After a season that included six World Championship races, two World finals, a national title, a PB and more, anyone would ask what it was that saw Sharlene Mawdsley click into a new gear, but in actual fact it’s what she didn’t do that saw her soar; worry.
Well at least she didn’t worry as much as she did in the past.
“I realised when I don’t care what people think I run better” the 400m runner says, reflecting on the whirlwind year that was for her.
“Before I used to go to races and in the warm up I’d already be beaten because I’d be looking at other girls,” she explains, “I was really scared to race the girls that I was against because I really looked up to them.”
“This year I kind of felt like, okay, you’ve done the hard work as well, so why can’t you just step onto the track and be as confident as them?”
“I think I was trusting myself a little bit more,” she says.
Spending the offseason relaxing, reading and travelling, the Newport AC sprinter is already looking ahead to next year, aspiring to build on her “best season to date” that was 2023.
Excitingly though, she does insist that she’s yet to reach her ceiling.
“It's not often I finish a season and I’m actually proud of myself, this year I’m really proud of myself and everything I’ve been able to achieve,” she says.
“I went from a really low lows, to a really high high and I wasn’t even fully satisfied with that.”
In her own words, “you would think that running the fastest time of your life was the highlight” of Sharlene Mawdsley ’s season, but for her, the support and encouragement from the Irish fans at the World Championships in Budapest in August eclipsed everything else.
To start off, she was part of the 4x400m mixed relay alongside Jack Raftery, Sophie Becker and Christopher O'Donnell that clinched Ireland’s highest ever global finish in the event of 6th, before moving on to pick up a PB in her individual event, closing out that competition and “defying the odds” in the 4x400m women’s relay discipline.
Clocking 3:37:08 and an 8th place finish, herself, Sophie Becker, Roisin Harrison, Kelly McGrory were galvanised and energised by the Irish fans, even if they were shattered by the quick myriad of races.
“I was so emotional, I was wondering how I was going to run again. I didn’t know if my legs were going to be able, I was on the physio bench twice a day. It was hard” she recalls.
“You just go out and you look around the stadium and it just feels so surreal,” she says.
“The Irish chants that we had when they said the lane, the crowd was huge, it was like we were from Budapest.”
Unusually for some in other sports, Mawdsley is well acclimatised to coming together with her competitors to work towards a common goal, and even saw that break into new territory this year.
“You go from competing against these girls all year to then being on a team together and I think this year was the year that it really clicked with us that we’re all trying our best to produce what we possibly can,” she says.
“The better relationship we have with each other I think the more success we’re having.”
“Our relay coach Dave McCarthy, especially in the women’s team, has really worked this year.”
“We come together and we’re a group of friends rather than rivals that come together to pass the baton, so I think it’s been really good this year.”
💬 “We come together and we’re a group of friends rather than rivals who come together to pass the batton”
☘️ Sharlene Mawdsley talks the dynamics in the 4x400 relay team!
👇Watch the FULL interview here👇https://t.co/0R7xfGtCkl pic.twitter.com/v9tbQRBxiW
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) October 15, 2023
A PB heading into an Olympic year for Sharlene Mawdsley
Owing to her newfound mindset she worked on with her sports psychologist and her coaches, Sharlene Mawdsley wasn’t anticipating much heading into her last meet of the year in Zagrab at the start of September.
What she came out with though was nothing short of phenomenal- a new PB of 51:09, even coming off the back of a chest infection as she told HerSport in an exclusive interview.
“I was just like ah sure look it, it’s the last race” Mawdsley says, smiling at how blasé she was in the lead up to it.
“It was a really hot race. The girl in lane four had pulled out so there was a big gap between me and Candice Mcleod who was in the final in Budapest.”
“I ended up coming third and when I saw I had run a PB I was just like oh my god” she says.
🗨️”If I didn’t stay in sport I’d never be here...I was never good growing up”
🏃♀️Irish athlete and 400m star Sharlene Mawdsley is all for #DoItForHer.
🗨️”I happen to love it and I only found that out when I was 16/17”
👇Watch the FULL interview here👇#athletics pic.twitter.com/GNml6c2Rgh
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) October 15, 2023
Now “taking things one day at a time” Mawdsley is focusing on incremental goals as opposed to the overwhelming elephant in the room that is Paris 2024.
Having narrowly missed out on the Tokyo Olympics in “brutal” fashion, she believes she’s learned a lot from that experience, and will be channelling all of that knowledge over the coming weeks and months.
“There are more than the Olympics next year, I have World Indoors, I have World relays, I have Europeans which I’ve already qualified thankfully, so I’m already like, you get to go to Rome next year” she says.
“It’s no secret I want to go to Paris, but I already have one thing ticked off for next year so I’m just going to focus on that for now and if I run well there it opens the door for Paris.”
“For me I learned a lot by not going and I have a lot of strength because of that...I know the struggle of not going, I don’t know the high of going which is just really nice,” she adds.
Inspiring onlookers in every step of that journey, the story of Sharlene Mawdsley is one of both resilience and brilliance and one that’s surely to be still realised.
“Even little girls, it’s just so lovely to see that they’re so proud of you and you just start to feel proud of yourself, that’s what keeps me going,” she says.
“I will do whatever I can for the sport and to keep young girls in it because if I didn’t stay in it I wouldn't be here. I was never good growing up…The more you stick into it the more that you actually realise, do I love it or do i not and I happen to love it.
“I only found that out when I was maybe 16 or 17, and here I am now at 25.”
Who knows then what she’ll have achieved at 26, but if her mental fortitude is anything to go by she’ll be racing her way away from worry and towards glory.