Cian Oldknow might be a novice at this, but when she lines up for the start of the World Half Marathon Championships in Riga, Latvia this weekend, the Hollywood Athletics Club startlet will not be lacking in confidence.
Far from it, for such has been her form this year that the lass from Johannesburg has set herself the goal of running a Personal Best (PB) on Sunday.
It is not a pipedream as many would imagine. After all, running PBs is what the 27-year-old does very well, Oldknow having clocked so many in the past year that she has earned herself the nickname Miss PB.
She has had a remarkable turnaround in her fortunes following a period of uncertainty that could have affected many athletes negatively.
2022 Injury setback
Last year, Oldknow suffered a shoulder injury that kept her out of action for an extended period of time – leading her to miss out on the South African Cross Country Championships. As if that was not enough there was the news that her running club Murray & Roberts was to close down in June this year, creating uncertainty for many runners.
Oldknow’s nonchalance in all of that told the story of a young athlete not easily shaken – a trait she displays whenever she lines up for a race – be it on the track, for cross county or on the road.
“I believe in finding the good in everything. Things happen when they are meant to.”
Oldknow looks back at her absence due to injury and is somewhat grateful it happened when it did.
“Of course I was sad to miss out on the national cross country champs. But the good thing is I did not miss out on major goals. Fortunately, the world half (marathon) championships were cancelled. When I look back at it, the injury had a positive impact because I got to have a much-needed recovery period. The rest was very good for me.”
When she was recovering, Oldknow set herself some targets for her return to competition.
“And I am happy I achieved all the goals that I set myself. I wanted to finish in the top 30 at the World Cross Country which I did. I wanted to improve on my track times and I did. I aimed for podium finishes in the 10k and 5k which I did. And I wanted to improve on my half marathon time, and that too I did. So, it’s been a good year.”
As for the demise of Murray & Roberts, Oldknow chose to wait things out.
‘Chose to just focus on my running’
“It was my first pro club after university. So yes, the news about the closure was hard to take. It was a big shock, no one was expecting it. And there are not enough elite clubs in South Africa so it was always going to be tough. But I chose to just focus on my running because I had the World Cross Country Championships in February. I did not want to get distracted. And then when I came back the Hollywood opportunity came up.”
The popular club snatched her up partly because of her splendid showing in, Bathurst, Australia where she finished 27th overall in the 10km.
“That race gave me a lot of confidence. I performed well on a world stage which is very different from the local one. That run showed me that I have mental toughness to compete at the highest level. It gave me confidence and excited me because it is one of the best by a South African female. It was a hard race because it was very hot there and I think my performance there just shows that if you trust yourself, you can achieve whatever goals you set yourself,” Oldknow explains.
Good reason for her to have left for Latvia with a spring in her step, confident she can improve on her current PB.
“I have been working very hard the last year and with the great support from my sponsors Adidas and 32gi as well as my coaches and club, things have gone well. I am very excited about Latvia because we have put in a lot of training. The road will be open so I can aim for a PB. Two years ago I wanted to qualify but I was not fast enough. And then it was cancelled but fortunately I had a shoulder injury. But this year has been one of my best years.”
Indeed it was, Oldknow improving her 10km PB to 32:11 when she reigned victorious in the Hollywoodbets Durban 10k which was her last race before Latvia.
She also fared very well in the half marathon, finishing third at the national championships with a Personal Best time of 70:48 to book her spot alongside the trio of champion Glenrose Xaba, Caccisile Sosibo as well as Kesa Molotsane to make up Team South Africa which wills strive for a podium finish on Sunday.
“When it comes to the World Championships, I think position-wise it is hard to cal. But the personal goal is to try and break one hour 10 minutes. That would be 49 seconds better than my current PB.”
That would definitely be a fantastic run for a novice on such a big stage.