GTC athlete of the month: Christie Ford

Christie has been a member of GTC for just over a year and competes in the women’s senior (25 to 29) age group. She is a principal primary school teacher.

Christie, the youngest of four children growing up in Fife, came to sport in her late teens and after a rough start at university.

She explained: “Sport was not a major priority when I was a child. We are a big family and my parents worked full time.

“My parents were not athletic and they did not have the time, or money, for me to participate in clubs. Additionally, I went to a small high school, with only 360 pupils and sporting opportunities were not something that existed.

“My main focus in my teens was always trying hard to get good grades to go to university.

“When I left home to Glasgow University to study Anatomy I was only 17. Two days later, my boyfriend split up with me. I found this quite hard being on my own in Glasgow at such a young age and I did not feel as though I fitted in with the other girls in my halls.

“To make things harder, my ex-boyfriend had brought me down mentally, calling me fat and saying I was ugly without my nails painted and hair up. This had knocked my confidence.

“I started going to the gym but then I also spent a lot of time in my room at uni comfort eating and then counting calories and trying to burn these off on the cross trainer or treadmill and it turned into a vicious, lonely cycle.

“Then, between first and second year at uni I started working in a care home and I decided I would do Glasgow Half marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“I had never done anything like this before but was determined to finish. My time was two hours 13 minutes. This sparked off something and I joined Glasgow Hares and Hounds running club.”

Throughout second year at Glasgow uni, Christie ran with the club, but she still felt as though she was classed as one of the “slow, unfit girls”.

She says: “Everyone else had been in the sport, or active in their youths, with plenty of opportunities for sport and I felt like I would never catch up.

“It is something I still struggle with today and triathlon has helped me to not compare myself to others and be proud of who I am.”  

Early running days.

When Christie reached her third year at uni, she decided to try something different and joined the RAF Reserves.

She said: “This was a fantastic experience. Unfortunately, I became unwell between third and fourth year and had to have an operation to have bi-lateral cyst removal on both ovaries. This knocked me slightly and, throughout fourth year, I trained mostly on my own and focused on passing my exams in Anatomy.”

Then, deciding quite late into her fourth year that she wanted to be a teacher, Christie gained a place at Aberdeen University to do PGDE Primary Teaching. She said: “I moved back home and travelled from Fife daily to Aberdeen. It was absolutely mental and I would not recommend the six hours of travelling each day.

“On boxing day that year, in 2015, I decided to do a parkrun that was on in Kirkcaldy. It was miserable, freezing and pouring with rain. However, a girl called Alison Sutherland approached me and convinced me to join Falkland Trail Runners.

“I absolutely loved it. They were so encouraging and supportive and it was a different atmosphere. I went there on a Thursday evening and then joined Leven Las Vegas Running Club on a Tuesday evening. This developed a positive love for running until I moved back to Glasgow in August 2016 for my probation teaching year.”  

Christie’s first triathlon at Glenrothes.

After running in Glasgow for a year and completing her teacher training, Christie developed an injury. She describes this as a scary time.

She said: “I really valued my health and training had become a big part of my life. I paid for private healthcare to be assessed. I had sciatica in both legs and arms and due to this not improving at one point they considered that I may have multiple sclerosis and did nerve conduction tests etc.

“Luckily, I did not, and it was just disc damage that took over a year and a half to improve.

“Half-way during the injury, my mental health was starting to suffer and I knew I had to do some kind of physical activity. The only thing the doctor suggested was swimming.

“One problem, however, was that I could barely swim a length. In November 2017, I joined Glasgow Club adult swimming lessons and continued these until June 2018. They were fantastic.

“Then, after a summer away working at Yale University, I returned to Glasgow and I decided to join GTC. My back was almost 100% and I wanted to be part of a positive club environment like the Falkland running club.”

GTC Thursday run session.
Finishing Manchester Marathon.

Christie joins GTC

Running is still Christie’s favourite sport. She said: “I think this is because it was the first sport I got into and the one I have had most success with so far. I need to still improve my swimming and to get out on my bike more.”

Since joining GTC, Christie has seen improvements in all three disciplines.

She said: “The support, coaching and feedback in the swimming sessions has been phenomenal. At times, I felt insecure, worried and anxious, particularly when the lane times came into place and while I was still new to the club.

“I felt as though I would hold people back, but certain club members have boosted my confidence and made me feel worthy. I have the endurance but sometimes not the speed. I have progressed so much and I aspire to continue to keep progressing.

“Over the next few months, I really want to focus on swimming again.”

Her cycling confidence and knowledge of bikes and riding in a group has also greatly improved thanks to the Bellahouston track sessions. She said: “I would highly recommend the informal social cycles Alastair runs on a Saturday. I have only been to a few but these are fantastic and I like that I do not need to worry about getting lost as I have no clue about cycle routes.”

Christie reports that Sean’s Thursday Bella running sessions have also been fantastic. She said: “I enjoy the four-week blocks and the small informal group environment. Everybody is very positive and encouraging and Sean is always happy to share knowledgeable information. Now I just need to try to catch David Hepburn!”     

So far, Christie has taken part in sprint distance triathlons, including Glenrothes Sprint Triathlon, Bishopbriggs Triathlon and Stirling Double Sprint Triathlon. She hopes to do longer distance triathlons next year.

Christie and her dog Domino at the Loch Ness Marathon.

Age group place for London

In other sports, she reveals she ran her second marathon – the Loch Ness Marathon – recently. She said: “I was absolutely overwhelmed with my time achieving 3:19:49. This was a real positive for me as I was slightly disappointed after Manchester Marathon, my first marathon in April, due to running with friends and helping to pull one friend over the line.

“At Loch Ness, I felt a real buzz. It was something that I had not felt before and eventually I am starting to believe I am a runner.”

Additionally, last month Christie was delighted with her first podium, a second place in the Kilmacolm half marathon in 1:33. This was a five-minute personal best.

However, she reports that she feels different when she finishes triathlons. Christie said: “I feel happier and more relaxed but maybe I am not trying hard enough. I was gutted to miss out on third place by less than a minute at Stiring sprint double triathlon.”

When Christie has a tough training session or race she has a way to get through it. She said: “I always think about what treat I am going to have afterwards. This varies but I do love chocolate and cake.”

Kilmacolm Half Marathon.

New sports goals

Her goals include improving my swimming and continuing to cycle to work throughout the winter”. She added: “I have recently sold my car to encourage myself to cycle more.”

Christie’s Loch ness Marathon time means she has also received a “good for age” place at London Marathon 2020. She said: “London has been on my bucket list since I started running and I always said I would do it when I was 30, but after the injury I thought, stuff it, go for it and get a place. I am looking forward to it but I am unsure if I will enjoy the busyness of the race.”

Christie is also keen to try her wetsuit in open water. She said: “I bought one but never got around to it this year. Whoops!”

She says she is also tempted to sign up to Yorkshire Half with the club group that is planning to go next summer and perhaps an Olympic distance triathlon. She said: “I may be more suited to endurance races as I am more anxious over a parkrun 5K than a marathon.” 

Enjoying life and having fun outdoors.

In the future, she would like to become an Ironwoman.

Christie said: “Right now, it’s more about enjoying the outdoors, trying new things and having a healthier lifestyle. After studying Anatomy I know how complex the body is and everyone should value being healthy and happy. There are two of the most important things in life.”

Christie’s tips for triathlon

Do not compare yourself to others. Do it for you!

Get involved with a club. Everyone is super encouraging, respectful and supportive.

Have fun.

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