2020 Recap: Dame Kelly Holmes

This week we felt it fitting to recap on one of Pendulum 2020’s most inspiring speakers Dame Kelly Holmes. Kelly is one of the most sought-after motivational speakers, having inspired and motivated audiences in the UK and around the world. Kelly’s Pendulum 2020 speech was enthusiastic and energetic, rooted in her unique achievements as a double Olympic champion and are synonymous with focus, self-belief, drive, determination and success.

You can tell within minutes of Dame Kelly Holmes beginning her speech that she is an effortless speaker. Throughout her speech she explains how the techniques she has learnt on the track can be applied to all areas of life. She draws on humble, encouraging and empowering stories from her early life, athletics career and career in the British Army. She provides practical advice and inspirational vision for achieving ambitions in both the professional and personal worlds, whether that be on the track, in the office or at home. In her talks, Kelly encourages the philosophy of nothing is impossible. Take a look.

Be Present & Give Permission To Be The Best Version Of Yourself

Do you take time to remind yourself of how good you actually are? How many times do you pat yourself on the back and say yeah, you know what, I’m good at what I do, but then also recognize other people around gave you a lot of help to get to make that journey? Do you remember where we started? Do you remember that it was hard down here trying to get up to the top do you face that everyday with different people working for you. Do you remember you were once in their position? Having a passion for success involves having that fire in your belly, having the passion to succeed involves wanting to be the best version of yourself.

Has anyone ever put their hands up and said this is who I am. This is what I want to do and then had personal acceptance of your health and your well-being. Do you recognize the signs in yourself? Do you value the highs when it’s all going so well, and then do you actually look at the times when it’s not going so well, I want to normalize conversation today and humanize Society again around mental health and hopefully through this talk. I’ll achieve some of those things. So the first thing I’m going to ask you a favor. I want you to be in the present. 

Think of your highs, your achievements think about this moment. You should feel pretty good about yourself and think about actually why you came here. What was it again? Was it inspiration, information, passion, a reboot or just a kick up the ass fire in the belly feeling? Whatever reason you came here today for hopefully you’ll get it today.

This is your day, your moment just for you. I want to ask the question how many people have followed their dreams since they were a child? How many people are doing what they wanted to do as kids when they were kicking the ball around in the garden outside? And I know there are a few of you that actually are living their dream and I can honestly say in my opinion there is no better feeling. The real question is though, are you happy? Yes I know a few of you are and that is great what more could you want. 

Celebrate Achieving A Dream No Matter How Big Or Small

To achieve a dream is an amazing feeling. How big or small it is. Sometimes we don’t recognize the small ones. We should recognise the small ones as well as they are just as important. Sometimes it’s just the little moments thatI  like to remember. So anyway, I became a physical training instructor and absolutely loved it.

I got to do everything that I wanted. I’ve got to swing up a rope go underneath in the dirt and take out the guys and I was all for it. I suppose it was a really good introduction to growing up and to being a tough woman. I have to say I wanted to be the best I could be there. I wanted to keep working my way up the ramp structure and I really thought that one day I would.

When I left I was 27 years old and was a Sergeant so I actually achieved that dream too which is great and I actually got an MP service to the British army, which I was so pleased about because it meant by validating my career that I knew I was good at my career. 

Athletics

When I was 14 I was inspired by an Olympic Games, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. In Great Britain, we had some amazing middle distance runners. Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovet, Steve Crabb came in a little bit later. There was always one man in particular that stood out to me and this man stood at the podium after winning the 1500 metre race with the British flag flying, a gold medal around his neck, the national anthem playing in the background and I decided this is what I wanted.

I was on summer holidays sitting at home at that time. It gave me goosebumps. I went back to school.The only other reason for going to school was to see my friends and I told them all I’m going to be Olympic champion.

It was that inspiration, to have something that drives you. In Athletics you run around a track, so you essentially run around in circles. It is how fast you run or how slow you run that is the big difference. I had some really great moments in my Athletics career. Remember I’m still serving in the army. 

Just before that, winning the mini youth Olympics when I was 17 years old, winning the 800 meter standard the national anthem playing, a medal around my neck. I thought once this ever happens when I become old, well, whatever happens I would be happy, but I gave up my dream to join the Army and you know that hurt my army career.

