s your top training tip?

Push the boundaries of your comfort zone, you never know what you can achieve if you don’t. Work on the areas that are your weaknesses to make them your strengths. Threshold running was always something I hated doing as it hurt and I wasn’t very good at it. Since focusing on this area and working with my coach to improve it my times have improved considerably.

10. Describe your personality in three words!

Determined, committed & fun loving