Hello, Mansfieldâ€™s Stephen Lisgo here.
I am an endurance athlete who competes in track and field. I have been a long term competitor: picking up the sport at the age of 11. Yet, despite an early desire to succeed success was not realised until 2005. At the age of 18 I went from an â€˜also-ranâ€™ to a silver medallist at the national championships. The lack of success during my early years was in part due to an inferior physique amongst my peer but I like to think it had more to do with my application (or lack of).
That is what I love most about my sport: the more you apply yourself in training – the more success you will experience! Occasionally this saying doesnâ€™t quite ring true, but for the most part it cannot be argued against.
Following my break-out 2005 season and the completion of my A-Levels at Garibaldi College it was on to University for me. I choose to attend Leeds Metropolitan University after a rigorous exploration of which University would be best for my training, desired degree and social life. Yet, even the best laid plans can flop. Despite working hard with an outstanding bunch of athleteâ€™s everyday in training my performances were plummeting, and fast! Well, this was the first occasion when the aforementioned saying didnâ€™t ring true. I wasnâ€™t looking after my body outside of training. Home cooked meals were substituted for frozen pizza and 9 hours of sleep quickly became 6.
Blood tests over Christmas break (my family noticed I wasnâ€™t my lively self) revealed that I had become anaemic, which means the level haemoglobin in my red blood cells was particularly low. Haemoglobin is what carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The transportation of oxygen from the lungs to the rapidly depleting tissues in an endurance athlete whilst competing is imperative â€“ meaning a low haemoglobin count became an occupational hazard – a hazard which took months to overcome.
The next two years I spent in Leeds were fantastic. I met an outstanding coach (who I am still working with), claimed four national silver medals in the steeplechase event and a handful of international representations a boot. Those performances were not going unnoticed either â€“ Butler University in the United States had offered me an athletic scholarship which I gladly accepted.
Butler University is a small institution which punches above its weight in the American collegiate system and this was definitely something I identified with as a lifelong Sunderland Football Club fan. My first year (2008-2009) running in the States was amazing! I achieved so much in such a little time and enjoyed every single moment. I finished 3rd in the NCAA championships and ran the fastest time by a British athlete that year for the 3,000m Steeplechase (8.35.49).
Following on from this stellar season would be no mean feat, yet I was confident. That was until I few things went a little less well than anticipated. A few bad performances at this level of competition lead to an overwhelming sense of anxiety. My mind was running more than my legs were at this point and my performances were beginning to mirror this overwhelming state I had found myself in. Obviously I should have raised the white flag and notified one of my coaches that a disaster was imminent. But that would mean checking in my ego and that was even more terrifying than failure in such a macho environment. Instead I continued riding the rollercoaster I had now found myself on. I was physical fit but there was a disconnect between my physical and mental state. The season ended up being an absolute shambles and I needed time away from training and racing to get over the hellish three month I had experienced.
So where am I now? After a wonderful 6 weeks away from running I started gently training again in early September 2010. I have returned to the US to complete my Masterâ€™s qualification but I am no longer competing for the university as my eligibility is up (you are entitled to 5-years of competition in college sports). The turn of the month to October coincided with a increase in training load to around 85 miles per week. November now and I am up to running 90 miles per week and I feel great about my running.
My next blog will discuss my new mental state and the upcoming track & field season starting in January 2011.