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Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu launches book club aimed at sharing relaxing power of reading

Christine Ohuruogu launches Track Changes book club (Blueprint)
Christine Ohuruogu launches Track Changes book club (Blueprint)

Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu has said reading was key in helping her escape stress in her athletics career and is now encouraging others to pick up a book.

The former 400m runner, who won gold at Beijing 2008 and silver at London 2012, has also written two children’s novels and has this month launched book club Track Changes.

“I was always reading as an athlete,” she told the Standard. “It was really a chance for me to settle my brain somewhere else. It’s great to put your mind somewhere else and get out of your own narrative into someone else’s.”

The east Londoner, who also won World Championship gold in 2007 and 2013, said her finals were often not until 10pm which left a lot of time for hanging around.

The MBE holder said: “I was always very specific about the kind of book I would take with me, it was quite a process in selecting a book for a championship.

Christine Ohuruogu with what she holds dear: Her Olympic medals and a pile of books (Christine Ohuruogu)
Christine Ohuruogu with what she holds dear: Her Olympic medals and a pile of books (Christine Ohuruogu)

“It would usually be a novel. I didn’t want something with too much thinking, I would want something that is quite light but also it would be something that I know I would want to keep reading… It can’t be too frivolous!”

Ohuruogu said she grew up reading sports autobiographies but felt athletics would be “perfect” material for a novel and saw a gap in the market.

Her two Camp Gold series novels, Running Stars and Going for Gold, were published in 2012 and 2015 respectively and aimed at young readers.

She said: “Reading has helped me in many ways and to me it’s important to get young people to read, I grew up reading and I really felt there was a need for that.

“As a kid I used to travel for one hour and I used to sit and read on the train for the whole hour. That’s what I was known for doing… I wasn’t very cool, but it’s fine, you know, I became an Olympic athlete!”

Since retiring in 2017, the 39-year-old has pursued a career as a lawyer and also helped mentor GB 400m runners Matt Hudson-Smith and her younger sister Victoria Ohuruogu.

But reading has never been far from her thoughts and describes having four books on the go at any time - usually non fiction for the morning and a novel before bed.

She launched Track Changes book club on World Book Day 2024 and will review one book per month on her Instagram and TikTok (both are @trackchangesbookclub).

The club is aimed at children and adults. She will invite discussion and answer questions as well as encouraging followers to read the same book.

Ohuruogu will also promote the project in local schools and the University of East London.

The March book will be A Girl’s Guide to Being Fearless by Sue Lavington and Dr Andy Cope.

Following months will see her review: The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager by Dr Andy Cope and Amy Bradley, Einstein Penguin by Iona Rangeley, and Fitter, Healthier, Happier by Joe Wicks.

Ohuruogu added: “Life is now so distracting that to sit and read can actually be hard work.

“Sitting and doing nothing… I really try to tell myself that if I am not reading I would probably be flicking through my phone and that is worse.

“But I always look forward to reading.”