Fast Running’s Hannah Irwin spoke to Paralympic medallist and Saucony ambassador, Katrina Hart.

Sprinter Hart is a Commonwealth Games gold medallist and holds a bronze medal from the London 2012 Paralympics. She is a 100m and 200m specialist with Cerebral Palsy competing in the T37 classification. She has been representing Great Britain and England for over 15 years and is currently targeting qualification for Tokyo 2021. 

We spoke to Katrina about how her training has been affected during coronavirus and where her determination to be a Paralympian came from. 

Fast Running: How has your training been impacted during this time? What have you had to change?

Katrina Hart: Training has been different, usually I would be doing all my running sessions on the track and be in a gym for all my gym sessions, but we have had to adapt sessions to get the best out of my training.

I have used the local Sports field for a lot of my running sessions and completed a session on the road too.  I have also been doing circuit and gym sessions at home too.

Last week I went on the track for the first time in 3 months. It felt good but even looking at the 100m from the start line felt a long way!

Photo: Saucony UK

FR: Is there anything you have changed during lockdown that you will take forward with you? 

KH: I don’t think I would change anything but feel that I was learning about different ways of training and exercises each day. I’ve always been a person who would fit a lot of things into their day and this lockdown has given me an opportunity to slow down a little and appreciate the little things in life that are really important.

FR: Have you found your motivation has become affected?

KH: I think it’s more enjoyable having people around you to train with and help to keep you motivated when you’re struggling with a session but always find once you’ve completed it, it’s really rewarding. I think that now is more important than ever to set yourself little targets.

I still keep in touch with friends who are training and we sometimes meet for a socially distant session which definitely gives you a major boost.

FR: What tips would you give to other para athletes looking for ways to stay fit and healthy during this time?

KH: The main thing I would say is that you don’t need loads of equipment to have a good session. A lot of the work can be done by using objects you have at home e.g using your patio steps to do step ups or doing body weight exercises like press ups.

If you have pets at home, like a dog, take them running with you!

I think it’s a good idea to try different things too. As the track hasn’t been open regularly I have been out on my bike more than I usually would and have really enjoyed the exercise.

FR: How did the Olympics being postponed to 2021 affect you mentally and your training plans?

KH: I think it was the right thing to do but I feel it has given athletes more time to train and get fitter, faster and stronger. I think a lot of athletes are in a similar position with tweaking their sessions due to lockdown and trying to work with what they have to get the best out of their sessions.

FR: Did your parents encourage you to get involved in a para sport or was it entirely your decision? 

KH: I’ve always been really sporty from a really young age. My memories when I was younger was where my sisters and I would spend our weekdays training and my weekends were spent competing. Whatever sport it was, we did it.

My parents were our taxi service, driving up and down the country and spent hours of end in cold, wet, muddy fields or at the swimming pool but it was my PE teacher (Michelle) who guided me into Para Sport, which then opened my eyes to see all the amazing opportunities that taking this avenue could offer. She probably didn’t ever think I’d become a Paralympian, she just wanted me to love what I did.

In 2018, I was really lucky I went on a short break to Nice with my sister and caught up with Michelle and her family on the beach (they live out there now) and we ended up reminiscing over ‘old times’ and she, her daughter and a group of their friends got me kayaking in the Mediterranean Sea.

FR: What would you say to other young people with disabilities to encourage them to take up sport?

KH: The thing I love about sport is there’s not a one size fits all approach. There are so many different sports out there to try. I always say if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

So you have to make the most of opportunities that come your way but most of all enjoy what you do and make sure you have fun.

FR: What does your job as a sports accessor involve? 

KH: My role as a Sports Assessor involves assessing Sports Apprenticeships and NVQ’s, I have recently started my Training Assessor and Quality Assurance (TAQA) qualification, this will allow me to assess learners in their place of work and in a classroom environment.

I have been in a similar role in another subject and enjoyed that. I was out and about and not in an office all the time which meant I was meeting new people, going to new places and seeing apprentices progress throughout their course, which I found really rewarding.

FR: Do you think sport has changed your outlook in life and how you perceive your disability? 

KH: Definitely, sport has literally changed my life. I think it has given me a drive to succeed in whatever it is I do and to always try new things.

Regardless of having a disability I was very lucky; I never saw my life any different to anyone else.

My sisters and I would always have competitions between each other and being the youngest, smallest and having Cerebral Palsy made things a little more challenging.

Beating them would always be a tall order but I think that’s where my competitive spirit has come from and I don’t think that will ever change.

Katrina Hart is a Saucony UK Ambassador, she is supporting the launch of the Endorphin collection available to buy from from July 1st.