Steph Davis’ rapid rise to Tokyo

When Steph Davis entered her first marathon in 2018 as a casual runner, it started a rapid rise that now includes the Olympic Games and three illustrious championship events on the horizon. 

A little over three years after that Berlin Marathon, she has managed to lead the Team GB field in the women’s race at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, finishing 39th overall as the highest-placed Briton. 

Even after striding to the pinnacle of athletics in such a short space of time, Clapham Chasers runner Davis regards her experience of that day in Sapporo as just the start of her marathon running journey. 

She said: “It’s definitely given me more fire in my belly to want to push on and get in the team for Paris. 

“The whole experience has just given me a huge insight into the highest level of sport, and it’s made me want it again. 

“I’ve now got so much more determination to make more British or Scottish teams and to really keep going with my running career while I can.”

One very important component of Davis’ success has been her coach Phil Kissi, who was recently named as the British Milers’ Club’s Coach of the Year.

Kissi guided Davis to a marathon personal best of 2:27:16 at the 2021 British Athletics Marathon Trial, where she won and finished over two minutes inside the Olympic qualifying time, putting her on the fast-track to Japan.  

She said: “Phil has been there for me from day one, he sponsored me on the track before I even got into marathon running and felt there was always potential there. 

“He’s a very open and friendly person so I always know that I can tell him exactly how I’m feeling, he’s taught me so much in terms of the physical side of things.

“Self-believing confidence is really important so knowing that he had my back and could see there was going to be a journey that we could embark on together is an amazing thing.

“I’m excited because he keeps telling me that over the next few months things are going to be a bit different, which has made me a little bit nervous too.”

In spite of all the challenges the pandemic had to offer, Davis remained determined to savour every moment of her trip to Tokyo, an experience which did not disappoint. 

She said: “We got to the airport and met some of the other marathon runners and team members from British Athletics who were all really welcoming and friendly so that kicked it off to a perfect start.

“Obviously going into it with COVID I didn’t really have many expectations, there seemed to be so many unknowns and I knew that we weren’t going to have much flexibility to roam free. 

“I was just so grateful that it was able to go ahead rather than being negative about the restrictions, so I was just really excited to get on that plane.”

Having taken time off after the Olympics, there are no races imminently in the calendar for the marathon specialist, but there will certainly be plenty of preparation with the World and European Championships and the Commonwealth Games looming large for 2022. 

She said: “The time off meant that I could enjoy the experience and take it all in rather than feeling like I was already jumping onto the next thing. 

“It’s about soaking up all these moments as well and having the time off helps me to do that.

“I’m going away hopefully in January to Spain with my teammates to focus on my training in a better climate as you never know what the UK weather’s going to throw at you. 

“The focus for the next couple of months is just to train hard, build that solid foundation and get back to where I was. 

“Next summer I definitely hope that I’ll be able to represent GB or Scotland for one of those events.”

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