Natasha Cockram

Welsh supporters getting behind Natasha Cockram during the Commonwealth Games marathon. Pic: Owen Morgan

Wales Star Natasha Cockram And The Heart-Warming Story Of Her GB Selection

Exclusive by Owen Morgan

Natasha Cockram’s selection for Great Britain’s team at this summer World Athletics Championships was just what the doctor ordered for the marathon runner and her family.

When the Micky Morris Racing team athlete was announced as the first name on the GB team last Tuesday, Cockram’s father was undergoing heart surgery.

And his first question after coming out of theatre was whether his daughter had heard from the selectors.

“Selection was supposed to be on Monday,” Cockram told Dai Sport.

“I was hoping that I got selected before he went in for surgery. But that didn’t happen.

“The call actually came while he was in the operating theatre. It was nice because he came out and that was the first thing he asked.

“It was really special, the fact that he had just come out of heart surgery and then the moment he came around, he asked if I’d heard about selection!”

Natasha Cockram Natasha Cockram is off to the World Athletics Championships. Pic: Owen Morgan.

With her father on his way to recovery, Norfolk-based Cockram took advantage of being back in south Wales to kick off her preparations for the World Championships by taking part in Sunday’s Cardiff Bay 10k as a last-minute entry.

Despite the short notice, Cockram finished second behind Sweden’s Carolina Wikstom in a time of 33:10.

“That wasn’t planned! As I was home anyway, I thought I might as well race as a late entry,” said Cockram.

“Now it’s a case of getting back into the marathon block and building back up to the worlds.”

Cockram became the first athlete to be named in the GB team for the World Championships courtesy of a brilliant performance at the Valencia Marathon last December.

A time of 2:26.14 smashed her own Welsh record and was also a qualifying standard for the World Championships, which will be held in Hungary this August.

Cockram’s performance in Valencia, which puts her sixth in the all-time British rankings, was all the more impressive as it came in the wake of a bought of COVID, which was likely to have been behind a below par performance at last summer’s Commonwealth Games.

A 12th place finish on the streets of Birmingham in a time of 2:40.18 didn’t reflect Cockram’s form going into the games or the amount of preparation she had put in.

The HR researcher had taken annual leave from her day job in order to focus on training and recovery ahead of pulling on the Welsh vest.

Despite feeling she was in the shape of her life, something wasn’t quite right ahead of the race, prompting Cockram to take a COVID test.

“I actually tested negative before the race. So raced anyway,” she said. “Two days after I still didn’t feel right so kept testing and eventually tested positive.

“We suspect that I had COVID for the race because I clearly wasn’t right. Training going into the race went really well and then obviously, on race day, it just didn’t feel good.

“It took me quite a long time to recover from COVID, but eventually I got back and had quite a short build into Valencia. But it was enough to break the record and get the qualifying standard.”

The fact Cockram has been named in the first round of selection – the second will follow next month’s London Marathon – means she can now concentrate on preparing for the World Championships.

The 30-year-old has opted not to run in London, preferring to concentrate on training for Hungary.

“That was the idea around gaining selection early, so that we could focus on training and getting recovery after Valencia,” said Cockram.

“So our plan now will be to build for worlds and not run a marathon before then. I’ll race a couple of 10ks and half marathons in the lead-up and just focus on training.

“We’re going to approach it more like the Commonwealths. I’m going to probably take maybe a month off work to actually go on a training camp. I’ve never done a training camp before, so we will do that.

“For the Commonwealths, I think I was actually in better shape going into it than I was for Valencia. But obviously, it was just really unfortunate that I probably had COVID on race day.

“Now that I’ve come to terms with that and realised that actually it wasn’t anything to do with my preparation – how I approached the races differently – it was more because I was actually ill for the race. We’re going to put everything into the worlds.”

Representing GB at a major championship is a long-held dream for Cockram, whose road to her current success hasn’t always been smooth.

During her final year at the University of Tulsa in 2015 Cockram suffered a knee injury so severe she was told by surgeons she would never run again.

However, the Gwent athlete has battled back to establish herself as one of Britain’s best distance runners.

A delighted Cockram said of her selection: “It just feels like it’s been a long time coming.

“I’ve been trying to make the GB team since I started running. I kept missing it. I made second reserve as a junior and then not even got close until now. It’s just nice that it’s finally reality.

“This is my first time in a GB kit, so that’s exciting . . . and it’s already arrived! That’s made it feel more real!”

Natasha Cockram Pays Thanks After Stunning Marathon Takes Her Into World Elite

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