COVID-19 has brought substantial uncertainty upon the world of sport, but this couldn’t forestall distance runner Becky Briggs. The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until July 2021, and numerous other events cancelled altogether, but this weekend’s World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland has survived the calendar cull. This is a particularly momentous championships for Briggs, who will don her first senior Team GB vest at just 20 years of age. As the youngest British athlete to compete on Saturday, student-athlete Briggs takes inspiration from the challenges she’s already overcome to tackle those ahead.
“For some people, you [running] may just be a sport, something to pass the time, to stay active, for others, you are so much more than that”. Briggs recalls with admirable frankness her experiences as a twelve-year-old, when she was sectioned with an eating disorder that left her extremely unwell, and reflects on how much her athletic successes mean to her today. “In that moment I knew that even though you [running] drove me to hell, you were the light at the end of all this darkness, and I would fight to get back to what made me feel like me again. I feel so lucky to have something that makes me feel so alive”.
While currently based at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, when March’s lockdown forced the closure of the campus Briggs moved back home to train. Briggs paced the streets of Hull alone, completing 80 to 90 mile weeks with no sign of any races on the horizon. “Training during lockdown actually really kept me going, the routine. But also, keeping my vision firmly set on my long-term goals is what really drove me the most.”.
The hard work over lockdown paid off handsomely. At September’s Antrim Coast Half-Marathon her first race back since March, Briggs knocked over 120 seconds from her previous personal best and secured top spot on the UK U20 rankings, in only her fourth half marathon performance. Following her phenomenal performance in Ireland, Briggs is now set to toe the start line with the world’s greatest. “I was over the moon when I received the phone call, I really felt that all my hard work has paid off, and I am so excited to race.”
But Briggs’ eyes are still firmly set on the future. “The opportunity of a six-month block of training during lockdown really honed my body for the intensity of the marathon and the training required; that’s something I wouldn’t normally have done with races every three to four weeks.” With the London Marathon scheduled for October 2021, Briggs’ ambitions to jump up to 26.2 miles may soon be realised.