Tracy Barlow: World champs disappointment fuels fire for future

World Champs: BBC must share blame for British athletics slump
August 8, 2017
World Champs: Definitive review of champs IAAF deserved
August 14, 2017

Tracy Barlow: World champs disappointment fuels fire for future


It’s been quite the journey for Tracy Barlow. From juggling her full-time job in the NHS with the training and demands of grassroots running for Thames Valley Harriers, to finishing third Brit at the London Marathon this year and qualifying for the world championships

Tracy’s story is one to inspire any aspiring grassroots runner – one you can read about here and here. While her international debut last week may not have gone to plan on the day – Tracy finished 43rd in 2:41.03 – it’s an experience that will only fuel her ambition to go on to greater things.


Sunday 6 August is a day that I will remember for a long time.

As the morning of the race came round, it was weird knowing that the guys would be running the course before us and it would be on TV. I was tempted to watch it to see what the course would be like and where the difficult areas were. However, the nerves were already building, so I decided against it. Instead, I tried to pass the time in any way that I could without thinking about the race ahead.

I had planned my pre-race nutrition so that I got the right balance of having enough for the race at that time of day, but not too much that may have adverse effects when running.

Last-minute preparation

At around 11:45am, we walked down to the Tower Hotel, which was the call room for the marathon. Once here, we still had an hour to pass before needing to start our warm-up. My coach was streaming the men’s marathon on his phone, so I got to see Callum finish in an amazing fourth-place.

It was soon time to get our chips for our shoes and head into the call room ready to race. Just before we headed up onto the bridge, we saw the men arriving back after completing their marathon. I have to say, most were not looking in a great state. Many said how tough the course was and to be cautious with the pace. Not the biggest confidence booster to start with – but then that is the beast that is the marathon!


It was fantastic heading onto Tower Bridge to do our final strides. The pavement on the tower was full of people shouting good luck messages to all the runners. We didn’t have to wait around long before we were off and the race had begun.

Difficult road ahead

On the first lap, I tried to stay with the main group but keep at the back of it and use the others as pacers. The twists and turns and undulations as we headed up into and around the City area began to take their toll.

As we headed back down to the embankment for the second lap, my legs felt like they were on the last lap. My running didn’t feel smooth and I felt like I was working a lot harder than I should be for the pace I was running at. It wasn’t a pleasant experience seeing the group you should easily be able to keep with slip away from you, and not to be able to respond, or at least sustain the response required to keep with them.

As the race went on, I felt progressively worse. I knew my pace had slipped a lot and I was losing ground to the group ahead. It didn’t feel like it was me out there running. Each time I passed the feeding station I was trying to get as much from each bottle as I could in the hope it might help.

Relief and disappointment

The one thing that did keep me going was the amazing support from the crowds. It felt like I had my friends and family all the way around. I kept hearing my name being shouted out and cheers for me with such enthusiasm. Even though I felt like dropping out, I knew I couldn’t. I had put too much into this not to finish, and the crowds were putting just as much effort into cheering me on. I knew I would finish thanks to them.

Crossing the finish line was a relief but followed immediately by a huge sense of disappointment. I didn’t feel my time accurately indicated the shape I was in, or how much training I had put into it. However, that is the time I ran on the day.

Fuelling the fire to future success

Being disappointed with a race result is tough and a lonely place to be. No matter how much people try to lift your spirits, only you can change your perspective on it and try to see it as a learning experience. All I could think of was that I had let everyone down who came out to support me.


I have been overwhelmed by how much support I had all around the course. It is only down to you guys that I kept pushing and finished.

The whole experience of running in a home world championships has been absolutely amazing. I will never forget it and hope in the future I will have the honour of representing Great Britain once again.

At least I can use the disappointment I have with my race to fuel the fire for the next one.

Words by Tracy Barlow
Image from Anna Boniface