JULY 2019: Last Saturday, at the European under-20 Championships, in Boras, Sweden, Amber Anning (Brighton & Hove AC) ran a lifetime best 400m, in 52.18 seconds.
This was the fastest time for a British under-20 woman in 37 years… and it secured Amber a silver medal.
She now moves to number three on the British all-time under-20 list.
Earlier this year, Amber broke the British indoor under-20 women’s 400m record, which had stood for almost 50 years.
Incidentally, also at the European Champs, on Sunday, she ran the final leg of the 4 x 400m relay, securing gold for Team GB.
Amber, firstly, huge congratulations on such superb performances in Sweden last weekend. Now that you’ve had a few days to reflect, how would you summarise the whole experience?
It was an amazing experience. I had a lot of fun. It was really enjoyable being with the whole of Team GB and being in a different country. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a junior competition, so it was nice being back with my friends.
It was very successful, I think. I knew I had the capability of achieving what I did, but I didn’t know if I would or not, as it’s been an up-and-down season, so I was really happy to come away with two medals.
And it was such an honour to represent Team GB. It was such a lot of hard work, getting ready for the competition.
Which pleases you more – team gold or individual silver?
I think the individual silver. I felt really tired after my semi-final, and didn’t know what was going to happen or where I was going to come. I always go in with the belief of winning, but I had tired legs and my body didn’t feel like I could produce the performance that I wanted.
But, with the time I got, and the medal, I was really happy.
Of all the events you’ve competed at, so far, your achievements in Sweden must rank as your best to date. But what other running moments have been the main highlights for you?
I think one of my main highlights was making my first international, in 2017, for the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas. I came back with a silver in the 4 x 400 and bronze in the individual 400. That was an amazing experience, and being in the whole competition where it was multi-sports was really cool as well.
Another highlight was this year, when I made my first senior team, in the Europeans. I was the youngest in the team; there were no aims or expectations, but I broke the British record.
I guess you got into running at an early age. What’s your first memory of running?
Probably when I was living in Australia, competing on sports days and beating the boys at cross-country.
What are the key components of your weekly training schedule, and how have you managed to fit that around studying?
I train three times a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday mornings.
I mostly tried to get my work done at college during the day, in the library at breaktime and lunchtime. As I trained in London, it meant getting on the train about 5:20pm, having prepared my food the night before. And I would get home around 11:30.
When I was revising for my exams, earlier this year, I would do a lot of work on the train up to London… a bit on the way back too, but I was usually quite tired.
Basically, I would use every spare minute I had, to get my work done, so that I could dedicate the necessary time to training.
What about immediately prior to a race? Relaxation and mental preparation are no doubt key components of success. What do you do specifically, to focus the mind and take away the stress of the big occasions?
I get very nervous, so my coach has taught me to think about my breathing technique. I always used to get nervous on sports day but, on big events, the nerves are like, times ten!
I also do a lot of mental preparation and visualisation. I visualise the whole race – the first 200m, the second, third and fourth… and everything like how I’m going to run, my technique, what pace I’m going to run, the other girls around me. I try and literally visualise the entire race, to make me feel more confident.
What would you say is the greatest challenge in terms of your preparation to compete in a high-profile race?
When you’re at an international competition, it’s a new experience, you’re meeting new people and you’re in a different country, different surroundings and a different environment. It’s hard to get into a normal routine. So, for me, the most difficult thing is making sure I’m eating the right food and getting enough sleep.
I do like to socialise, so it’s hard to have an ‘off’ button and remind myself I have a job to do rather than being out there with friends.
What are your principle running goals, going forward?
I’d love to be on the Olympic team next year. I think making a relay is very achievable. I think I’m there or just about there. Making an individual event would be a challenge… but, I’m going to America in three weeks’ time, so we’ll see how that goes; you never know, I might run the Olympic qualifying standard. It’s fast, but I don’t think it’s unachievable.
Another short-term goal is definitely to break 52 seconds for 400m and also get my 200m below 23 seconds.
Now that you’ve finished your A levels, what about your university plans?
I have a scholarship to go to Louisiana State University for four years, which is really exciting. I’ll be a student athlete there from next month, so I’ll be continuing my academia, along with my training and competing for the university.
They have a different education system out there. I’ve yet to decide what to major and minor in. I’ve put down to major in PR and minor in Psychology, as well as General Studies, but that might change.
And how have you managed to switch off from training and studying? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Because I’m so active all the time, sometimes I love doing nothing… being able to just lie in my room, not having to think about commitments or training or getting here or there.
But I’m a social person. I love meeting up with my friends, clubbing, going up to London, sitting on the beach, reading books… anything really, but I just like being able to relax; it’s nice to just sit down and appreciate what’s around you.
Amber, thanks very much for taking the time to chat. Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved so far. Have a great time in America, and best of luck with making the Olympic qualifying times. We shall look forward to tracking your progress.
By Mike Bannister