A day in the life of… Katharine Merry

The 2000 Olympic 400m bronze medallist explains how she enjoys life on the other side of the camera post-retirement

Posted on March 1, 2014 by
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Katharine Merry (Mark Shearman)

It’s been nearly nine years since I packed away my spikes, Lycra and medals and started working on the other side of the fence.

Retiring from athletics is a hard decision for some, but for me it was easy. I had suffered from so many injuries, relocated myself to another country and endured operations until one day I went to the track but decided to go home and never went back. The four-year injury battle of trying to get back to being a world leader and major medal contender was over.

I love sport. It has been my life and I comfortably now work in many sports, but athletics is the main one, which kind of makes sense as it has been in my life for 29 years! So I now happily work in sports broadcasting in many areas where talking is required.

One of the roles I perform is the infield hosting of sporting events, mainly in athletics and for many years have enjoyed doing this in the UK, Europe and America.

An event doesn’t just happen. In particular, the UK events have to tie in with television broadcast times, so all is planned down to the second, literally.

Let me take you through a typical day in the life of a UK infield athletics host.

The planning for an event starts before the day itself. Work is done before the gun is first fired.

We have a production meeting the day before from 1pm to chat through the running order for the event and then do a couple of hours rehearsing for sounds and timings for the event opening and the event set-ups, I introduce the field events line-ups and do any competitions and interviews.

The evening before is homework time to collate start lists, plan words for the intro of the events and familiarise myself with the foreign names! It is sleep time after eating at approximately 11pm.

On event day I’m up early to be wide awake and I get to the track about 90 minutes before doors open to the public after agonising over what to wear! Indoor and outdoor meetings require different clothes of course! On arrival at the track I touch base with my team, including the director and those on sound and cameras, etc, double-check all line-ups are the same and that I have my statistical information for the athletes, then head with hair and make up done and microphone in hand for the infield.

All my papers are put in event order, the script is learnt for the opening and we are ready to rock and roll. Cue Katharine…

The meeting flies by with so many events and interviews and I’m running around from place to place, but this is exciting as you are reacting to what the athletes do, which can’t be scripted.

The meeting is closed by my words and I finally get to sit down and breath, take the ear piece out hand back the mic so by 5pm can reflect on the meeting.

The first thing I do is go to the toilet, as this is rarely done when working due to not having the time and then check the full results from the meeting and I don’t really get to see them properly.

I love my work even though people don’t see the hard work before the event and the effort and professionalism it takes to make a job look easy, but there is nothing better than being in the thick of it and witnessing super performances.

Working hard with one young child and another baby due shortly, added to my continued laziness, means fitness is something that takes a back seat. Well, not even a back seat, it doesn’t make the car!

After running for so many years, I have no drive and desire to do it. I do absolutely nothing. Lazy, yes, acceptable probably not, but I love my genetics!

So for me, whether it’s hosting, commentating or presenting live events infield or for radio or TV, being on the other side of the fence isn’t so bad.

» Katharine Merry tweets at @KatharineMerry

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