We chat to Team GB’s Lizzie Bird ahead of Olympic debutTeam GB’s Lizzie Bird starts her pursuit of a coveted gold medal in the 3,000m Steeplechase at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday morning. She is one of 30 British endurance athletes funded by London Marathon Events, and we caught up with her recently for a chat about her life, career and future goals.
Like many athletes, Lizzie has had to balance her dreams on the track with the reality of gaining an education and pursuing a career, not least to pay the bills. A couple of years ago, she was working in the immigration service in the US after studying at Princeton University in New Jersey and at the University of San Francisco.
However, after returning home to the UK, money from London Marathon Events has helped her pursue her Olympic ambitions on a full-time basis from her base in Leeds. Here’s what she had to say when we caught up:
How did you get into running?
I first started running when I was living abroad in Dubai – at weekly fun runs with my parents. When we moved back to the UK, I joined the local running club after encouragement from my school PE teacher, and have just kept at it since then!
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Qualifying for Tokyo 2020. Before that it was competing at the World Championships in Doha in 2019. I had a huge breakthrough year after a few years of injuries and setbacks. I had no expectations, so everything was new and exciting – and sometimes a little overwhelming!
How are you feeling about making your Olympic debut?
When I realised I’d run the qualification standard for Tokyo, it was a combination of excitement and disbelief. Backing that up with the win and automatic qualification at the British Championships has left me full of confidence as I head into the Olympics.
What does this extra funding mean to you? How will it help?
It’s a huge support because it helped me put my non-athletic career – and income! – on hold to pursue my goal of qualifying for the Olympics.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take up running?
Start slowly, listen to your body, find a routine that works for you, and run with friends!
Best injury prevention tips?
Good food, yoga, strength, cross-train (swim/bike), rest.
Who inspires you and why?
My parents have always inspired me in their crazy enthusiasm for long, challenging outdoor adventures and ultras!
Who was your first sporting hero?
Paula Radcliffe. Probably because she ran faster than a lot of men!
What helped you cope during lockdown?
Getting outside for runs or bike rides every day. And baking!
Describe your perfect day?
Probably a long hike or a run in the mountains with good company and plenty of snack stops to take in the views.
Favourite place on the planet?
This changes every time I visit somewhere new and beautiful! Maybe the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. Or the west coast of Scotland.
Finally, back to Tokyo 2020 – would you prefer to win gold or set a World Record?
I’d love to win an Olympic gold, or any medal! I think it’s more fun to race people than the clock.
Lizzie will make her Olympic debut in the early hours of Sunday morning in one of three women’s steeplechase qualifying heats and – all being well – she will compete for a place on the podium in the final next Wednesday, 4 August.