So, how do I keep going at my Athletics? Well I couldn’t so I left and my coach cried. He thought I was throwing away everything and maybe I was at that time, but I wanted to pursue my second dream and have a career and actually find my own identity, find who I was and how I will have a purpose in life because when you are a child and you don’t think you’ve got it you want to find it.

So I joined the army, but they found out that I was a good runner and then when you’ve beaten quite a few of the guys, there’s an obvious sign and so I was dragged into it and I wasn’t really that interested at the time. I was more interested in going to the pub. I mean, I was only young. Anyway, I go down and they say you’re going to be in the Army Athletics Team. So I kind of obliged but all my training was in boots and webbing them and taking the guys outside the soldiers that was it, I wasn’t doing any track work at all. 

Anyway I got them completed and then the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games was happening. So I was watching them and in the Army and watching these games ignited that passion inside me inside me and that dream once again became my dream. That was it. My head was back in the game but I was still first and foremost a soldier so then you’re going through life and you got different things that happen to you and and I start to compete individually.

And I used to use my army leave to go away and compete on the athletics track and this is where the results started coming. I won my First Commonwealth Games gold when I was 24 years old when I still served in the military, I was still using my leaves going back. This is what I mean about needing that bit of resilience, perseverance and passion because I was really passionate about being good at something and when you want to be good at something you have to throw everything into it, you must put your soul into it, that should be your thought process. It might not be easy, but it is your time and you should try your best to do what you want.

In order to be your best version of yourself, you have to give it everything. So at that time, I was manning two careers, two big careers. I was winning medals for the Great Britain World Championships. I went to my first Olympic Games when I was 26 while I was still serving in Atlanta and I came fourth. I went on to break the Great British record that stood for 12 years by a South African runner. 

He came and broke all the British records that were there forever and that is when I discovered those records and I remember that was my only focus. So I went for that record and I broke it in Shefferd and I was so chuffed. It made me number one in the world by 5 seconds and that validated my position on the world stage. I got Commonwealth Games medals. I went to another Olympic Games when I was 30 years old. I won a bronze medal and I carried on and that Bronze medal at that time turned to gold which I’m going to come back to in a minute, but at that time that bronze was a great achievement.

Three months later when I realized bronze is bronze. I had to make a big decision. Do I carry on? Which I did for another four years and finally achieved my dream. I won another 5 medals in between before appearing at the games in Manchester. I was already established for 12 years before Athens people forget that, it was a long career it wasn’t like I just bit my fingers and suddenly I’m a good runner. It was years and years and years of going round and round before I got there.

I’m telling you, It was a big ordeal but my actual story really isn’t about that. It is about how do you pick yourself up when it gets tough? You know, how do you actually remain with a passion for what you do? How do you remain focused even when you suffer from setbacks? How do you keep set on your goal of achieving your dream? 

Overcoming Setbacks

At the Atlanta Olympics when I came forth. I suffered from a stress fracture. When I landed in our holding camp in Tallahassee I had this feeling in my shin. I had a scan and was told it was a stress fracture and that I have to go home and my answer for the doctor was what other options do I have as I am not going home?

And the doctor replied saying well if you run  you risk your leg completely and I said okay, I’ll take the risk. Sometimes I will admit I like to take risks if it is okay. If you’re in a moment where you get an opportunity and you let that opportunity just pass you because you were unable to take a risk on it then you missed that opportunity. 

I thought I’m just going to keep going as I thought I may never get a chance to be at an Olympic Games again and this was my dream, I am 26 years old so I am just going to go for it and I made it all the way to the final. The only thing that I believe that stopped me medaling that year was the emotion, it was the pain of the injections into the bone to keep me running but it’s the emotion of feeling  I was so good and it was finally happening. I felt that I could finally get there and I lost. I couldn’t be a bronze medalist at 26. So that affected me. Everyone including all of you go through moments in life where you’re going to get challenged whether it is within your business life or your personal life relationships or how both of the two collide. Whether you choose to accept that challenge or choose to give up that is completely up to you. When I came fourth at that Olympic Games with a stress fracture I realised that I am actually alright and that is just my version of this story. I am sure many if not all of you have talents that you don’t truly believe are your talents but you need to realise your strengths and that you too are actually alright at what you do. 

