Disciplines: 60m indoors, 100m, 200m.
Years competing in Masters: 8 years
Age group: 45-49
I’m proud of all of it really, but I do like to get records. I hold the British record for the 60m and 200m (W45 AG). I also like to get on the podium. I was the World Champion in the 60m in Daegu in 2017, that was pretty nice and I got a bronze at the European Championships in 2017 and then a silver at the World’s in Perth in 2016.
Where it all began
As a young girl, when I lived in Worcestershire, I was the only person of colour in my community. It was hard, I got bullied and found it hard to make friends. But then once we started trying different sports at school there were things I could do, I mean I was awful at swimming, and not great at team sports like cricket or football, but I was good at netball. Then I got good at athletics and I started getting respect. Once I got respect, then I started getting self-esteem.
I went on to compete at the highest level for Great Britain and in 1998 won a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the European Championships. Athletics is now part of my lifestyle. Everything revolves around athletics.
Getting started in Masters competitions
I started competing in Masters Athletics when I was 40. Before that I was still competing at the highest level in national senior championships and had never considered Masters. Then I had a really bad injury and subsequent surgery on a torn meniscus (knee injury) and was told I’d never compete again at the same level. I wasn’t ready to stop competing, athletics is my life, so I switched to Masters. It’s taken me seven years to get back to the level that I was at before the injury, but I got there.
Training or racing
I like to compete and I like to win. I do well at big competitions, the bigger the better and the more rounds the better. In the championships I let go of all my inhibitions, I get on that start line and I don’t care about anything except the race, I don’t care about what I look like, I don’t care about what people think of me, I just care about the race.
When I’m at the start line, well, Michelle Thomas is ready for anything!
Outdoor or indoors
That’s a hard one, I like both, but I’ve always done better indoors. Events wise, the shorter the better!
Athletics is my identity, it’s given me so much, but it’s not always easy to get myself to a training session even though I enjoy it. I have to make myself be disciplined, I have to work hard at that. I train a lot on my own, so really it’s just down to me and my coach, Steve Fudge who sets me the training schedule.
The biggest thing for me is all the organisation around competition, that stresses me out. When I’m on the plane and on my way, I’m fine – it’s just getting to that point because there’s so much to do. As a senior athlete competing for GB I didn’t have to think about much apart from racing, it was all taken care of. Now I have to think about everything, all the kit, all the food, the accommodation, the flights, getting to the stadium – all that, and I have to pay for it all, so that’s an additional stress.
At the big events, I put myself in a situation that normalises everything. At home I live alone with my daughter, so I would never stay at a hotel for an event; that would feel so unfamiliar and stressful. I try and rent an apartment and sometimes my daughter comes too. Then I eat the same sort of food I eat at home, watch the same Netflix films I watches at home and just try to keep it all super chilled.
I like to think I’m my own role model, but back in the day I was really inspired by Flo Jo (Florence Griffith Joyner), and Merlene Ottey.
Linford Christie was also a great role model, he was my coach for a time and taught me a lot, especially because of his holistic approach. He took an interest in all aspects of our lives, what we were eating, our home life, jobs/money situation, he wanted to make sure we had no other stresses other than training. He felt it was really important to look at the whole athlete because you can’t perform to your best is some other aspect is not right.
As a teacher, there are so many difficulties at work, It’s a challenge, but athletics keeps me positive. It’s my one thing that I can do – and do very well too!
It’s important to help me clear my head at the end of the day and prepare for the next, because when you get to training you just forget about everything else that has gone on and focus on that – it’s very freeing. It makes me feel positive and good, and when you feel like that you can help others.
I love the International events and have friends from all over the world, it’s such a brilliant thing to be a part of. It’s like this very supportive and positive community. Plus, you’re getting knowledge all the time about all the different training methods. One day I’ll use all that knowledge in different walks of life [not just on the athletic track]. The athletics masters family is a wonderful thing.
I will break the British record for 200m. I also want to break 26 seconds for the 200m and 12.5 seconds for the 100m.