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Anya Culling on her England debut at Copenhagen Marathon

Anya Culling on her England debut at Copenhagen Marathon

Marathon runner on the feeling of representing England for the first time over 26.2 miles

On Sunday (May 14), I represented my country for the very first time, writes Anya Culling.

I could have viewed the race as an epic honour, an insurmountable, once in a lifetime competition. However, this would have been an obsolete attitude to adopt. The race was also about meeting and connecting to athletes from other nations and learning from one another.

When I was offered the opportunity to race the Copenhagen Marathon for England, my mind went straight to fear!

My coach [Nick Bester] and I discussed at length about whether I was ready or not. I wasn’t fearful of the other athlete’s personal bests. Yes, they were impressive, but their mental strength was even more amazing. I was scared I would fall short, stand on that start line and crumble under the pressure. This marathon block was a mental build.

Nick Bester and Anya Culling (SpartaLob)

Everyone knows that a marathon is a battle with your mind and I feared that would be my Achilles heel. I needed to train my mind to become an enabler rather than a disabler. I would dread a session or hard run workout because I was so scared, putting so much pressure on myself.

Over the four month build-up, I learnt to adopt the mindset of ‘what if it could turn out better than you could have imagined’ – that’s exactly what happened in Copenhagen.

We stayed in the race hotel with many other elite athletes. I shared a room with Phily Bowden who had the race of her life on Sunday. She finished third with a time of 2:29:16 and was the only athlete who wasn’t Kenyan to be on the podium in both the male and female races. Everyone helped and supported each other through those pre-race nerves.

We all ate meals together, shared stories of races that we’d done before and went for shake-out runs as groups. Plus received messages from the same therapist. On the start line, the fist bumps and the words of encouragement confirmed we were racing for ourselves and not against the clock.

I had Nick [Bester] running alongside me and we had formed a solid group by the 5km mark.

We clipped along nicely at around 3:35min/km. I had my sunglasses on while trying to make sure the sweat didn’t wipe up off the splits written on my arm. The sun quickly heated up like a celestial fireball and I knew it was going to get tough.

Splits on Anya Culling’s arm (SpartaLob)

It was an honour to run in an England kit and Copenhagen will…

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