Olympic hopeful Steph Twell talks about living in Farnborough
PUBLISHED: 15:54 14 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:33 20 February 2013
Olympic hopeful Steph Twell talks to Sarah Peters about the Hampshire countryside, <br/><br/>injuries and living in Farnborough
Steph Twell is an astonishing athlete. She may only be 21 years old, but she has already made her mark in the world of middle distance running and is set to represent her country in the 2012 Olympics. Her current accolades include 2010 Commonwealth Games 1500m Bronze medal; 2008 IAAF World Junior 1500m Champion; and 2006, 2007 and 2008 European Junior Cross Country Champion.
As a child Steph always looked forward to school Sports Day. It was the highlight of her year and soon it became clear why... when she just kept on winning!
I realised from an early age that I was highly competitive. I did not like being beaten and I had a real passion to win. I loved Sports Day and took it very seriously. My love of athletics, and in particular my fondness of middle and long distance running, started when I became a member of my Primary Schools Cross Country club.
When she moved to Hampshire, she joined the Aldershot, Farnham and District Athletics Club when she was about nine and from then on she was hooked. As the club was very near to her home, it was easy for her to go along to training and running sessions and she loved it! Her interest in running was partly helped by her Dad, Andy, who was an enthusiastic runner himself. While Steph was growing up she recalls he often went for runs which inspired her to try longer distance running for herself.
From a very young age I remember my Dad coming home from a long run out of breath and wearing a sweaty T-shirt. There always seemed to be a pair of trainers kept at the front door.
Steph currently lives in Farnborough but during her early childhood she moved around quite a bit when her father, who is in the Armed Forces, was relocated to various posts across the country.
Farnborough is the place where I feel most settled. she says. It feels like my real home as I have lived here since the age of 9 and I really enjoy living here. When I was younger my brother went to boarding school in Ringwood and my family used to enjoy spending time in the New Forest. Going over there is still great as I enjoy being in the outdoors and going for long walks with my dog and finding new routes through the woodland!
Steph works hard at her studies too and has won great academic achievements. She completed her undergraduate degree in Strength and Conditioning at St Marys, Twickenham and is currently a post graduate teaching assistant in Strength and Conditioning whilst studying for her Masters degree. But how does she manage to excel at both training and studying?
It is hard. She stresses, I do think my greatest achievement so far has been balancing my academic studies with my training. Both are demanding. I graduated with a 2:1 in Strength and Conditioning Science and still managed a full time training programme. That, in particular, I am really proud of.
On hearing about her training schedule, its clear why this is such an achievement. Her regime is relentless. She does weights, co-ordination drills and conditioning exercises to improve her core stability whilst also practicing Yoga and, of course, spending hours running each week to build her cardiovascular endurance base; which to us amateurs sounds rather painful! Steph explains, This basically means embarking on several steady runs, often up to 1 hours long once, twice or more often three times a day. Then I also do strength and conditioning training in the weights room, this is an important element of training as it builds my power and robustness as an athlete.
It all sounds exhausting just thinking about it, but for Steph it is a way of life and there is no question about her determination and passion when it comes to her sport.
It sounds a lot, but I love what I do and I want to be the best I can be, she continues.
Alongside her packed regime she does also enjoy a bit of down time. She understands that its important to rest too and she enjoys the Hampshire countryside whenever she can.
I love how green Hampshire is! Its also so accessible to the capital and to the coast, so we have the best of both worlds. One place I really love is Ceasers Camp. It is a huge woodland area with varying terrain to challenge yourself when you are running. There is a really high escarpment which, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Wembley and Canary Wharf. I love running alongside the water too; we are really close to the Basingstoke canal as well as plenty of fishing lakes.
The determination and dedication of such an athlete is both humbling and inspiring but who is Stephs inspiration?
My greatest inspirations have to be my Dad and my coach. My Dad because he has always taught me to live your life by listening to your heart; and my coach, Mick Woods, for undoubtedly making me the athlete I am today. He saw something in me at a young age which wasnt natural talent but my ability to work hard. His belief in me and in what I could achieve as an athlete is something that inspires me to get better and better.
I realised from an early age that I was highly competitive. I did not like being beatenand I had a real passion to win. I loved Sports Day and took it very seriously.
Steph certainly proved herself at the last Olympics when she ran 1500 meters in 4:06.68 and finished sixth in her heat, narrowly missing out on a place in the final. She intends to represent her country in 2012 despite an accident earlier this year when she fell on the final lap of a race breaking both her ankle and her leg in three places. Having been in plaster for some time, she is now engaged in an intensive programme of rehabilitation including stints at the Injury Rehabilitation Unit at Bisham Abbey, one of the UKs National Sports Centres. She explains, I am working hard to get through the rehab and back to training again. There is no official time frame for an injury like this to heal, I just have to do as I am told and not rush things so that it heals fully. It will take more than a set back like this to stop Steph on her journey. She is too determined to be beaten and too courageous to give up and is still looking forward to representing her country. She emphasises, I am looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd. I am fiercely patriotic and to be competing against the best opposition in the world, whilst knowing that most of the crowd will be there to support me, is something I believe will lift my performance. I am sure it will make my performance the highest of the high.
Good Luck Steph!