When I joined CASS & Friends mid 2016, I was a runner competing at a county and regional level having been selected for the nationals at the end of the 2016 season. I started running when I was 13 and began competing in my local cross country running league and the occasional parkrun.
I ran my first sub 20 minute 5km just after my 14th birthday and had big aspirations. My improvements with my running came after starting a regular structured training plan and training twice a week with the Cheltenham Harriers senior men's distance group. I got a PB in every 5km race I did for 3 years straight (excluding parkruns: I wasn't a morning person :) ). I first found myself with some form mid 2016 when I ran my current 5km PB of 16:48, after taking multiple wins in the Youth Development League 3000m races representing my home team; Cheltenham Harriers. And competing in the CAU Inter Counties Championships for the first time that spring for Gloucestershire.
I really started to find my feet in the 2016/17 XC season. I won the Gloucestershire U17 XC League taking a win in one of the races and despite getting disqualified from the final and my home fixture for being late at the start, I came 2nd to my teammate. This was also the first year I made some proper progress in the Gloucestershire schools fixtures. I made my way through the qualifiers. One of my personal best performances was in the South West Schools qualifiers in Cardiff. I ran the technical 7.5km cross country course in just under 27 minutes. I pushed myself really hard that day and was chuffed to come 3rd. I was then selected to run the English Schools for the first time!
However, at the beginning of 2017, before the English Schools I found myself unable to run with a knee injury. After testing it a couple of times I was devastated to have to contact my team manager to tell them I was unable to run. All my training was based on tapering for that event, and I had to say goodbye to my goal of a sub-16 minute 5km that summer.
As I was unable to run I started bike racing instead. Cycling had always been of interest to me and I’d been cycling to complement my running for years. My first proper season racing the bike was super successful, taking 2nd in the Bristol Grand Prix, winning the Minehead Festival of Wheels Criterium, winning 2 stages of the Cheltenham Hill Climbing League and taking the league title, and earning my category 3 racing licence. And to be honest I haven’t looked back to my running days since!
Now the 2017 season has come to an end, training for 2018 has started. I will be racing most weekends throughout 2018 in order to gain points, experience and fitness, aiming to clock at least 11 hour weeks around my full time education. I have massive aspirations for the future and I’ve been offered to race with Zappi Racing Team in Europe already after my final A level exams. This is a massive stepping stone on my way to my ultimate goal as a bike racer, of becoming a full time professional. Of course, none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the generous grants from Cass and Friends.
The first support I received helped pay for trainers, cross country spikes and enabled me to get the memberships and licenses necessary to kickstart my cycling career. Any cyclist will know that the cost of all the kit necessary to train for racing is high, and the costs of racing is huge, especially when you factor in race entries and travelling to events. I’ve also had help with training with one of the many contacts the Cass and Friends team have up their sleeves. Their support has been essential in getting me to where I am now, and I look forward to seeing the next athletes’ success in the future.
Thanks for reading my story, and many thanks to CASS & Friends. You can reach me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org