You will struggle to find more humble and inspiring a retired pro than Rebecca Lyne. Having gone into the sport through a relatively traditional route - school XC team, local club, junior prominence, first international appearance - she has come out the other end with a stunning palmares and wisdom aplenty. Still ranked 6th all-time fastest British 800m runner with a European bronze medal decorating the mantlepiece, Becky now feels her competitive candle has burned out. These days, her eyes are firmly trained on the future of her company and her role in the world of sports in the broader sense. We took the liberty of pulling her back to the glory days for just a second so that she could enlighten us on her journey from ultra-competitive athlete to founder and CEO of GRACE-full Running.
Who is Becky Lyne?
Running has been a part of Becky's life since school. She shares a hometown with Jessica Ennis-Hill and went to the same school as Seb Coe. There must be something in the water up in 't fair city of Sheffield...
At 12 years old, she joined the Hallamshire Harriers and it wasn't long before she made her first senior international appearance for England at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. In 2003, she won gold in the 800m final at the U23 European Championships in Poland and just three years later she also claimed bronze at the 2006 European Championships in Sweden as a senior - with three domestic championship titles in between. It wasn't until 2006 that she ran her PB of 1:58.2 at the British Grand Prix in Gateshead which still stands as one of the fastest times ever run by a British woman.
Lessons from a bright career
There are always plenty of lessons to be learned from success. Reflecting on what she wishes she could have told her younger self, she quickly come to a conclusion. "Looking back now, the main mistake I made was that I always tried to be superhuman," she confesses. "I always tried to be invincible and go that extra mile, ignoring what my body was trying to tell me day-to-day. In the end, that was a big part of my downfall."
One of the most valuable assets in an athlete's arsenal is a humble mentality. She defines this as a willingness to listen both to the people around you, but most especially to your own body. She didn't want to seem 'soft' by communicating a niggle to her coach, or she wilfully ignored a warning sign and decided to push through it. It is an easy trap to fall into at that level of competition, but that is where silly mistakes are made.
Humility also applies to the goals you set for yourself. For example, the status of 'pro athlete' and all it entails - the training camps, the high-quality races, the sponsorships, the salary - is a car many dogs like to chase, but Becky feels it should come with a disclaimer.
"If you are one of those people who 'will be happy when', becoming a professional athlete is probably not what you really need. Truth be told, it can be an extremely insecure and uncertain life. That job title comes with a huge amount of pressure so unless you are satisfied with who you are as a runner and as a person things could become very challenging mentally." She reiterates that enjoyment and fulfilment should always be the first and foremost goal in sports, regardless of the level of competition.
Becky knows exactly who she is and what she seeks, and it isn't to be found in performance. "My competitive nature has run its course," she explains. "Running a certain time isn't going to make me happy. I have been there, and I never again want my happiness to hinge on the numbers on a stopwatch." It is important to remember that you are not a bad athlete when things don't go to plan.
A rise from the ashes
No matter how fast she ran, Becky could never outrun the injuries that plagued her career and eventually led her to decide to retire. Coming from a background in sports science, she knows that humans are fundamentally made to run. The more she got injured, the more she would wonder: "if I am made to run, why do I keep getting hurt? What am I doing wrong?".
While she was trained to look at the essence of running and how things worked, it wasn't until she picked up dancing that she gained a deeper understanding of how the body moved and what it needed to be able to do it effectively and, most importantly, in a healthy way. One day, during a routine, practically mindless stretching session, years of thoughts and reflections came together in a sudden epiphany. That day, GRACE was born - Growth, Rhythm, Alignment, Circle and Enjoy. Not only encapsulating the biomechanical principles which dictate how human beings are designed to move, the GRACE acronym also touches on other aspects of wellbeing which play such a crucial role in sport. If there was one thing she knew for sure, it was that she wasn't meant for a 9-5 desk job, so she took this epiphany and ran with it.
With the help of a software developed by Sheffield Hallam University, Becky started analysing running form and offering technique workshops. Her mission is simple: to get as many people into running as possible, to encourage mass participation while also guiding those already established in the sport. But, most of all, she wants to make running as enjoyable as possible for everyone.
Just like that, one of the best 800m runners Britain has ever seen transformed her "insecure and uncertain lifestyle" into a company dedicated to supporting runners of all levels through their running journey. Now, GRACE-full Running is KOTWF's official biomechanics and technique partner. The importance of staying healthy and the goal of sustainable growth are pillars we share with Becky. Her experience both at the highest levels of competition and with regards to injury prevention, management and rehabilitation are an invaluable asset in our quest to find our frontier.
But her desire to help goes much further than just athletic performance. Having fallen in love with Africa over the course of several training camps, Becky is now proud to support charities making a difference to the lives of some of the most disadvantaged people in the world. Find out more about GRACE-full Running's charity work on the website.
"The one thing I do miss about life as an athlete is gritting my teeth through a hard session and walking away with that sense of having accomplished something real." That feeling is still what she is chasing now by making a real, tangible difference to the lives and the wellbeing of her GRACE-full Girls, but also in how we conquer our wild frontiers as people born to run.
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