I was always the school’s representative in the high jump and I was usually also in whatever was the longest race in the competition. I didn’t have a particularly impressive top speed but I seemed to have a lot of stamina so I usually came in the top 3 out of 8. I enjoyed doing sport and having Mum or Dad there to cheer me on made it even better. Weekend events were fun. Quite often we were a bit late setting off so I used to get changed in the back seat as we drove along with Dad under strict instructions not to look in the rear-view mirror!
When Mum and Dad were killed I didn’t feel like doing anything but the Head of Girls Physical Education persuaded me to keep competing – mainly because she knew, being sensible, that it would be good for me to try to have some normality in my life. It wasn’t the same as before because neither Gran nor Granddad ever bothered to come to watch me and sometimes they used to complain because if there was an event I would be later home from school and that would upset their very rigid routine.
As the weeks went by and my relationship with Nan and Granddad spiralled down into emotional and physically abuse I used to escape from the house by using athletics training as an excuse. I used to go running every single day and I trained with an intensity far greater than I had ever done before. In a strange way doing sport kept Mum and Dad’s memory alive inside me: it felt that I wasn’t forgetting the special things we had used to do together.
The combination of far more exercise plus less eating had the predictable effect. My weight started to drop. I was just over 5ft 10 inches tall the last time I was measured a few months before the accident and I weighed 148lbs. After a few months of living with Gran and Granddad my weight was down to 122lbs. So I had gone from being in the middle of the healthy weight band to being into the underweight band.
But losing weight plus getting fitter made me a better runner and jumper. People that were about equal to me in sporting performance before Mum and Dad were killed were suddenly getting left behind. My personal best in the high jump went up by several inches and my personal best in the 1500 metres improved by the length of the finishing straight! As part of the support I get from the university as a vulnerable student the doctors monitor my health and they say provided I eat a balanced diet and provided I don't lose anymore weight everything is fine!
For ages nobody noticed that the weight was dropping off me. Truthfully I don’t think Nan and Granddad ever did notice. Eventually the sports staff did notice my changing shape – they tend to keep an eye on girls rather more than boys because of girls being more likely to have eating disorders – and we had a rather difficult conversation. It was that conversation that finally made me realise that I couldn’t stay with Nan and Granddad much longer and so I started plotting my escape back to the house I had inherited.
Now, coming up to 4 years later, I still haven’t put that weight back on. Sometimes I wish I had more girlie curves than I have but I guess it isn’t ever going to happen while I run or train every day.