WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Despite an injury-ravaged build-up, teenage distance-running sensation Charlotte Purdue has had a record-breaking summer en route to her senior championship debut in the Commonwealth Games next month, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 19-year-old Aldershot athlete will tackle a 5,000m-10,000m double in New Delhi in the October 6-14th event and judging by her current form, few would be surprised if she failed to make an impact in both regardless of her tender years.
Coached by Mick Woods, Purdue has amassed an impressive twenty national medals over the past five years and has this season stormed into the British record books with a scintillating 32:36.75 under20 10,000m record on the track to seal her selection for India:
“I am really pleased with how my season has gone so far,” Purdue explained. “I feel that everything is going really well and is moving in the right direction ahead of the Commonwealth Games. I am really excited about competing there.
It will give me a great opportunity to experience a Games environment ahead of the London Olympics in 2012.”
A second-year history student at St Marys University College in London, Purdue hopes to go even quicker over twelve and a half and twenty-five laps, respectively, next month as she continues her comeback from injury over the winter:
“The stress fracture (of the knee) had healed by Christmas and I had started back running in early January for a few weeks but there was a totally different problem within the knee joint, which took a while to be diagnosed and required a minor operation which was frustrating as I could have been back running a lot earlier,” Purdue explained.
Cross-training hard on the bike in the gym and aqua-jogging in the pool sometimes twice a day, Purdue simulated the effort of her usual running workouts during her setback to keep her fitness level high and her hard graft and determination certainly worked a treat.
Following her recovery, the European junior 5,000m silver-medallist took in only six races during the summer before speeding back into personal-best shape.
Purdue’s times of 9:17.20 (3,000m) and 15:23.4 (5,000m) respectively, were eye-catching – most notably the twenty-five second improvement over the latter distance to go number two on the British junior all-time lists, but it was the 10,000m lap mark set last month which clearly marked her comeback to form.
Previously a runner-up in the European junior cross-country championships and with a best of fourteenth from the global edition, Purdue was forced to miss the world junior championships this year but her recent 33:06 10km lifetime best on the roads whilst placing second in the BUPA Great Yorkshire Run, was the latest in a long line of performances that have made up for the disappointment.
Purdue credits her support team and training partners for her sparkling success of late but it is evident that the unique bond she shares with her coach, who has steered a production line of prodigiously-talented athletes to international success in the past decade, as the pinnacle factor:
“Mick and I have a great relationship and he is the key to my development as an athlete,” Purdue explained. “I like to think that the coach-athlete relationship that we are creating is special and helps add the edge to my performance, we are also very good friends.”
Sponsored by Nike and mentored by double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, Purdue will use the South of England road relay championships on her back yard, in a fortnights’ time to hone her final preparations before heading out to the Team England camp in Doha ahead of her Delhi test.
When questioned on her proudest achievement to date, the outgoing runner names finishing fifteenth in her first world cross country championships in 2007:
“It was my first international competition and I was only 15 years old,” Purdue recalled. “Finishing as the first European athlete and so high up in the race was something that I am really proud of. I feel I learnt so much from that experience that it has enabled me to want to achieve at a higher level.”
Yet on her current form, one would not be surprised if Purdue’s best memory is changed post-Commonwealth time.
“I aim to improve on my personal bests each year,” Purdue concluded. “I also aim to make the team for the London 2012 Olympics and to eventually move onto the marathon and continue to impact in international races and major competitions.”