The Second Coming – An Interview with Perri Shakes-Drayton

Moscow PSDStats:

Country:  Great Britain

Discipline: 400m Hurdles

Noteworthy Accolades: 2012 World Indoor Champion, 2x 2013 European Indoor Champion

PB: 400mH 53.67s, 400m 50.50s

‘Who would have known I would have been put in a wheelchair at the end of that race.’

‘The hardest part it felt like something was taken away from me. Because I’d been to the world championships before and Olympic Games and it just wasn’t my time…but it just felt so right in Moscow.’

I interviewed Perri because I’m inspired by her effervescent determination and perseverance following the biggest injury of her life, and probably one of the longest journeys too. What has she learned from this experience and how can you benefit from hearing her story? I promise she will make a positive impact in your life and the way you view your biggest setbacks. And because these days you will find her ‘at [her] local park’ motivating  people ‘of all levels, male or female’ into fitness, she shows in words and actions, success for her truly is ‘the impact that you make on other people’.

Perri's newest project!
Perri’s newest project!

Learning how and why somebody does what they do is always an intriguing question for me. So how did Perri end up racing in the 400m hurdles? She tried every sport and athletics discipline from ‘karate, taekwondo and a bit of football’ to long jump, javelin and high jump!

She found her niche and that’s why she can invest so much time and effort into her resurgence. It goes without saying – find your ‘thing’ and any setbacks can be viewed as a challenge to be better than before rather than a message to throw in the towel.

Yes Perri suffered a massive setback. But she has been at the top of her game before and she can certainly get back there again.

The accumulation of 13 long years with her coach (Chris Zah) committed to constant growth and learning are key to Perri’s second coming. About her coach she happily says, ‘I started off from the grassroot level and he’s taken me to world class.’ And more importantly, ‘he believed in me. I believed in him. And that’s what got us to where we are.’

Perri with her coach of 13-years, Chris Zah
Perri with her coach of 13-years, Chris Zah

‘It’s the belief and the teamwork; definitely the coach-athlete relationship we have is really strong.’

The funny thing is too that he believed in her before she believed in herself. When you think about an elite athlete you might not ever think that they would question their potential and greatness; you may believe their confidence levels are sky-high. But Perri admits:

‘Other people saw my potential before I did. So that to me, you’re putting limitations on yourself.’

Rehab aka the grind

‘Adversity favours the versatile’ is a phrase that comes to mind when reflecting upon Perri’s injury and her reaction to it. Instead of shrinking back and wallowing in self-pity at her misfortune, she has used this time to prepare herself both physically and mentally for the next phase of her athletics’ career. Her resurgence promises an even more formidable fighter than pre-knee injury Perri. Identifying and committing to ‘work on weaknesses…[previously] dismissed’, a few things have changed for the better. From her perception of self to a renewed appreciation of the brevity of a sportsperson’s career, she now ‘enjoy[s] it more’.

But the climb isn’t all sunshine and revelations. Yes, you learn from your mistakes and grow in unexpected ways, but with growth you break boundaries and pain becomes inevitable.

‘I did have some dark days, questioning “Why me?” I remember that used to go through my head a lot. “Why did this happen to me? Why now?” And it was horrible.’

‘At the time, it was just going so fast, I was having so much success, and then when this happened it was like *gasp*. I definitely see it in a different light now.’

Perri celebrating her 'biggest accomplishment so far...where I came home with two gold medals. That was amazing.'
Perri celebrating her ‘biggest accomplishment so far…where I came home with two gold medals. That was amazing.’

Life is not 1-dimensional and neither is sport. Developing body, mind and soul has an empowering effect for us as human beings, and particularly being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel to successfully defeat the ‘dark days’.

‘I got in touch with my spiritual side as well going through this injury. And I think it’s a blessing in disguise because that’s one thing I didn’t make as much time as I wish I did. Having this injury I linked up with Christians in Sport…’

*everybody cheers at the positive vibes*

Resurgence

‘It’s having a taster of success is kind of motivated me to get through this long term injury…it’s nearly two years now and the team that I’ve got behind me, the support that I’m getting from my family, and just my own self – to me I believe I was just getting started so I’ve just kind of fought through this hard rehab program.’

During her climb back to the top Perri has a greater appreciation of her blessings, including her athletics’ prowess; she now has more self-belief.

‘It is not until now when I see the performances and I think “Oh my God! I ran a time like that. Perri, you are actually good!” And that’s my biggest limitation: I really underestimated how good of an athlete I am.’

With her ultimate aim being ‘to win an Olympic medal’, you’ll be happy to hear that training-wise PSD is ‘right on track now.’ The intense rehab ‘seems to be paying off’ and she’s ready to take on the second part of a journey she started 13 years ago in Mile End athletics stadium.

So what did I learn from Perri? When you fall it’s not just about getting up and going again, it’s about how you get up and go again. Keep the things that work (fabulous support team and hardworking mentality), throw away the things that don’t – like the limiting mindset, and improve any weak areas. Be thankful for your journey and don’t allow yourself to submit to your feelings of woe – make yourself happy! And finally, keep hold of the vision of the good times and believe that you will succeed again in the future.

Follow Perri’s second coming via Twitter & Instagram!

And check out this page to read some other motivational stories of success.

PSD is 'right on track now'. Watch out for her! #RoadtoRio
PSD is ‘right on track now’. Watch out for her second coming! #RoadtoRio
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