TWENTY first birthday presents are normally a bit special, but not many of us will celebrate with an England debut in front of 50,000 fans.
Pippa Woolven turns 21 tomorrow and just four days later she will run out at Hampden Park for the Commonwealth Games women’s 3,000m steeplechase final.
The Wycombe Phoenix Harrier has run for England age groups before now and has also experienced grand occasions at the Olympic Stadium in London and on the American university circuit, but nothing will have prepared her for what awaits on Wednesday evening at 7.45.
She said: “I’ve done the odd junior England race and I recently did the national championships in Oregon where the stadium was absolutely packed.
“And then there was the test event at the Olympic Stadium. There was quite a big crowd there too and I loved it, it really helped me in the last 200m when I had to fight for the win.
“But I’ve never ran for the England senior team so this will be my debut.
“It’s quite a big one to start with and I will be nervous, but I don’t necessarily feel the pressure I would if I was going into it ranked number one and expected to win.
“All I really want to do is get the most out of the experience and enjoy it regardless.
“I don’t normally enjoy races because I’m so worked up about them that it’s hard to relax.
“But this is just going to be so enjoyable. It’s going to be like nothing I’ve experienced before and I just can’t wait.”
Woolven is in fine form after setting a string of personal bests for Florida State University, where she is on an athletics scholarship, and she recently won twice for Harriers in a final warm-up after returning to England ahead of the Games.
The standard in Glasgow will be on a different level though, with the Kenyans leading a large world class field, and Woolven will use the race predominantly as a stepping stone to the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Woolven said: “It’s going to be a strong field and a lot of competitors with it going straight to the final. I know roughly what sort of times there will be and where I’m ranked going into it.
“I think I’m around the 12 or 13 mark, but that could be quite ambitious because a lot of the girls are just getting into their season whereas I started a long time ago in America.
“I was lucky I secured some quite fast times early on, but I hope I haven’t quite reached my peak yet and top ten would be a dream. I’m not sure how realistic that is, but it would be good just to get a good time, that’s my main aim.”