The Olympic 400m hurdler recently made her comeback after almost three years out through injury and says that relay run has given her confidence
“I never thought it would take me so long,” says Perri Shakes-Drayton, as she discusses her recent race return and almost three-year absence from competitive action. “I think if I had been told it would have taken this long I probably would have given up.”
But the former 400m hurdler is a fighter, and after the serious knee injury that ended her world medal hopes in 2013, Shakes-Drayton has switched to the 400m flat and battled back as she aims for her second Olympics.
Prior to her comeback as part of a winning GB 4x400m relay team in the German city of Regensburg on Sunday, the 2013 world 400m hurdles final in Moscow had been the 27-year-old’s last race. The posterior cruciate ligament tear and cartilage damage sustained to Shakes-Drayton’s left knee during that final saw her finish seventh and later required surgery. Further hamstring problems mean it has been a long road back for the London-based athlete.
“I was just really happy to be back competing after such a long time,” she tells AW. “To get to the point that I was able to compete and it felt good, like my old self – I was like, ‘oh my God, okay, this is good, I’m glad I’ve got through in one piece’.
“It was a lovely feeling and it gave me confidence.”
“To get to the point that I was able to compete and it felt good, like my old self – I was like, ‘oh my God, okay, this is good, I’m glad I’ve got through in one piece’”
Shakes-Drayton had originally been due to make her comeback in April while on a training camp in America, but a hamstring problem put paid to that. Having worked so hard, the Chris Zah-coached runner was determined that this further setback wouldn’t stop her.
“From what they diagnosed me with in terms of how bad I had hurt my hamstring, I shouldn’t be running!” she says. “That was another big injury. I was not stopping there.
“I’ve been through hell,” she adds. “Often I doubted. I was like, ‘am I forever going to feel pain?’ That was always at the back of my head.
“That’s why it was so nice to be able to be in a competitive environment again.”
Having overcome both the physical and mental struggles injury can inflict, Shakes-Drayton says a strong support team and having other things to focus on has helped.
“I’ve just been keeping myself and my morale really upbeat – just having fun in my life outside of athletics,” she says. “I’m a fighter. To get to a World Champs, it took a lot of fighting and grafting, and that’s the same way that I handled my rehab. Regardless of any negative comments I was getting from people, I still kept pushing. I’m not a quitter.”
“I’ll go out there and do every race like it’s my last, that’s how I’m going to approach it”
She has also been working with drinks company Sibberi Birch Water and holding ‘Train with PSD’ events – next up is a workout on a ship.
“That is a great thing that I love to do because I like the positive energy I get from other people,” she says. “I’ve been able to take my mind off what I’ve been going through.”
After disembarking the Good Ship Benefit on the River Thames, Shakes-Drayton will head to Geneva to make her individual season opener over 400m on Saturday (June 11) before a race in France and then the British trials for Rio.
“The aim is for me to go to the Olympics, but obviously I have to run the qualifying times, I’ve still got to do that, and we’ve still got our trials,” she says. “They are boxes I need to tick but in the back of my head obviously the Olympics is where I want to be.
“I’ve had a taste of it before and I think that is probably another reason why I fought through because I knew how much of an important year this year is. That’s what I kept fighting for.
“I’ll go out there and do every race like it’s my last, that’s how I’m going to approach it.”