Few would have predicted the success that Lynsey Sharp enjoyed in 2014, least of all Lynsey Sharp herself. The 24-year-old tells SPIKES what it was like to beat the odds and experience the most momentous season of her career so far.

Lynsey Sharp endured a torrid 2013 after being struck down by a mystery infection in May that meant the 800m runner could barely train, let alone compete. A minor niggle in the left calf didn’t seem serious at the time, yet the Scot couldn’t shake it. Doctors were baffled.

Exploratory surgery indentified the problem: the plantaris had become embedded in the Achilles tendon, causing friction and inflammation. The plantaris was promptly removed and Sharp’s leg patched up, but somewhere along the line it became infected.

“This time last year I’d just had my first surgery and was about to get my second, so that was kind of the start of the bad things,” she laughs. “I didn’t know whether I was gonna have a season at all.”

Thankfully things started to improve. Kind of.

“I went to South Africa in January and things started to get a little bit better. I was able to start running but I was still doing a lot of cross training, AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] and that sort of stuff.

“Then just before I went to Florida in April I had quite a bad flare-up of the infection, so I was in hospital again and in a boot for ten days.

“That was pretty much the lowest point, because that’s obviously the time of the year when you’re starting to get excited about competing and we only had about six to eight weeks to get the qualifying time for Glasgow [Commonwealth Games].” 

Lynsey Sharp ()

Tears and fears: Sharp kicked off her season with a very average 2.06.26

Sharp’s doctor told her that if she were a normal human she’d be going under the knife. But Sharp is an elite athlete, and she had a home games to compete in. She chose to give further surgery a miss and instead pulled on the spikes for a dose of track therapy.

“It was a risk to leave it, but obviously I chose to take it. And luckily things did get better. I was able to get some decent training in and started racing. I think the racing helped not only training-wise, but also to build my confidence.”

Despite the open wound on her leg that needed daily attention and caused chronic pain, Sharp’s performances were outstanding. In her first race she ran a 2.06.26, but that quickly changed. She breezed to Commonwealth qualification and set a host of PBs, including her first sub two-minute time.

And then came Glasgow, the event Sharp had been gearing her season towards. Cue a sudden illness completely unrelated to the infection that had troubled her for over a year. A violent stomach infection meant Sharp spent the night before the 800m final in Glasgow wired to a drip in the athletes’ village.

With just two hours sleep under her belt and barely a bite to eat for 48 hours, Sharp dragged herself to the track. She had the words ‘Get out strong. Commit’ scrawled on her hand, and as she rounded the final bend in sixth place, the Dumfries lass was still within touching distance of the leaders.

In front of a packed Hampden Park – a crowd that included her father Cameron, who won a 4x100 bronze medal the last time a Commonwealth Games was held on Scottish soil in 1986 – Sharp stepped on the gas to cross the line in second.

Lynsey Sharp ()

Even after the Commonwealth drama Sharp stayed sharp and bagged a Euro silver and victory in the Birmingham Diamond League

The British media called it the miracle run, but for Sharp it was merely a moment she wasn’t going to let pass her by.

“Throughout the year what kept me going was thinking ‘I will medal at Commonwealths’. But I wouldn’t say it was a miracle,” she says. “It was just like someone was throwing things at me to try and stop me from getting my medal. I think it was just pure determination on the day.”

Not content with just the one medal and a series of personal records, Sharp bagged herself another silver and a new 1:58.80 PB at the Euro champs just two weeks later – nearly two seconds faster than she had ever run at the start of the season – and also claimed a Diamond League victory in Birmingham in 1:59.14 ahead of Commonwealth champion Eunice Jepkoech Sum of Kenya.

Sharp had also seen her 2012 European silver medal turn gold earlier in the year after original winner Russian Yelena Arzhakova was disqualified following irregularities in her biological passport.

Quite the year then, especially after the trials she had faced over the previous 12 months. Sharp rewarded herself with a well-earned holiday and a new Céline handbag, something she had promised herself if she got her medal in Glasgow.

A photo posted by lynseysharp (@lynseysharp) on

But the break was short-lived, and Sharp is already back in training as she gears up for a world championship year.

“It’s nice to do other things than just the running part,” she says. “I think it’s important not to lose sight of what I’m doing. I still have to go out and train as hard as I did last year, if not harder.”

Sharp now has ‘Get out strong. Commit’ tattooed on her forearm in testimony to her improbable win on home soil.

And if those words can influence her future performances as they did on that night in Glasgow, she might be in the market for yet another handbag or two.