Friday, 25 March 2011

Buck-ing the Trend


Already established as a key fixture on the GB 4x400m relay squad, Richard Buck finally burst into the spotlight as an individual earlier this month at the European indoor Championships in Paris, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 24-year-old City of York AC athlete stormed to continental 400m bronze in the French capital to capture his first international medal in the event before returning to team duties by anchoring Team GB to 4x400m silver in a magical weekend for the Yorkshire-man.

A seven-time national champion indoors and out over the same number of years, Buck credits his improved form to the fresh collaboration with coaches Kevin Tyler and Steve Fudge at his Loughborough base and offers his thoughts on a breakthrough 2011 indoor campaign:

“It’s all thanks to Kevin and Steve, they’ve changed me and how I run – their attention to detail on and off the track is second to none,” Buck explained.

“I joined them in September after carrying an Achilles injury for most of the summer so I forgot about Delhi (the Commonwealth Games back in October) to have a few injections to recover for the Euro’s.”

Step Forward

Fortunately, the sacrifice paid off in scintillating style as Buck progressed from only second-place in the British trial and third on the national season’s rankings with 46.38 to being crowed third in Europe.

“This season’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride,” revealed Buck.

“It’s been a big learning curve and we got it wrong a couple of times – before, I was worried the training load wasn’t coming off me, though we were confident I’d run well by Paris.

It was fantastic as I got exactly what I wanted - two medals.

The 400m rankings were so close but I’m pretty good at leading the race from early on and I had to ease back on the second lap when past experience allowed me to execute the race well.

It was a strange sensation of mixed emotions as I’d lost the silver I thought I had on the home straight but a medal is still fantastic for me - I’m absolutely delighted, it’s a huge step forward and I’m very happy and proud.”

Adding a second bronze to his collection, Buck is also keen to praise the strength of the relay team which took the same medal colour in the 2009 edition of the event:

“The relay was a little frustrating as it was so close – some teams had some lucky breaks but that’s indoor running,” he explained after running an impressive 46.0 split.

“We were really happy with silver but we know we’re capable of winning.

I’ve always loved being part of the relay squad – we’ve got such fantastic depth what with the four of us, Michael and Martyn (Bingham and Rooney, the European outdoor silver and bronze-medallists) and others – we’re all highly-competitive on the global level and though we’ve missed out on the big medals in previous years, we’re getting back into our grove now.”


Renowned as an indoor specialist, Buck sits at 15th on the UK all-time list courtesy of a 46.22 clocking from the 2007 season and is keen to replicate the form he has produced on the boards again this summer.

Having finished only eighth in the British Championships last July, the Leeds Metropolitan University sports coaching graduate is eager to return to the shape which saw him win the 2007 title in 46.13 – which is still his personal-best time to date.

Indeed, by heading off to Italy for a spell of warm-weather training with the UK

Athletics camp in May, Buck hopes to kick-start his summer campaign and finally improve upon his outdoor best.

Recording only 46.23 in an injury-plagued 2010 season, just a few months after collecting the national indoor title, Buck revealed:

“It was unfortunate that my body struggled with the load last year.

With no consistent training, I didn’t get going and wasn’t flowing but I was still pleased to finish the season after tearing my hamstring in 2009.

My coaches are aware I have a fragile frame so they put a lot of time in to ensuring I stay healthy.”


With Augusts’ World Championships in Daegu, South Korea the big focus of the summer,
Buck is equally aware how tough both the qualifying standard and level of competition for even a berth on the British squad will be.

As the ‘A’ qualifying mark is over half a second faster than his best, Buck is cautiously optimistic on his aspirations for both the global event and next summer’s key goal – the 2012 London Olympics:

“Realistically, I’m going to have to be on my game for the trials to even make the World’s,” he explained.

“I don’t imagine I will make it as an individual this year but I hope to make a big leap forward – the aim’s to make the relay team and we hope to medal.”

And with little under a year and half left to assert himself as an Olympic hopeful,

Buck intends to further progress beyond his new-found international status:

“It’s brilliant we’ve got the Games - I’m a Yorkshire-man who likes to stay at home so it’s good,” he revealed.

“I saw in Paris how the home crowd support really boosts the performances.

I want to make the individual final so I hope to take half a second off this year and again next year – that would be amazing and as far as the relay goes, we want a medal and to cause an upset.

2012’s all I let myself think about – it would be unfair to the fans and everyone if I didn’t give it 110%.”

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Medal-Miss Jackson


She missed the championship podium on no less than four occasions last year so 800m runner Emma Jackson has been working hard to ensure she grabs the silverware on the track this summer, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 22-year-old City of Stoke athlete enjoyed a breakthrough 2010 campaign, though her performances were tainted after finishing behind the medals in fourth in the same number of key events.

Based in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Jackson started her promising yet unlucky run of form in the European Team championships for Team GB followed by the European trials and UK championships, the English championships and finally, on her major competition debut as a senior – just outside of the medals again in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last October.

Although slightly disappointed with these performances, the Keele University accountancy graduate had made significant advances, most notably, a second-and-a-half 800m lifetime best mark of 2:00.46 in India to place – you guessed it, fourth on the British senior rankings for the year.

“I got so much confidence from last summer and it was such a big breakthrough,” Jackson explained.

“After Delhi, which I loved so much, I want to go to more major championships. I’ve now got more self-belief and it’s whetted my appetite.

Not getting any medals showed I wasn’t ready mentally but I won’t make that mistake again this year. I know I can’t keep improving at the same rate so I would like to become more consistent around two-minutes and hopefully get under it.”


