Whether it’s fleeing the family nest, switching career or popping the bubble of university existence, new horizons are exciting, endless – and often daunting.
When the customary routine is tweaked or tinkered with, the uncertainty breads distraction and an unavoidable shift in focus.
This certainly rings true for any distance runner.
Knowing where sessions, recovery runs and rest days all fit together in the jigsaw puzzle is essential. Runners thrive on routine.
For Calli Thackery, a break in this routine has led to a disrupted year so far.
Calli has just finished a degree in Liberal Arts at the University of New Mexico.
After five years of university life – the first of which was spent at Leeds Metropolitan prior to her stint Stateside – the road ahead is both wide and vast.
‘I’ve been fighting back the mental challenges that come with stepping out of my comfort zone,’ says the 24-year-old from Yorkshire.
‘I’ve just finished my last semester in the States after four years out there – and so it’s been very much a season of changes and new beginnings.’
Calli’s running hasn’t been immune to the challenge of change either.
‘I’ve raced a couple of times over 5,000m but came away from both feeling a little “blah”. I seemed to have lost the grit that I once had and I know it’s down to psychological factors, as my fitness is definitely not the issue.’
Though she felt indifferent after those two races, Calli pretty much matched her 15:37.44 best on both occasions.
She ran within two seconds of her PB at Payton Jordan in May and finished just 0.46 seconds shy in Portland a couple of weeks ago.
It’s a sign of her ambition that these performances no longer pass muster.
These pair of near-identical 5,000m races, plus a spot pacemaking at the Shanghai Diamond League, earned her a place on the GB team for the European Team Championships last weekend.
Calli – making her senior international track debut – bagged four points towards the team’s overall tally thanks to a solid sixth-placed finish.
The experience certainly left her wanting more, even if the result wasn’t quite what she was after.
‘It was an honour to represent GB,’ says Calli.
‘I wasn’t overly happy with my performance – my legs were just a little tired from all of the travelling and I was still jetlagged. I hate to make excuses, though, and can’t really grumble.
‘Those competitions always leave me hungry for more. Finishing the race and being swarmed by all the youngsters asking for autographs and photos is something I could get used to.
‘It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you’ve made an impact on others and moments like that are what I live for.’
From Yorkshire to New Mexico, Portland, California, Shanghai and Lille, Calli has lead an enviable life on the road as a middle-distance athlete over the last few years.
Calli describes her experience pacing world-class athletes in Shanghai as ‘the most nail-biting, hair-raising experience I’ve had to date’ and the spark that ‘kicked her into gear’ for the rest of the season and beyond.
Now back in the UK, Calli’s focus on the British Championships this weekend has offered a timely distraction from the big decisions she needs to make about her future.
While New Mexico helped shape Calli and was a place she called home for many years, the decision on whether to move back is still up in the air and something to be decided at the conclusion of the track season.
But it’s back to Birmingham this weekend and the altogether contrasting prospect of championship racing.
Calli heads into the women’s 5,000m ranked ninth in the country – and is primed to leave it all out on the Alexander Stadium track come Sunday afternoon.
‘I’m just going to give it my all and see what happens,’ says the Hallamshire Harrier.
‘It’s always hard to tell how it’s going to pan out in championship races. I’m going into it with no major expectations.
‘I’ve been putting the work in, so have just got to hope that my fitness will present itself on the day!’
Words by Chris Rainsford
Image from Calli Thackery