It is because of this mindset I had of overcoming this stress fracture and wanting gold even more that I was ready for my next race, I knew I could do it. Even coming up to it I had an injury so I couldn’t train my hardest in the weeks coming up to the race and even as I was standing there getting ready to go I could feel it but I thought no have a little faith I can do this, stay focused. 

Unfortunately I wasn’t so lucky, on the third round I ended up tearing a ligament and tendon completely ruining my leg in an instant really. This for me was my biggest setback. I really thought my career was over in that instant, that I had essentially lost my dream. It was the determination in me and that fire in my belly that made me come back. I still had my Olympic dream after all. How I managed this to this day I don’t know I think it was out of sheer and utter focus and the inability to give up. I came back and won a silver medal at my next championship because I knew what I was doing, I was focused and I overcame my setbacks to go on to win gold at the Olympics. I achieved my dream.

Mental Health

In 2003 it was a tough time for me. I ended up going to a world championships at 33. At this time I was focused. I knew what I wanted to achieve. I was an ex military soldier. I had won a good few medals at this time, I was successful. That is why what came next I would never have expected to happen. I was in a training camp getting ready for the championships when it all came tumbling down. My world fell apart. I went into the bathroom of this apartment that I was sharing with my then training partner and coach. I couldn’t scream out because I didn’t want anyone to hear me but I was screaming inside because I was injured once again and I just felt like something was happening to me. I felt someone out there didn’t want me to achieve my dream. I looked into the mirror, tears streaming down my face and that is when I spotted a pair of scissors on the window sill. I picked up those scissors and started cutting myself for everyday I had been injured. That is not a good place to be in, I was screaming inside and there was blood coming down. At that moment I wanted the floor to just swallow me up. I didn’t want to see the next day because the next day just felt painful. I felt that I was in this dark cloud. I never expected this so I think it hit me hard, it hit me so hard but how could I tell anybody? How could I go out and say something when other people were focused on their dream? When they are all in the mindset of yes I am going to do it? I knew if I told my mother and my family they would tell me to go home. So I just didn’t tell anyone. The only conversation I had about it was when I was in the mountains in France. I decided to get a massage while I was there and I started crying while I was on the massage table and the masseuse thought she had hurt me. I had to tell her oh no no it is not you, I just have things going on. I will never forget what she said to me after that, she said ‘but you have not given up yet’. I still had the championships to train for but this was now happening everyday. I was going into the bathroom and cutting myself and there wasn’t many places I could cut myself as I was wearing shorts everyday but if the cuts could be seen I would cover them up with makeup. I hid them because I felt ashamed, weak and that no one would listen or understand and that everyone would judge me. What people forget though when I won that medal and I was standing at the championships with a silver medal around my neck just the night before I was lying in a heap on the floor. We all have the power to still push ourselves to our absolute limit but at some point we have to realise we can’t do it all on our own and that does not matter what level you are, who you are or what you do. The suicide rate is higher in men why? As we have this society where men feel they cannot talk as they will be perceived as un macho. Why is this the case? We all have suffered. We all have had hard times whether that is in your personal life or your business life. That is just you as a person having worries and lets face it life is tough. The moment people start to open up and talk, normalise conversation we will save a lot of lives and a lot of people. That is why I became an advocate for Mental Health as talking about it openly and honestly is what saves lives. 

Seize the moment

What people don’t really talk about is bereavement. No one really wants to though and that is why I still hear my heartbeat and I am aware I am on this stage in front of all of you because I am in the present now.  My mum died in 2017, she was only 17 years older than me and that was the worst day of my life ever. I am still cut up about it . The one memory I have of this awful awful process is her crying saying she was too young to die. She was 64 but it doesn’t matter what age you are, if you want to live you don’t want to die and that is why every moment, every breath you take is for you to live and be the best version of yourself. 

Destiny

I thought winning the Olympic Games was my destiny but I don’t believe that anymore I believe my entire journey including what I am doing now. I have been retired for 14 years now. I have had to reinvent myself all over again and find my purpose. I had to believe that I could still be successful in something else even though I had already reached the top. I had to start recognising signs of passion and had to find what meant something to me now. It has had it’s highs and lows like anything but I have started things I never thought I would’ve helped charities and my own foundation and the reason I started all of these and was able to was because of passion. I had to have belief in myself in order to do it and that is what I believe is my destiny now, to share, to care, to talk and to let people know it is okay to now be okay. 

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