Who is Samantha Harrison?

·3-min read
Photo credit: Matt Lewis - British Athletics / Getty
Photo credit: Matt Lewis - British Athletics / Getty

Samantha Harrison works quickly. This year has been her breakthrough year: the 27-year-old placed sixth in the 10,000m at both the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships this summer.

But, remarkably, it's only four years since her very first race....

From the dentist's surgery to the elite

Growing up in Nottingham, Harrison didn't come from a family of runners. She was a keen footballer and cyclist, before taking up cross training and running in her late teens.

'I’m super sporty, so I was in the gym all the time,' she told Athletics Weekly in 2021. 'I did some bits of running, maybe two to three times per week for 15 to 20 minutes on the treadmill just to keep fit, so I felt like it was something I could do.'

Training was no biggy. She just did her own thing. 'I went out running a couple of times a week. I didn’t run much more than six or seven miles because to me that was enough, but I didn’t really know as I wasn’t used to running and I didn’t have a coach.'

She became a dental nurse but running became a bigger and bigger part of her life. To give herself a target, she entered the Robin Hood Half Marathon in Nottingham in September 2018. Even then, she didn't even really know how fast a fast half marathon was.

'People would ask what time I wanted to do it in and I was so naïve I said something like 1:20, and they were like "1:20 for your first half? You’ve got high expectations!" I just wanted to complete the race because, at that point, a half marathon was a big thing.;

She ran 84:10, and on the advice of a few friends, joined Notts AC. With training and structured coaching, her progress in 5,000m and 10,000m races, as well as half marathons, was swift.

Joining Team GB

A deluge of wins in races around the Midlands saw her begin to get noticed nationally. In October 2020, Harrison represented Great Britain at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland. Covid restrictions meant that it was a very different kind of race, but Harrison recalled being happy to be there at all.

'We can only be grateful as athletes that such a big event was allowed to go ahead and although it wasn’t the exact experience we would have wished for, it was still an incredible day and so glad to have been given the chance to be there,' she told sportsshoes.com later.

Harrison still works part-time as a dental nurse in between training and racing. 'To try and run full-time, especially as an endurance athlete, and then work 42 hours a week was virtually impossible,' she told Peebleshire News before competing in the Commonwealth Games for England this summer. 'Work are really supportive. They've let me have the next three weeks off so I can just knuckle down, keep focused and train. If you haven't got a supportive workplace then I honestly don't know how you'd get this far.'

She finished sixth in the 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games, and matched that in the 10,000m at the European Championships just a few weeks later, finishing in 31:48.87. Afterwards, Harrison said she was 'pretty happy'.

'Obviously it would have been nice to PB or go slightly better than I did before, but it was very consistent for me.'

Harrison's 2022 has been a successful one: she's registered PBs in the 5000m (15:22.29), 10,000m (31:21.53) and half marathon (1:08:12). And puts her success so far down to 'blood, sweat and tears'.

'Staying motivated, focused, being consistent in training, giving everything I can and having the determination to do it.'

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