Norwich’s Barbara Parker speaks of London 2012 hopes
She's a Norfolk girl in Atlanta, spending every night in a tent and already preparing mentally for 2012. Michael Bailey caught up with GB steeplechaser, Beijing Olympian and City of Norwich AC runner Barbara Parker.
It's a glum autumn day afternoon in Norwich – and a 30�c morning in Georgia, as CoNAC's Daegu World Championship finalist and London medal hopeful let's us know how things have gone in 2011…
Barbara Parker: Everything's well. I've had a break and I'll start getting my mileage back up to 80 miles a week now. I did the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York a few weeks ago after Daegu.
Michael Bailey: That sounds like a great race to run.
BP: It is. You start at the Guggenheim and then run through Central Park. Hannah England was there too. We're best friends and room together, so it was just a nice weekend in New York!
MB: Listen to you – sounds well worth it. Where is home these days?
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BP: Atlanta, we moved here in January. It's the only city in America built on a forest, so there's a load of vales – it's great for running.
MB: I bet you get plenty of benefit from that then. Looking back at your season, how do you view it?
BP: I reached goals in some areas but not necessarily steeplechase. I got around the same time as my PB from last year, but I was definitely a lot more consistent. My 5,000m time came down a lot and I did well in the 1,500m at the AAAs. I've started working with a psychologist to help with the mental aspect of things. I mean, in Daegu I did well in the heats and then in the final I just didn't do well at all. It's one area we think I can really benefit in and I already feel like it's helping so I hope it will bridge the gap to where I want to be.
MB: Fantastic. Can you believe the next year you'll be preparing for 2012?
BP: No! Someone said there are only 40-odd Fridays to go – it sounds like nothing. It's come so quickly.
MB: It's like a Christmas countdown, eh? How do you feel at this point, with the Games being so near and yet still so far away?
BP: It's coming at the right time. I've gained experience in Beijing and my training has come on how I wanted it to. London is going to be just right for when I'm going to hit my peak.
MB: Do you know what the situation is with qualifying?
BP: You know, I'm not really sure! I think I've already got the qualifying time – but they're not going to select people if they don't perform well. The top two at the British Championships get automatic selection and the steeplechase for me is really manageable, but positioning in the race at the trials – that's going to be the toughest thing.
MB: I bet. So will it be the steeplechase for you in London?
BP: In world rankings I do place a lot higher in that than the 5k, but I want to qualify for the 5k and go in the 800m.
MB: Any plans to come home between now and the Olympics?
BP: Not Norfolk as yet, but I'll spend time at altitude in Europe and from April until the Olympic trials I'll be in the UK. I did three months altitude last year, which was a new thing for me and was great. Right now we have an altitude tent and I'm sleeping at 12,000ft – I'll do that through to the Olympics now. It's my new house!
MB: Hang on, let me get this right…
BP: We were lucky enough to get a tent off an athlete over here and they've let us have it until 2012. It goes over your bed and you can set it to the altitude you want; it takes out oxygen and puts in nitrogen.
MB: I guess you wouldn't come to Norfolk for altitude training anyway.
BP: Well I'll bring the tent when I'm home in Norfolk, and sleep in that.
MB: So do you already find yourself thinking about what you want to achieve in London?
BP: Yes I do. It's always good to have a long term goal. I made the final in Daegu; mentally it was good to have that experience. I definitely learned a lot from Beijing. I really felt I should have finished top eight in Daegu, so to be close to a medal in London is not impossible at all. It's very much on the day in the final.
MB: And to have that home crowd pushing you on here as well…
BP: Oh yes, and you have to prepare for that too. It's going to be new for a lot of people and the younger ones. That alone you have to deal with.
MB: I bet family and friends are asking you for a load of tickets.
BP: Oh yes – a lot of requests! We didn't get any in the ballot but because I went to Beijing there is a programme for previous Olympians where you get two tickets, and then if you make the Olympics you get two through that. There's my mum, brother and his wife, my sister and my husband will have a coach's pass – so I'm pretty much covered!
MB: Good to avoid family arguments. Is there anything you're looking forward to most at the Games?
BP: Obviously I'd like to be successful. Seeing Hannah in Daegu and what that can bring, it was so good to be close to that. I'm looking forward to it all, but you have to play down your anxiety because if you get too anxious, that's it.
MB: Have you seen much of the Olympic site already?
BP: No, I haven't actually been there yet. I'd like to go there before – it helps to be familiar with a place.
MB: I guess you're more out of it than the GB athletes based here.
BP: We always get emails inviting us to tours and I can't go. When I go to England I have a look out of the plane window to see it. But I should get to have a look before the Games.
MB: And City of Norwich AC?
BP: I'm still a member, I keep in touch with Tim and Pauline Ash. I run for them whenever I can. They helped me with my session and a couple of girls from Norwich did some pacing for me when I was at home in King's Lynn this year. I'm still part of the team; it's nice to have people to run with when I'm home.
MB: So who – other than yourself – is key to getting you to London?
BP: Well my husband Sean is my coach so we're pretty much attached at the hip. Everything we do is based around 2012. He has to sleep in the tent too – even the dog has to!
MB: Will you be getting a load of special kit for the games?
BP: Before Beijing we went to the NEC and they had an exhibition hall where you tried everything on and got fitted. People there made the suits and outfits, you waited 30 minutes and came out with huge bags filled with everything from ponchos to videos cameras, toiletries. That is a really exciting day. From there it all starts to become real.