What’s driving Rose Davies?

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Meet the 22-year-old balancing running and life

Editor’s Note: This feature is brought to you by New Balance, and their new Fresh Foam X 1080v12. The 1080 has long been a staple in Rose’s shoe rotation, mainly for her base mileage and long run days. She says they’re “extremely cushioned yet very responsive – my new favourite everyday running shoe. The v12 are soft underfoot but sturdier than the V11s, and I love the change in heel counter. I wear the 1080v12s every day as my main jogging shoe!”

Rose Davies could be Australia’s brightest new track talent – but it’s her mind, as much as her legs, that carries her.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that in Rose Davies we may be witnessing one of the most promising starts to a professional athletics career from an Australian in the modern era. In an age where nothing is shocking, and we view the world through a series of 15-second videos, the past 18 months of Rose Davies’ career have been nothing short of spectacular.

In January 2021 she won her first national title, taking out a surprise win over 10,000m and putting her name on the map for a lot of Australian running fans. Still, without the auto qualifying time Davies was no lock for a Tokyo berth in the 10,000m. Davies then spent the middle part of the year training and racing in Europe, running a 15:08.48 in Nijmegen to bag the Olympic qualifier in the 5,000m.

After competing in the Tokyo Olympics in the 5,000m and finishing 18th in the world, Davies returned to her coastal home in Newcastle for a well-earned break and to reset for 2022. So far this year she has defended her 10,000m national title, won a hilly 10k road race in Hobart against a quality field, won the national 3,000m title and achieved the qualifying standard for the World Championships in the 5,000m after running a PB of 15:07.49.

In itself, this list of achievements would make for a solid career. But with Davies only turning 22 in December 2021, it’s clear there’s a lot more to come. And just as the media usually focuses on Davies’ results, we can fall into a trap of seeing athletes, especially distance runners, as robots pre-programmed to run a certain pace. We speak of their times and accolades as if they’re personality traits, and we forget that, like all of us, athletes are juggling doubts, fears, other interests, anxieties and more.

“I’m a young adult loving what I do and everything that may promise. Having said that, and with running being my focus, I’m an athlete that needs balance.”

Rose Davies

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So while, yes, we should celebrate the physical abilities of a young athlete (after all, to be competing against and beating more experienced professionals is remarkable), it’s the mental application, the maturity and the decision making that I find compelling.

To win championship-style races you have to be more than fast; you have to be disciplined, you need to have guile, and you need to know what your competitors are going to do before they do.

For Rose, the key to winning is staying relaxed.

Championship-style races just suit me, I think. I enjoy the tactical side of things and it keeps a race interesting, versus just running to the clock.

When I was younger, I would get really stressed out in races if I wasn’t in the right position or my race didn’t go to plan. I think now I approach races with a more relaxed attitude which has helped me improve.

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Away from the thousands of kilometres she runs every year, Rose Davies has a whole other life. She is a daughter, and a friend. Like all of us, she is so much more than just a runner. Most 22-year-olds are just finishing university or an apprenticeship, or starting to make their way in life. Very few are living out of suitcases, practising a life of discipline and navigating high-pressure situations where a few seconds either way can mark your season a success or a failure.

So what is it that keeps Rose Davies in running? Beyond the simple answer of being prodigiously talented, what does running mean to her?

Running has always been a part of my life and it’s something that I genuinely love to do. Running has taken me to some amazing places that I don’t think I would have been to … Travelling through Europe last year while most people were at home in lockdown was a pretty unique experience.

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Of course, Davies’ passport is fuller than most 22-year-olds’, and travel provides a great opportunity for young people to experience different cultures and perspectives, but I get the sense Davies didn’t need a world tour to help her grow up. The Rose Davies I’ve interviewed and photographed plenty of times, dating back to when she was just 19, has always presented as mature and considered.

So I’m not surprised to hear her talk about the life skills she’s learned through growing up in running.

I think, in particular, the resilience you have to develop with training and competing can be applied to all other areas of life. The idea that things don’t always go to plan and you have to deal with disappointment, then adapt and readjust. Those are typical experiences for everyone, but I draw on running to help me reset, stay calm and logically know there will be a way out. It’s about being patient, thinking and planning your way out of a situation.

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There’s no doubt that it’s a good time to be Rose Davies. Olympian, national champ, professional athlete for New Balance – the list goes on. I wonder if Davies ever lets her mind wander and think what the next decade may hold. It’s not crazy to suggest she could still be competing on the track at the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, perhaps followed by a move to the roads to extend her career. As much as I try to get Davies to dream like a kid, her feet remain firmly grounded.

I’ve learnt that projecting too far ahead is not where I need to set my headspace. Paris would be the ‘next ultimate’ but so many small steps and experiences sit between now and then. I’m in a period of consolidation. Times, consistency [and] learning how to be competitive amongst world class athletes are all the balls in the air for me. Combine that with uni and maintaining friendships within and outside of running, these are all part of the plan.

I’m a young adult loving what I do and everything that may promise. Having said that, and with running being my focus, I’m an athlete that needs balance.

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So yes, we are seeing the makings of a stellar career, and I’ve got no doubt that in 2022 Rose Davies will add more highlights to an ever-growing hype reel. But it’s also worth remembering that at the age of 22, Davies has a lot going on. Is that a cop out? A ready-made excuse for when a race goes poorly? No, it’s merely to say that, while the results are impressive, there are a lot of other reasons Rose Davies deserves your kudos. That said, I’ve got a feeling she’ll be fine either way.

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