Mhairi Patience on her way to 400m Hurdles win at Kilmarnock (photo by Bobby Gavin)
Scotland international Mhairi Patience has urged athletes of all ages to remember why they came into the sport – if they are thinking of quitting.
Lockdown, Covid-19 restrictions and a lack of competition have affected the motivation and inspiration for many people across athletics in Scotland and in some disciplines the gaps between events stretch to almost 18 months.
It should be stressed that this will apply across many areas in Scottish sport and isn’t particular to athletics.
Patience has herself been involved for more than 12 years now since racing as an U13 and U15 for VP-Glasgow and freely admitted that mental hurdles have been as daunting to clear as the physical barriers she faced in our 4J Studios Invitational Event at Kilmarnock last Saturday.
But, in Mental Health Awareness Week, Mhairi highlighted the many positives of staying involved and how she sensed a strong community spirit around the Ayrshire Athletics Arena.
‘I have been there myself,’ said Mhairi, when asked how she would advise young athletes potentially weighing up whether to quit the sport.
‘Over the years you have doubts and you definitely experience ups and downs.
‘That is part of the sport whether it is brought on by injuries or a global pandemic. It can be very challenging.
‘Staying motivated sometimes becomes very hard and I think a whole host of people can relate to that over the past year to 18 months for very obvious reasons.
‘I guess what I have been doing myself is try and take it each day at a time and remember why it is that I started in athletics.
‘If you don’t have competitions to aim for then you have to – and I know it sounds cheesy – look inside yourself for reminders on why and how you are doing it for the right reasons.
‘I take a lot more out of athletics than just racing. You can make friends for life and I know it is good for me mentally to keep training and (when possible) competing.
‘So there are positives – you have to know what they are for you personally and keep reminding yourself about that.’
We’ve mentioned across the site in recent days how we firmly believe it will take what might be called the #SALtogether approach – with different parts of the sport all pulling in the same direction – to help athletics in Scotland recover lost momentum. And start growing again.
Mhairi feels the fightback has started already.
‘I felt even on Saturday at Kilmarnock, with no spectators, there was a real warm atmosphere around the venue,’ she said.
‘I mean a kind of togetherness. You were speaking to folk you had maybe not spoken to before and encouraging them on their performance. Or speaking to coaches and Officials.
‘Maybe we were all just pleased to be outside after being in the house for so often!
‘It was a friendly atmosphere and it’s a community (athletics in Scotland). Getting back to where we were will be worth the effort.’
*Fellow 400m Hurdler Connor Henderson echoed Mhairi sentiments about the uncertainty about events making motivation tough for some athletes.
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