Claire Thomas speaks to Olympic 400m hurdler Jack Green about how he is winning his battle with depression
This is the second in a series of five articles written by junior writers as part of a competition offering budding young journalists the chance to get their work in print. From the submitted articles we have selected our favourite five, with the overall winner also receiving a 12-month subscription to Athletics Weekly magazine.
Jack Green, who burst on to the scene as a prodigious talent in one-lap races in 2011 with a European under-23 title, has recently spoken about his battle with depression. Yet, as I type, Green tweets a jovial “Hello sunny skies. Time to run, run, run!”, epitomising his euphoria at returning to the track, and – even more excitingly – soon asks me if I’d like to speak to him myself.
Depression isn’t something everyone finds easy to talk about, but Green’s openness reminds us that it does affect athletes, and there’s a lot we can learn from his words about remembering just why we love the sport.
“I have only ever run around a track,” Green says, and the Bath athlete has previously expressed how he felt running was his only option in life – a predestined career path – costing him his passion for athletics. Green has been through far more than many of us will have to contend with, suffering with depression and failing to meet his extraordinarily high standards under the spotlight on the global stage, but has since taken a step back and remembered that what he loves is simply running and that goes for all of us.
After two confident personal bests at Crystal Palace in 2012, suggesting great things to come at the Olympics, Green fell during his 400m hurdles semi final and the GB men’s 4×400 quartet missed a medal by just 0.13 seconds – enough to affect even the most level-headed athlete and especially one under so much pressure from every direction, not least from himself.
In Green, the double-edged sword of competitiveness is manifest and from a young age he was constantly berating himself for not being stronger, faster and more successful. Athletes tend to be inherently driven people: the person pounding the pavements before work, or thrashing their way around a track in hurricane conditions is someone who understands the effort required to attain success and will throw themselves into everything they do. But then, they’re also the sort to become disproportionately frustrated at slow progress, and to take every defeat personally, which is something we need to bear in mind. Learning to accept and move on from setbacks is a crucial part of success in every aspect of life – not just athletics.
It’s entirely natural to have days when you question your drive, your ability, your footwear and everything else. However, that’s where we can seek to emulate Green, who realised that it was time to take a break in order to assess his priorities before falling back in love with the sport. He’s learnt that success matters, but it doesn’t define him, although I am confident that we’ll soon be seeing wonderful performances from the athlete, who is now training under Loren Seagrave in the US.
Green speaks with a refreshing simplicity about his past few years: “The key for me was to take a break and allow myself to recover in a non- pressure environment – live and enjoy the normal life.”
Summing everything up with characteristic honesty and clarity, he tells me: “I am blessed with an ability to run, and now I’m doing it because I really want to. That’s making me better than ever.”
And that’s just it. We need to remember that we train because we love it and that taking time out may sometimes be necessary to rekindle that drive. Apocalyptic weather, the never-ending stream of niggles and sessions so painful they leave you on the floor – we can get past all of these because, as Green has rediscovered, we do love it, and that’s as cheering as it gets.
» Claire Thomas, 20, is a member of Walton AC and is studying at the University of York where she is president of the lacrosse club and sport editor for University Radio York
» Look out for further articles in this young writers’ competition series in future editions of AW