Samantha Harrison’s running journey: from beginner to chasing the Olympic dream

Crossing the 2023 TCS London Marathon finish line as first female Brit in a time of 2:25:59 is no mean feat, and for Samantha Harrison (Charnwood, Vince Wilson) she is still only in the infancy of her running career. From representing Team England at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games to winning a team medal on the international stage at the World Half Marathon Championships, Harrison certainly has an impressive CV, but where did it all start?

We recently caught up with Sam at the National Running Show to gain a little insight into her running journey so far.

Back to the beginning

To run the Olympic qualifying time in the marathon, you may assume that the athlete has been in the sport since a young age, but that is not true for Sam. What makes her journey even more incredible is she only laced up for the first time consistently in 2018.

Samanthan Harrison at London marathon 2023

“The last six years have been a whirlwind. My intention when I started was never to get to this level, I just enjoyed running and had no real goal. I did it purely for fun to top up the miles and socialise with friends. As time went on I wanted to set goals and challenge myself. Through hard graft and dedication of myself and my coach, I have got to where I am today.”

Road vs track

For those reading who are familiar with Samantha’s achievements, you will know that she is pretty impressive across both the track and the roads, but where does her heart truly lie?

“Road running is where I feel like I belong. I feel comfortable and therefore enjoy it and perform my best. I can lose myself on the roads and mentally switch off into the zone. I love to take part in a big road race with crowds lining the streets to cheer you on."

“When I first started track running, it was a real physical and mental weakness. Many people had written me off at being able to succeed on the track and it wasn’t until I had more practice, gained confidence, and believed in myself that I managed to prove them wrong and that became a real driver. Running in a stadium whether there are 200 people or 20,000, it brings such adrenaline. I race well under pressure and the track brings that. Everyone is there to watch you and your performance on the day is really highlighted whether good or bad."

“One of my favourite memories is competing at the Commonwealth Games during the 10,000m final, the noise and buzz were like nothing else.”

Big targets and enjoying the journey

2024 is a big year for athletes all over the globe, with the Paris Olympic Games just around the corner. This is an exciting goal for Sam, but she doesn’t want to stop having fun along the way.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, I want to enjoy the journey and make teams where I can. This year there are the European Championships and the Olympic Games and I hope to keep progressing and be on the start lines. "

Samantha Harrison running with SiS bottle

"I am really enjoying training and some of my favourite sessions are the long runs as I can switch off, run for a couple of hours and have a good chat with my training partners putting the world to rights with a lovely coffee and cake at the end.”

Top tips for runners on their own journey

If you are lacing up for the first time and feeling a little daunted, Sam has some top tips to get you going:

“Joining your local running club or social group is a great start, surrounding yourself with people who have the same mentality and want to progress no matter what level. Getting a coach whether online or through a club will help you at each step of your journey.

"If you have the commitment and dedication, you can progress quite quickly with running and that’s the beauty of it. Whether your goal is to get out of the door or something bigger success is different for everyone in running and being able to work towards your goals and achieve them is really rewarding.”

Sam Harrison was one of the four panellists at the National Running Show Q&A session.
You can also read about Sara Willhoit (mountain running), Gemma Steel (cross country and road running) and Vinay Joshi (social runner and qualified coach).

National Running Show 2024 athlete panel

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