I had the pleasure of shooting with professional middle distance athlete Ellie Stevens recently. Ellie and her training partner Amy Hillyard had very kindly agreed to take part in my new project and also answer some questions on their background and motivations.
The project involves shooting professional athletes in their training environment and doing what they do best. The styling is more commercial than my other work and will feature collaborations with some big name brands.
We got together on a pretty grey day in Burton on Trent, and for once, the weather suited the mood of the shoot perfectly. I got chatting to Ellie before the shoot and asked how she got into running…
“I had always been a very active child, between the ages of 5 and 11 I had dance lessons. The whole of my spare time was dedicated to this love of the arts. When I was 11 I wont the ‘marathon’ race in primary school and knew from then on that I wanted to join the running team. In my first year I ranked 3rd over all and by that point I was hooked, I gave up 9 years of dancing to be focused on my athletic interests.”
Success continued for Ellie at an unbelievable pace, becoming area, county and regional champion in all three middle distance disciplines for many years. She also made the county team to represent Derbyshire and compete at the English Schools Championships, the most sought after event at that age.
Everything was going well for Ellie and she was offered a Puma sponsorship contract on her 21st birthday, but then the unthinkable happened – she was hit with mumps at the age of 22. She was later diagnosed with chronic fatigue or M.E which would see her struggle with consistency in training leading to lowered performance levels, constant illnesses and injuries and a VERY frustrating 8/10years in the sport.
“I was lucky enough to have a wonderful support network that helped me through every moment of the illness. From those who helped in building my training back up to offering advice, guidance and knowledge, and the ones that stood by me throughout the mood swings the dark unknown times and helped me remain positive and motivated to come out the other side as hungry as ever.”
Today Ellie has clear bill of health and a solid understanding of the way her body responds to things, enabling her to make better, more knowledgable decisions when it comes to training and racing. From hanging out with Ellie during the shoot it is clear to see the dedication and the passion she has to succeed.
“I am forever motivated to be the best that I can be. I have always had the passion and the will to succeed and I have been through too much to not see it through to the end. I have too much unfinished business to quit, and with the help of my incredibly dedicated father & coach and my no1 fan and best friend (my mum!) I will be driven to the very end.’