PIPPA Woolven is back in America this week after running the race of her life on her England debut at the Commonwealth Games.

The 21-year-old celebrated her birthday just days before her race, but her present came in the shape of a new personal best and eighth place in the women’s 3000m steeplechase.

She said beforehand a top ten finish would be a dream and her time of 9:47 was more than good enough.

She said: “I had an absolutely incredible time at the Games, it really was an experience of a lifetime.

“I wasn’t too sure what to expect from myself performance-wise going into the race and tried to emphasise just enjoying it rather than worrying too much about times and positions.

“It was my first major senior championships so I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and just aimed to run the best I could knowing I had done all the preparation.

“Training had been going well in the lead up to the race so that gave me an indication of where I could place but I never expected such a big personal best.

“The amazing home crowd really helped me rise to the occasion and walking out on to the track beneath the cheering stadium was an incredibly special moment.

“I had been watching the previous days events on the TV in the Athletes Village so knew the English competitors were getting a good reception but I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of support we all got on the start line.”

Woolven is back in Florida now preparing for a second season on the collegiate circuit after her university offered to extend her athletics scholarship for a year.

She said: “I spent about ten days in the Commonwealth Village with the other athletes in the lead up to the event which really helped to relax and inspire me and it was such a privilege to be surrounded by people who I look up to.

“It was also lovely to see some familiar faces from the England hockey team who live and train in Marlow and it was great to follow their success too.

“The support from my friends and family has been amazing and special thanks must go to my childhood coach Jan Nash from Wycombe Pheonix Harriers, who was incredibly instrumental in helping me prepare for the Games over the summer.

“I can’t express how much I appreciate everyone’s support and encouragement and I am more motivated than ever to make sure I can experience some more major championships in future.”