Team England’s accidental long distance star on making her Commonwealth debut

·3-min read
Berlin, 03.04.22, Leichtathletik, Generali Berliner Halbmarathon 2022. Samantha Harrison (IMAGO/Andreas Gora via Reuters C)

When the 2018 Commonwealth Games took place, Samantha Harrison had never even run a half-marathon, writes Megan Armitage. 

Four years later, she's been selected to represent Team England in the 10,000m.

The Nottingham-based athlete took up running for fun and fitness and slowly developed a love for the sport, entering the Robin Hood Half Marathon in September 2018.

And the 29-year-old quickly realised her talent as she crossed the line as the fourth fastest woman and began a journey she'd never even dreamed of.

She said: "It was sort of an accidental way into the sport. I just ran for fun and I did a lot of fitness.

"I decided just to take up running a little bit more, running outside and doing a little bit more mileage and I just really enjoyed being outside in the fresh air.

"And then I kind of thought to myself, what am I just doing all this running for? So I decided to enter a race. "And I placed quite high up in the field so I thought, if I'd placed there I must be half decent.

"I had never done any athletics or anything in school. Nobody else around me was sporty so when I started running, a lot of people I knew found it difficult, saying 'I can't breathe' or 'my legs hurt' whereas I never really felt like that."

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured her place on the squad, Harrison is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.

And with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Harrison hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.

Harrison joined her local running club straight after completing the Robin Hood Half Marathon and slowly started to believe in herself a bit more and improve.

Originally working as a dental nurse, Harrison moved to part-time work to help focus on her elite running and has now gone on to compete in the 2021 European Championships and 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships.

And the long-distance runner credited her work and family for being so supportive in pursuing both aspects of her career.

She said: "I have family who are in dentistry, and they sort of inspired me to do it really.

"I really like it and the fact that there's lots of different options in dentistry.

"It was more inspired by family so thought I'd give it a go and ten years later nearly, I'm still here.

"To try and run full-time, especially as an endurance athlete and then work 42 hours a week was virtually impossible.

"Work are really supportive. They've let me have the next three weeks off so I can just knuckle down, keep focused and train.

"If you haven't got a supportive workplace then I honestly don't know how you'd get this far.”

Harrison will make her Commonwealth Games debut in the 10,000m on Wednesday 3 August and is spurred on to produce her best performance for Team England.

She said: “It’s sunk in now that I’ve actually got the kit and we’ve watched some brief videos of athletes talking about their experiences.

“It’s made things feel more real and more exciting now. I just want to go out and run now and train.”

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