Calli Thackery – the road to Riga

With the World Road Running Championships in Riga fast approaching, we caught up with British hopeful Calli Thackery (club: Hallamshire Harriers), who has had a stellar season so far. 

From multiple wins over 5k to a dominant performance in the Big Half, Calli has gone from strength to strength.  We caught up with Calli to learn more about where her running started, her build-up to the World Road Running Championships and the journey she has been on to become the athlete she is today.

Where it started

As is the case for so many children across the country, Calli’s first real experience of athletics was sports day.  Despite the fact that her dad was a professional distance runner and her mum a sprinter, Calli never felt any pressure to get into the sport and it was actually her teacher who first suggested she should join a club:

“I first started running at our school sports day.  I think I was beating all the boys and so my teacher told me I should join a club.  From there my mum took me to my local club, Hallamshire Harriers and I just absolutely loved it.  I got on so well with everyone at the club and it was just a way for me to have fun and be social.  I just loved meeting my friends and running around the track.”

Travelling the World

There is no doubt that Calli has loved the sport ever since she started running at her local club.  It is a love which has taken her all over the world, starting in America where Calli ran for the University of New Mexico on a sports scholarship:

“All my friends were saying you can’t say no to an American dream.  I realised they were right so I just decided to go for it.  Going to New Mexico was the best decision I ever made.  It really brought me on as an athlete.  I went from just loving the sport to realising that I actually had the potential to be a professional runner like my dad.”

Calli Thackery at BMC Watford

After Calli finished university, she spent a year out in the states training with a group before heading back to Manchester and starting a job.  It was at this point that Calli’s sister had just finished her A-Levels and was looking to take a gap year and everything just seemed to fall into place for Calli’s next adventure:

“I remember that I got a map and told my sister to pick a country and she picked Australia.  So we went to a travel agent down the road to find out more and learn about the rules around visas.  When the process was explained to us, I was surprised it was so easy and being with my sister at the travel agent just gave me a lightbulb moment and I asked Eloise if she would mind me coming with her.”

Once deciding to head down under with her sister, Calli contacted Nic Bideau to see if she could train with his group:

“I wasn’t expecting a reply but I got one.  All Nic wrote back was ‘are you related to Carl Thackery?’ and it just went from there.  I thought I was just going to go for five months and ended up being there three years.”

Looking back on 2023

Calli Thackery at Great South RunFrom an outsider’s perspective and looking at Calli’s recent success from 5k all the way up to half marathon, it may look like Calli has had a smooth ride this year.  As is so often the case, however, there is a story behind the performances.  Calli spoke to us about how this year has been far from plain sailing:

“It’s been a really tough season for me.  I was playing catch-up all year as I had a bad illness in the winter season.  I was struggling to run and even breathe.  By the time I was starting to feel like myself again and gain my fitness track season was already here.”

Building momentum

After a difficult winter, Calli had to stay positive and keep believing in herself and the work she was doing to make sure she got back to where she belonged as quickly as possible:

“I kept backing myself, kept training really hard and I could tell in training I was getting into a very good spot.  I am really pleased I managed to show that in the Big Half and some other races too.”

The Big Half

There is no doubt that the Big Half has been one of the highlights of the season for Calli this year.  We asked Calli how the race went for her:

“There were some great girls entered but I had strict instructions from my coach who said to go out and make it hard for everyone.  From the gun I just went for it.  I knew what shape I was in and I just backed myself.  For 10 miles I was on for 68:30 pace and it was only in the last two miles it really hurt so I think I’m in a good spot heading into Riga.”

Calli Thackery at the Big Half

As the Big Half was a mixed gender race, Calli had company most of the way.  She explained how much of a difference it made and why she enjoys running with the men:

“I was definitely lucky with the guys as on the miles where it really started hurting the guys around me were shouting and encouraging me.  They were saying ‘come on’, ‘you’ve got this’, ‘you’re going great’ and it really helped.”

The World Road Running Championships

With only a few days to go until the World Championships there is no doubt that excitement is building for all the athletes.  But with her dad having come 3rd at the World Road Running Championships in 1993, this race holds a special place in Calli’s heart and she plans to give it her all:

“I am just going to go out and give it everything I’ve got.  I’m going to be competing against the best in the world and I’m excited for that.  I am definitely going to put myself out there.  It’s going to be really hard, you look down the list and see people with quicker times, but at the end of the day it’s a race.  I enjoy racing and back myself in championships races like this one.”

Looking to the future

After the World Road Running Championships, Calli’s focus will be on the marathon, an event which has intrigued her for a long time:

“I’ve always wanted to know about the marathon.  Everyone has always told me that I’m a marathon runner, ever since I was at university.  I’m happy with where things are heading and I think it will suit me, even if it’s taken me a while to admit it to myself.”

Calli Thackery at Birmingham 2022

With Calli’s marathon debut planned just two weeks after the World Road Running Championships, Calli will definitely be focusing on this event in the future.  While she isn’t closing the door on track, she will ultimately be training for the marathon:

“I’ll be going all in trying to make the Olympic team for the marathon now.  The first one will be to just enjoy it and get a feel for the distance.  From there, I will probably do another marathon around February to give myself a really good chance of running a fast time.”

Find out more about the World Road Running championships

Getting involved

Has Calli’s journey inspired you to get more involved in the sport?  For those of you looking to take up athletics and running, Calli had some advice:

“I’d say just enjoy the journey.  There are going to be bumps in the road but don’t let that dishearten you.  Back yourself, go all in and just have fun.  I always say to just enjoy the ride and the moments because over time the results will come anyway.”

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Photos by Mark Shearman, except last one - Team England