JENNIFER Meadows stepped on to the starting blocks today to represent Great Britain in the World Indoor Athletics Championships.
But she is also warming up for the challenge of a lifetime - becoming a teacher.
The 21-year-old, one of the UK's top 400m and 800m runners, is spending a year working as a classroom assistant at Kingsdown high school, Wigan, before embarking on a postgraduate certificate in education. Her gruelling schedule involves training on Mondays and Tuesdays and helping out in maths lessons from Wednesday to Friday.
She trains for 15 hours a week plus extras such as massage and physiotherapy, and can often be seen racing out of school to finish the day off at the track.
But Miss Meadows knows things will get even more hectic once she embarks on teacher training. "I am really aware that a PGCE is quite tough and demanding," she said.
She has always wanted to be a teacher and remembers playing at taking the register at primary school. "I always presumed I'd be a teacher," she said.
"I've done a lot of work attracting children into sport as well as in the classroom." She plans to teach English and PE.
Miss Meadows joined Wigan Harriers at the age of seven and wants to stay in the area to train and work. Her current school, Kingsdown, has been named one of the country's most improved schools and has been used to trial the use of consultant heads who give support and advice to the headteacher.
She is representing the UK in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay at the championships in Birmingham. The women's 400m first round takes place at 1.10pm today. The women's 4 x 400m relay semi-final is at 12.30 pm on Saturday and the women's 400m semi-final is at 5.30pm. The women's 400m final takes place at 2.50pm on Sunday, and the women's 4 x 400m relay final is at 5.15pm.