When Dame Kelly Holmes stepped off the track for the last time in 2005, it marked the end of a rollercoaster career of devastating lows and incredible highs. Yet the race goes on- even if these days the flashbulbs are the ones found on the red carpet, not the running track.
For someone who’s spent eight years away from serious competing, Dame Holmes still retains a strong passion for her sport. She admits to frequently retracing those giant strides across the finish line in Athens 2004, where the Kent-born underdog clinched double Olympic gold in the 1,500m and 3,000m events.
“Oh I certainly think back to those days a lot,” she admits. “It was the most incredible experience of my life and the end to so much heartbreak on the track. It was an intensely happy period in my life that also felt like a tremendous relief, because I could finally shed years of frustration.”
Of course, anyone who has followed Dame Kelly’s movements since, will know that achieving an Olympic dream wasn’t the end of the journey for the 43-year-old. Retiring a year later in 2005, she went on to form the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, a charity that aims to develop skills and raise self-belief for young people, using world-famous sports stars as its source of inspiration.
“As an athlete, I went through a whole host of injuries when I should have been at the peak of my career, but retaining belief in myself taught me that anyone can be successful, no matter what you do in life.
“And giving young people a perception of what they can achieve has become really important for me. So yes, this is the start of the journey, and I want to apply that positivity into other projects I get involved in.”
When it comes to fashion, Dame Kelly readily admits that as an athlete used to training round the clock, dressing up didn’t often make it to the top of her priority list:
“It’s common for most former athletes to want to show that there is a different side to their characters, and we don’t spend our entire lives dressed in tracksuits and trainers! “After all, when you’re training hard – and at my peak I was doing that three times a day for six days a week – you’re always in sports gear, and even when you have a night off, it’s unlikely you’ll be dressing up getting ready to hit the town, because training the following day just wouldn’t allow that.
“So to be truthful, I probably had a pretty poor idea of where fashion was at when I retired, because I just wasn’t in that world. But these days I love brands like Reiss and Amanda Wakeley.
“Fashion has certainly become a passion of mine, and I love wearing heels, something I certainly couldn’t have done as an athlete because the risk of injury was too great.”
It’s no surprise, then, to hear that Dame Kelly still takes good footwear seriously, even though her days on the track were almost a decade ago.
“Well, correct footwear is absolutely essential. You cannot do any half measures, particularly in terms of high-impact sports such as running. You will cripple yourself if your footwear is inadequate, because there is so much uneven stress being carried up the legs that shouldn’t be there”.
“Even casual footwear should be well put together, and with the technology that’s out there today there is no excuse for manufacturers.
“I’ve worn lots of different brands over the years, and taking your time to really research a type of shoe is important. I’ve never rushed into changing footwear because it’s something you need to get right. I used to run in Nike Air Max trainers, but last year all the Olympic ambassadors were kitted out in Adidas gear.
“What I really like nowadays is that there are some great crossover brands – so just like you can wear combats as halfway between sporty and smart/casual, so too are there sports shoe brands like Superdry that you could easily wear into town.
“That’s good for me too because I’ve always had a number of pairs of shoes on the go at the same time, although obviously I don’t get through them as quickly as I used to!”