Rosie Clarke, Great Britain steeplechaser, joins The Transition Phase in an exclusive interview since announcing her retirement from sport, to talk about her journey and the impact studying stateside had on her athletic development. Clarke also discusses her new career as an operations specialist, and how she has championed other sportswomen in business.
Reflecting on her career, the Iona College alumni described her breakthrough as the moment she made her GB debut at the 2015 European indoor championships in Prague, which came off the back of a stellar indoor season that saw her improve her 1500m PB to an impressive 4.12.10
“I went over to IONA college in New York to do my MBA and I absolutely loved it! That was the first big step for me because prior to then I honestly didn’t realise I was a good runner. I knew I was winning races and having fun, but I didn’t appreciate where that could take me”
Crediting her move overseas for her leap in progression, Clarke continued to improve at a fast rate throughout her early 20s “from that point onwards I went on to qualify for an international team every year until I retired” she says. “My athletics career kind of snowballed from there, and I put a big part of that success down to a shift in my whole mentality whilst I was at Iona. I went from the University of Bath where I was training seriously, but predominantly socially and for enjoyment, to running becoming a real passion and focus of mine.”
Speaking of her time in the US, the Epsom & Ewell athlete spoke about the importance of weighing up the positives and drawbacks for young athletes considering a similar move: “I think it really does come down to the individual. Anyone who is considering studying in the US should do a very thorough pros and cons list. It’s vital to find the right school for you. There are so many colleges out there that it can be a bit of a minefield. For me personally I was going as a grad student, I was 21 when enrolled at Iona College, and that bit more mature.”
“I viewed the opportunity in two ways, as far as I considered it, I either went and trained hard to see how good I could be on the track and whether it opened any doors for me, or I could go and work hard in the classroom and come out with an MBA that I wouldn’t otherwise of had. I viewed it as a win-win, and I got to live in New York for a year which was definitely a big positive!”
Currently working as an operations specialist in the city, as well as undertaking her CIMA professional accountancy qualification, Clarke explained what led her to take the leap into the ‘working world.’
As someone who has always been a high-achieving individual, setting her ambitions high, she reached out to British Athletics to leverage a partnership with accountancy big four firm PwC. She explains: “Towards the end of my 2018 season I started to seriously consider whether I could balance a part-time role alongside training. When I weighed everything up, I came to the conclusion that as an endurance athlete I simply couldn’t.”
“What I did instead was leverage a partnership that British Athletics established with PwC. Having reached out to British Athletics to see whether they could establish any PwC workplace shadowing for athletes, I ended up with the fantastic opportunity of shadowing the Midlands Chairman at the Birmingham office”
During the internship Clarke had exposure to many different areas of the business, and met with a variety of people. Having thoroughly enjoyed the experience, she wanted to ensure other athletes had the same opportunity to gain industry experience.
“What I’m actually really proud of is that subsequently there have been two other female athlete placements at PwC. I’m really pleased that there’s been some longevity in that partnership. It’s great to have influenced some positive change, that has links to the track but is not just running around it!”
A champion and changemaker for women in business, Clarke is now embarking on her next steps as an operations specialist, branching across two recruitment agencies, Hansen Filler and The Transition Phase. She spoke to us about how she’s enjoying her new job and how she is adjusting to her new routine.
“Life is good! My role is really varied, and for the most part very fun! I’m kept on my toes by the team reacting to the day-to-day goings on and making sure everyone else is doing okay and tracking towards their goals. A big next step for me professionally, is that I am going to be starting my CIMA professional qualification later this year. I am really fortunate to have found an employer that is supportive of me and invested in my professional development. Hansen Filler and The Transition Phase harness a really nurturing culture which is fantastic to be a part of.”
“It’s very different. I’m definitely learning as I go! 12 months post retirement I am still very limited in what I can do running wise with regards to my injury, and that’s been tough to adjust to. Part of me does think that going cold turkey on exercise probably meant I have got a more realistic idea of what a ‘normal’ exercise routine looks like!”
“Sport aside I’m very happy and love the freedom that athletic retirement has given me– I can see friends and family anytime and it’s lovely to be able to be there for them now when they gave me so much support through my years as an athlete.”
Having enjoyed many successes across her career, seeing her compete at two World and two European championships as well as a Commonwealth Games, Clarke tells us part of her wishes she wasn’t so hard on herself as a young developing athlete. She explains: “I put a lot of pressure on myself but honestly if I’d been a little bit more laid back, I probably would have gone on to achieve the same. My athletic career wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was my journey, I’m proud of what I achieved and I wouldn’t change any of it!”
Thank you so much Rosie – a star on and off the track, we are so happy to have you as part of the TTP Team!