Erika Kelly’s latest Fast10 blog is something that many will relate to. 

I know I won’t be alone in trying to comprehend the confusion, disruption and disarray that 2020 has brought.

It’s for the first time in my very short career as an athlete so far, that I have found myself struggling to find enjoyment and solace in the sport that I’ve loved so much for the last few years.

The year couldn’t have gotten off to a better start – travelling to Murcia in January for a really encouraging training camp with the Welsh Athletics Endurance team, alongside my best friend and partner, Ollie. It always feels incredible to be able to share these experiences together, comprehending the sacrifices that come with training as full-time athletes.

I think we both felt that this camp was setting us up for a bright year ahead… but then a global pandemic happened.

Not just a pandemic to deal with

Not only did Covid-19 rear its ugly head, but on return to the Isle of Man, I found myself unable to fully extend one of my legs – a requisite for legal race walking technique. After weeks of confusion and conservative treatment with IOM Sport, the situation wasn’t improving.

I wasn’t displaying any distinctive symptoms and didn’t appear to be experiencing much pain, so we had to look to an MRI scan for answers. And just like that, it felt like my world had ended. A lateral meniscus tear requiring surgery, and Hoffa’s syndrome. Three days passed following the scan, and very quickly, I found myself lying in the operating theatre.

It’s been a very longgggggg six months of rehabbing. The recovery process was far from straightforward (such is life) and every time there was a glimmer of hope, another niggle/issue would come to the fore. It’s been one of the most disheartening experiences to have gone through – with every step forwards, we took about three backwards. And maybe this is where it all started – where I begun to succumb to my situation, lose faith and ultimately self-belief and confidence. 

The highs and the lows

In April, I was over the moon to get selected to represent England in Podebrady over 20km, but as quickly as I had accepted my invitation, the event got postponed.

This year has seen so many major goal races postponed and/or cancelled, including the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Minsk, which in part I feel, has fed this lull in desire and motivation to race.

Very fortunately, I have been able to benefit from some local island-based races, to race against a clock, and benefit from judging feedback. They’ve been a proper mixed bag of experiences – sub-par performances, lack of enjoyment, and my first ever DNF (which genuinely had me feeling so gutted, I cried for days), but we ended on a high with a loverly PB and a smile on my face! 

Opportunities close to home

On-island opportunities are brilliant when the world around you is shutting down, but they’re just not quite the same as being thrown into a highly competitive environment, in which you’re surrounded by like-minded athletes, pushing you to your limits.

Moreover, living on the Isle of Man has come with its own set of challenges, and I found myself feeling incredible deflated at having to turn down an opportunity to race in the 2020 British Championships in Manchester, due to the necessity to self-isolate for two weeks upon my return. It simply couldn’t be justified at the time.

In some ways, the silver linings to all of this are that, getting injured and having to rehab for 50% of the year couldn’t have aligned better with the onset of a virus swarming across the world, meaning that goals, races and events, very sadly, have had to be written off or postponed to later dates.

If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that the most challenging of situations, coupled with your weakest moments can give rise to the opportunities that allow you to truly comprehend just how strong you can be. Keep showing up, keep dreaming, keep believing.

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