Hannah England: A personal memory
I first met Hannah England on 11 July 2008 when she ran in the British Championships and Olympic Trials. It was the first of 76 times I saw her run. (In case you think I am a complete nerd to know that, the https://thepowerof10.info website makes it quite easy to calculate). That she is from Oxford, where I live, gave us another connection.
Despite finishing third in the 2008 national trials she was not selected for the Olympics. She was invited to go as part of a GB development squad and I did my first proper interview with her in the Birdsnest Stadium.
One thing I need to say about Hannah is that she was always willing to talk after a race whether it had gone well or badly, giving an honest assessment of her performance and always willing to find time for a longer interview.
It is one of my life-highlights – never mind what she thought – being in the stadium in Daegu to see her storm past the field to take silver behind Jenny Simpson. At the time the Simpson, England 1-2 was described as a fluke but then two years later they were second and fourth, a result that Hannah described as: “very satisfying” adding “If 2013 had been my best ever result it would still be very good. For my worst place in the world championship to be fourth, I’m pretty proud of that”.
In Moscow 2013 she told me: “Fourth in the world is a great achievement after what happened last year. Not getting a medal is disappointing but it is a lot better than last year. Having come second before, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. I am pleased with fourth; it’s very good, but you have to pinch yourself that you are in this situation being upset about fourth in the world. A long sleep and lots of cake and I’ll probably feel a lot better.”
Hannah’s achievements have been brilliant and she has every reason to be proud of her achievements. But, I can’t help thinking that it could have been even better. There were the denied opportunities – finishing third in the national trials in 2008 and 2009 but not being selected for the Olympics or World Champs. Then, she approached the 2012 Olympics as a real medal contender only to lose 8 weeks training after being spiked in a race in May. Then there was illness and injury in the 2013 winter which stopped her building on an excellent 2013 season and then getting a bug in Kenya in early 2015.
Typically, she does not dwell on it: “very frustrating but unfortunately it is the life of an athlete, whether impact during a race or a badly timed illness, it’s the fine line that we run all the time and we have just got to manage it. But I do feel incredibly lucky that I did have summers when it all came together. 2011 and 2013 were really great summers. I would also say that I’ve not had as much bad luck as some of my peers and friends have had in their careers. So I try not to sulk about it but just get on with it”.
She has the distinction in the Commonwealth Games (where her country is called “England”, not GB” to have her name back and front: “It’s wicked to be England running for England”.
I finish with a statement that no one will disagree with. As well as being a great athlete Hannah is simply one of the nicest people you could care to meet in our sport. She will be missed.