British miler has returned this summer from a series of injuries but under coaching guidance from Man Utd physio Andy Walling she aims to make her mark at the World Road Running Champs
Sarah McDonald endured so many illnesses and injuries during the 2020-2021 period that some of her fellow athletes asked her “why didn’t you just stop!?”
The 30-year-old admits it crossed her mind and she did indeed come close to quitting. But she tackled each of her issues patiently and determinedly and she has arrived at the World Road Running Championships in Latvia at the end of a summer where she narrowly missed her PBs with an 800m best of 1:59.91 and 1500m of 4:00.46.
“It’s been really rough since 2020,” she says, before explaining a catalogue of problems that ranged from probable Covid suffering concussion after banging her head on a canal bridge during a training run.
Worst of all, though, she adds: “In the lead up to the 2021 Olympic trials I got a stress fracture in my foot and then had other problems like femoral stress responses. There have been some tough times but I’m definitely a stronger runner now.”
Andy Walling, a physio who has worked with British Athletics and is the current first team physio at Manchester United FC, helped iron out her problems. The relationship worked so well, she decided to take him on as her coach. “I decided he knew my body better than anyone else,” she says, “and I wanted him to coach me.”
She has not been injured for around a year and literally touches some nearby wood as she tells AW her story. Not surprisingly her comeback has involved lots of strength and conditioning plus ongoing cross-training on a bike and elliptical machine. “We’ve had a health-first approach,” she explains, “with lots of problem solving with how to fix things and prevent injuries in the future.”
While the summer has gone nicely, however, she has been unable to plan many of her races. “At the start of the season I’d not competed since 2019 on the track so when I ran a certain time it would get me to the next race and the next and next,” she says.
Given this, she has rumbled along from competition to competition, never quite knowing where she would be running in a few weeks’ time. Even the British trial for Riga was fraught with difficult as she travelled to Newcastle to race but got a phone call saying only three women were…