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Archie Davis, running is life

Discover the history and feelings of this runner thanks to his inspired pen

How can we enter the mind, legs, muscle and sensory fibers of a high-level athlete? We are talking about an often unsolvable enigma. Often. Not always.

Archie Davis is an international level runner, a young promise of British athletics, capable of running the 800 meters in 1:44.72 and the Mile in 3:54.27. Archie Davis is also a writer: for this reason, at least for this time, the enigma can be solved.

With his pen he decided to lead us into his life, his sacrifices, his Olympic dream. A journey embellished by the wonderful shots of Holger Pooten, Director of the London Institute of Photography. Enjoy the reading.

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Running; the most accessible sport in the world. For most people it’s a mental release after a hard day of work, a challenge to better yourself as an individual, or simply an opportunity to improve your own health.

For me? It’s life.

Running has taken me all over the world and enabled me to compete for my country, in packed out arenas against some of the best athletes in history. But it’s been far from plain sailing to get to where I am now – there have been plenty of struggles along the way that have shaped me as both an athlete and a person. My relationship with running has evolved in my 13 years of being an athlete, but my love for the sport is still as strong as it always has been.

It all started in primary school way back when I was 9 years old. I’ve always had that competitive edge and a passion for pushing myself to the limit; whatever sport I’m doing I have to win. My teacher entered me into the long distance race at one of my first school sports days – I was surprised when I won by an impressive margin and it was then that I had people telling me to join a local athletics club. My new passion was running and I couldn’t wait to get started…

As a young boy I was so proud of being part of an athletics club – I was completely unaware of the amount of talent I had. Becoming an elite athlete wasn’t something I’d really considered, I had no idea of what it would take to be world-class or the barriers you’d face along the way. That point in my career was such a pure and innocent time; I was running for the love of the sport and the feeling of freedom I had when I stepped onto a track. I remember watching my first Olympic Games on TV around that time – Beijing 2008. Watching athletes like Usain Bolt break world records and win gold medals made me realise that Track and Field could be a lot more than just a hobby, although I still hadn’t pictured this being a part of my own journey.

For me, I think the key ingredient to being successful is dedication. I truly believe that whoever you are and whatever you do, you can achieve greatness if you focus on being consistent and always giving the task at hand your full focus and effort. There are athletes out there who have all of the talent in the world, but aren’t prepared to put in the extra hours that make it count. I was lucky enough to learn what this meant very early on in my career when I suffered my first big injury at just 13 years old. Some people may wonder why I class myself as lucky to be on the receiving end of a nasty injury, but I feel as though I learnt more about ‘dedication’ in those 6 months out of action than I’ve ever done since.

It was around April in 2012 and I’d just finished my Cross Country season in the Under-15 age group. It was my first year of starting a ‘strength and conditioning’ programme – which at that age was simply a circuit of basic strength and agility exercises – and I probably wasn’t the most coordinated of people back in those days!
During one of the drills which involved stepping up onto a bench and back down again, I went to plant my foot back on solid ground and rolled my ankle with quite a lot of force. The pain shot up my leg and straight away I knew I’d done some serious damage.

The next morning, my ankle had swelled to double the size and my foot was completely black with bruising. A trip to the hospital for an X-ray revealed I’d actually fractured one of my Metatarsals and I was likely to miss the whole of the Summer season. I was distraught, but my coach sat me down and talked me through a plan that grabbed my attention immediately. We knew I was going to be walking around in a fracture boot for 6-8 weeks, but once I was out of it, we could begin a rehab programme that would help me get back to running and competing as soon as possible. This was a series of foot drills, cross-training and strengthening exercises that I’d need to do every day. My coach was worried that the dedication I’d need would be too much for someone of my age, but I was looking forward to the challenge and couldn’t wait to get started!

To cut a long story short, I went out every single day for eight weeks to complete my rehab with as much focus and effort as I could. I recovered quickly and even managed to get back out on the track to compete at the end of the 2012 season – something that nobody thought would be possible. I was only 13, but I now knew what it really meant to be dedicated; I hoped this would be the making of a champion…

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Since then the journey has been a real rollercoaster. I made my first international championships at the age of 16 (competing for England in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa, my favourite running location to date!), and then went on to run at both the World Junior and European Junior Championships in the Under-20 age group. I had to battle through extreme adversity on each of these occasions, just to make it to the start line.

A week before the World Junior Championships kicked off, my best friend passed away. I think that’s quite a tough thing to get your head around as a 17-year-old. All I could think about at the time was him, I was distraught. Getting on that plane might mean missing his funeral and that filled me with fear. I realised that more than anything else, my friend would’ve wanted me to go out there, put on that Great Britain vest and compete in a World Championships. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, but I went a performed for him. I managed to attend both the funeral and the championships which was a huge relief. Looking back on that time, I’m really proud of myself for coping with that situation as best as I possibly could. It was another huge learning experience in my life that probably made other issues a lot easier to deal with further down the line.

The following year, I developed something called Plica Syndrome in one of my knees which meant I was unable to run for the whole Winter training period. To cure it I had to have surgery to remove some cartilage – it meant being on crutches for another six weeks and by the time February had come around, I hadn’t run since September. I’d used my previous experience of injury to work really hard cycling and swimming whilst I couldn’t run, something I give myself a lot of credit for. Against all odds, I managed to get back fit for the Summer season and qualify for the European Championships, finishing in 5th place! After two really tough years, I think I was ready for whatever life threw at me, I had the mentality to work hard and push through.

Jumping forward to where I am now, I’ve never been more in love with running. I’ve had a real breakthrough season in 2021 and so much of that is down to a refreshed mindset and a steep rise in confidence. So much of being a successful athlete is about confidence and how much you believe in your own abilities. When I step on the start line now, I feel different. I think about every challenge I’ve overcome to get where I am; it makes me feel powerful. I am as fast, as strong, and as good as any of my competitors on that race track – It’s such an important tool to have in your armoury – it’s what champions are made of.

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This year, I’ve received my first two Great Britain call ups at the senior level; the European Indoor Championships and the European Team Championships. Transitioning from the junior age group to a senior is such a huge challenge, and I’m so happy to have done that in my first season. Not only that, but I’ve run a four-second PB over 800 metres and a 6-second PB over the Mile – things are really starting to come together!

I’ve worked harder than ever – me and my coach have really tried to strip things back with training this year and focus on my weaknesses. I think there’s a real fine line between not doing enough and doing too much – everyone has their own balance and the only way you can find that is by knowing your own body, learning when you feel too tired or understanding where you can get away with pushing a little bit deeper – even if it takes some trial and error.

I’m very excited for what’s to come. Next year, I’ll be aiming to make the teams for the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. After the year I’ve had, I really believe I can get there.

In 2024? I hope you’ll be seeing my face in the Team GB squad for the Olympic Games in Paris…

Credits

Archie Davis
IG @archiejdavis

Ph by Holger Pooten
IG @holgerpooten

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