A University of Sheffield track runner has spoken about the “honour” he felt having represented his country for the first time at the prestigious Vienna Indoor Classic.
Harry Russell competed at the acclaimed competition, facing off against some of the world’s best in his age group.
“It was a real step up, the mindset and professionalism especially of the team and other athletes was very different,” he said.
“BUCS is big but at my level you end up racing the same old faces most of the time. So it was nice to face new people from abroad.”
Harry finished the tournament having run the 800 metre sprint, placing fourth and coming home with a new personal best.
Having gone through trials to represent England, Harry was surprised when he got the call from the national side.
He said: “I was very shocked when I got the call. I was in the dungeons of Western Bank, so I had to escape to take it. It was a huge honour.
“I came second in the England trials which, at the time, ranked me second in the country.
“Then a week later I won the North of England Athletics Indoor Championship, which put me in contention for a spot but not guaranteed.
“I was extremely honoured and humbled to be selected as one of two athletes for the team.”
Harry, 23, who also studies a Masters degree in Real Estate Planning and Development, had just come back from an injury in the day’s leading up to the race but remained confident that he could put on a show.
“I had an injury for the two weeks leading up to the race, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the build-up as much as I may have wished,” he added.
“I was confident however, as I know that prior to this I was in great form. I was nervous as I wanted to do my team justice having been given the opportunity.
“The race was filled with class competitors but I felt on the day that I was a match for them.”
Harry has been running ever since he was eight-years-old when he did it as a hobby. He then moved from cross country and started running shorter distances, like 200 and 400 metres, in his late teens.
However, he credits the time spent doing the sport while at university as being a formative period.
He said: “I love the sport and the year before coming to university I trained on my own.
This is probably a time that really shaped me, I wanted to get better and really dedicated my time to improving.
“Back home, I didn’t really have anyone to help apart from my mum who would drive me to races.
“Having not had a coach or training partners, I came to university wanting more than anything to find both.
“Luckily I got everything I wanted. My coach Martin, training partners Liam, Tom, Ollie, Matt and Tamsin have really been my rock for me the last four years which haven’t always been the easiest with injuries.
“It’s been hard to strike a balance both mentally and physically with the sport, but university has provided me opportunities in athletics that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve otherwise.
“For that I’m always grateful.”
Looking ahead, Harry is determined to remain in the sport and represent his country yet again at international competitions.
“I’m realistic about my future, I have a belief in my ability and just desire more than everything to feel that I’ve maximise my potential.
“Internally, I set goals but never tell anyone, I think this keeps me driven. I’ll keep going as I’ve always been and will always be a runner. I would love to finish uni with a BUCS medal but I’m looking towards the Birmingham Commonwealth games in 2022, that is a huge target.”