On the run with… Jonny Hay

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On the run with… Jonny Hay

Athletes compete in the South of England Athletics Association cross country championships at Parliament Hills Fields, London, UK, on 30 January 2016

Athletes compete in the South of England Athletics Association cross country championships at Parliament Hills Fields, London, UK, on 30 January 2016

It’s almost two months and a whole training cycle since Jonny Hay was last out running in north London

On that occasion, he put GB teammates and marathon regulars to the sword at the South of England Cross Country Championships on Parliament Hill.

Tonight, it’s a mere thirty-five minute steady run along the streets around Regent’s Park promoting his funny-looking (but remarkably comfortable) Hoka One One shoes.

Despite the constant niggles that keep cropping up in places he didn’t even know existed, everything remains on course for Jonny’s marathon debut in London, now just three weeks away.

With a melting pot of established names and marathon newcomers, including Scott Overall, Chris Thompson and Callum Hawkins, coming to the boil for the Olympic showdown, just how it all pans out is anybody’s guess – though Jonny’s game plan is certain.

‘I’m not going to run London as a time trial. I’m going to treat it as a championship race and aim to finish in the top-two.’

Whatever the preamble as we pick up the pace down Albany Street, Jonny is positively effusive about racing on the roads and returning to the capital again in April.

‘Despite the constant niggles that keep cropping up in places he didn’t even know existed, everything remains on course for Jonny’s marathon debut in London, now just three weeks away’

The National Cross Country champion has managed to marry the extra marathon workload and success on the mud this season with confident performances on the road, including an almost-ten-minute victory at the Bramley 20 in February and a second-place finish at the Bath Half Marathon last month.

With his short, bouncy rhythm clipping comfortably along around the inner circle at Regent’s Park, Jonny reveals the inner circle of coaches and advisors that have guided his step up to the marathon so far.

‘London has been in my thoughts since last February,when UKA got in touch and asked whether I’d consider it.

‘Those conversations helped sow the seed and it was after speaking to Mick [Woods] and my first coach, Martin McCarthy, who ran 2.11 for the marathon himself, that I decided I wanted to do it.

‘The last person who offered advice was Paula [Radcliffe]. She gave me some tips on training and how to approach the distance and we’ve taken it all on board.’

But while he’s stepping up in race distance, the twenty-four year-old is quick to caveat that it’s not all just miles, miles, miles.

‘With a range that stretches from 1.49 for 800m to 64.09 for half marathon, who would bet against Jonny turning a successful hand to the marathon distance too?’

Making the move up already doesn’t seem as reckless as it once might have, particularly in the wake of Callum Hawkins’ efforts in Frankfurt last October and the fact he’s still very much training like a 10k runner.

Clocking 80-90 miles per week, with group track sessions at AFD and longer solo runs ran at around 6-minute miling, Jonny’s focus is very much on quality over quantity. But that doesn’t make the occasional 2.40-kilometre or 56-second 400 in the middle of a session any less impressive to hear.

‘My longest run has been 26.2 miles, which Martin suggested, just to do the whole distance and be mentally prepared for hitting the wall. I rolled round in 2.37.’

But surveying the city picture at the top of Primrose Hill, Jonny assures us he isn’t turning his back on the track or shorter distances after London – his hat is already in the ring for the Olympic 10,000m trials in mid-May.

With a range that stretches from 1.49 for 800m to 64.09 for half marathon, who would bet against Jonny turning a successful hand to the marathon distance too?

‘It’s a chance to rest and recover; to relax and absorb, safe in the knowledge that the training is done’

Combining work with his Olympic ambitions has proved to be a help rather than a hindrance towards his Olympic ambitions.

Pointing out towards Waterloo in the distance, Jonny’s got a fourty-five minute train ride back to Farnham this evening – a trip he’s well-acquainted with in his role as a risk management analyst in the City two days a week.

The flexbility he’s afforded also ensures he arrives at each training session in positive physical and mental condition.

As we dodge pedestrians down Parkway to finish, the Birmingham University graduate is looking ahead to his pre-taper trip to Barcelona over the Easter weekend. It’s a chance to rest and recover; to relax and absorb, safe in the knowledge that the training in the two months since his runaway victories at Parliament Hill and Donington Park is done.

Words by Christopher Rainsford
This article appears in the second edition of Left Spike from April 2016