OLIVIA Clarke told how she has enjoyed some of the “best racing experiences” of her life in a season where she’s set two all-time female club records and achieved the qualifying standard for the Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG).
The middle-distance specialist broke the previous 800m best twice in less than three weeks before setting a new women’s benchmark in the 1500m just five days later.
The latter run in Birmingham, in which Olivia clocked a time of 4:27.92, saw her reach the CYG standard by 0.08secs.
But despite missing out on selection for the Scotland squad to compete in Trinidad and Tobago last month, she has been delighted with her performances this year, including being part of the first CAAC senior women’s team to claim a national title at the Scottish Track Relay Championships.
Olivia said: “I have had some of the best racing experiences all over the UK this season and run times in the past six months which I would not have believed I could at the start of the year.
“The 800m has never been my main event and I had primarily focused on 1500m with the odd steeplechase to mix things up. Being able to run a broad variety of distances is exciting and I love being able to improve across all disciplines. Most importantly, I have gained some confidence now.”
Olivia first broke the women’s 800m club record on May 16 with a run of 2:11.46 at Trafford, Manchester, topping the seven-year-old time of 2:12.26 set by Hannah Addison.
She then bettered that, clocking 2:08.85 at the British Milers Club’s Glasgow Crownpoint event at Scotstoun on June 2 – missing the CYG 800m qualifying standard by just 0.1secs.
But she showed her pace again on June 7 by storming to another record time in the 1500m in Birmingham.
Olivia, whose 800m time is nearly 11 seconds faster than her under-15 record set in 2020, said: “I was completely shocked, especially due to the hatred I have for 800s being an extremely tough event! I wasn’t aware of the previous record due to the fact I had no intention of running any quick 800m times this season and instead focusing on the 1500m.
“After running 2:11, breaking the 2:10 barrier didn’t seem far off. But I didn’t think I would have the ability to run any quicker, especially considering how far into the season I was.
“Fortunately, 800m training goes hand in hand with the 1500m. Speed sessions in training have become more frequent and I have found I enjoy them a lot more. I am able to transfer my speed into the longer distances, which has definitely helped in seeing some progress with my times.
“After just missing the CYG standard in the 800m, I entered the BMC 1500m race in Birmingham to test the waters and ran 4:27.92, which I was overwhelmed with. I was pretty fatigued but in good shape, and running a CYG standard was an achievement in itself. I was beyond pleased.”
Olivia, along with Kirsty MacAulay and Alice Mourao, took a landmark team gold for CAAC in the 3x800m at the Scottish Track Relay Championships on June 25.
Her track season has also included winning the under-20s 1500m race at the SNAL meeting at Aberdeen in May and silver in the U20 800m at the 4J Age Group Championships in the Granite City last month.
She said of the relay triumph: “Moving up to the senior category was daunting as it felt like yesterday that I was an under-11! But our team were buzzing to get on to the track and show what CAAC had to offer.
“Kirsty led us off into a commanding lead, I carried the baton through in the middle and Alice, despite still being an under-17, handled the pressure like a professional and powered round to a fine first place.
“The team was ecstatic and I was so proud to be a part of the first CAAC senior team to win a national title.”
Photo is copyright of Bobby Gavin.