Keen to move on from her season of near-misses, Jackson is currently pulling out all the stops to ensure a be-medalled summer lies ahead.

Having recently withdrawn from a teacher training course to become a full-time athlete, the 2007 European junior silver-medallist is already feeling the benefits ahead of a big outdoor season:

“Training’s going really well because having the time to train twice a day makes such a difference,” she revealed.

“It’s a great lifestyle – training, eating, sleeping and I love to travel – I usually run better if I have to go away and I’m feeling quite excited about racing this summer.”

The Staffordshire athlete is currently running around 50-60 miles per week in an effort to build a solid endurance base for the summer and bypassed the indoor season to tackle some cross-country races.

Having finished eighth in the Midland championships, the four-time national age-group champion is next heading off to Portugal in April for a spell of warm-weather training in order to hone her speed before racing again.


Mentored by double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, Jackson will be working on her 800/1500m form in anticipation of another impressive summer.

With times of 56.0 and 4:15.3 for the 400m and 1500m, respectively, the long-striding runner wants to first prove to herself over the metric mile before concentrating on her specialist event from late May onwards:

“The big target’s the World trials and UK championships (in Birmingham) at the end of July,” Jackson revealed.

“I’m hoping I can improve as much as I did last year so the World’s (in Deagu, South Korea in August) could be in my sights.

My event’s so strong so I can never relax – if you’re top three in Britain, you know you can do well in major championships.”

With aspirations of running sub-two-minutes, Jackson remains modest and grounded on her chances of realising her Olympic dream in London next year:

“I’d absolutely love to be there – it would be such an amazing feeling to run in front of your home crowd.

It’s quite exciting as a lot can happen over the next year or so - I’m still really young so I have to be realistic. I’d love to qualify and will give it everything I’ve got.”

One thing for certain in the countdown to summer 2012 though, is that this young woman is definitely now a ‘fourth to be reckoned with’.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Hungry for More


After finishing an agonising fourth at the European indoor championships last weekend, 800m runner Andrew Osagie is determined to step in to the limelight this summer, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 24-year-old from Essex was in the form of his life in the countdown to the continental championships, running an impressive 1:46.59 life-time best and a near-miss of the British 1,000m record but the two-lap specialist just missed out on a medal in Paris with his 1:48.50 clocking.

The performance was a stand-out achievement for the athlete who had never before reached a senior championship final yet Osagie was left hungry for more.

Punching the padded barrier in frustration in the aftermath of the final, the black-belt in karate explained:

“I think most of the people that watched the final could see that I was absolutely gutted as I like to leave it all on the track and do the best I can at the time and I did but it wasn't enough.

This season almost went to plan with the European selection and the personal best times and for these reasons, I can't be too disappointed, however, finishing 4th in the European final leaves me so hungry for the outdoors now.”


Guided by Craig Winrow at his St Mary’s University base in London, Osagie, overall enjoyed a superb 2011 indoor campaign.

Starting the season with third-place in the Aviva International in Glasgow, the Harlow AC runner went on to collect second spot at the UK indoor Championships and European trials in Sheffield before speeding to third on the British all-time list for the rarely-run 1,000m with 2:18.56 in Birmingham.

The 2010 UK indoor champion then capitalised on his fine form by recording his fastest ever indoor 800m mark in Stockholm three days later, to shoot to sixth on the national all-time rankings in a season which more than made up for a disappointing summer:

“In 2010, I did have a very positive indoor season after just missing out on the final at the World indoor Championships in Doha but I came away from it with a niggling injury which persisted well into May so my outdoor season was looking a bit hampered,” Osagie revealed.

“I started training and things were going well until I got a stress response in my left foot which was a recurring injury I've had for the last few years.

By the time I was back running again, it was July and deep into the outdoor season so I missed the European outdoor Championships (in Barcelona).

However, I managed to run quick enough to be selected for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India but it seemed to be heartbreak again as I missed out on the final by one place.

This was a very low point for me but the anger of this spurred me on to train hard for 2011.”


Despite the below-par, injury-ravaged outdoor season, Osagie managed to register a big 1:46.41 life-time best in Italy in September to place fourth of the 2010 rankings and is looking forward to a bright summer following his encouraging winter.

Living in Teddington with a group of international athletes in a house funded by the Virgin London Marathon, Osagie explained:

“At the moment, I guess there are a group of us who are fighting to be in the top two or three in Britain and the best for years now has been Michael Rimmer who I’m sure will have no problems with me saying I am gunning for him this season as long as I'm in one piece.”

After failing to progress beyond the heats of the 2009 European under23
Championships in Lithuania, Osagie is now evidently a different athlete and such is his rate of progression, he can allow himself to be confident ahead of the 2012 Olympics on home-turf:

“My aims for 2012 are to get there injury free!” he revealed.

“I feel 100% certain that if I don't have any problems between now and then, I will have a good chance of making the Olympic team.

I want to run personal bests every season and just build up my experiences until one day I'm considered one of the best runners in the world - I think that's what every athlete strives for.

I've got my eye on a few times, records and medals but have never wanted to and will never limit myself because anything could happen.”

And with a refreshed hunger for success, the sky certainly is the limit for this promising young athlete.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Globe-Trotting Cohen


Series: England Athletics national volunteer award-winners

Services to Officiating – Chris Cohen.

Nicola Bamford profiles the winner of the 2010 Services to Officiating award from the England Athletics national volunteer awards ceremony last autumn.

Chris Cohen was born to be an athletics official. As early as aged nine, he would organise high jump competitions for the children in his neighbourhood, using canes and clothes pegs to hold the bar in place – officiating some might say, is his natural habitat.

A club-level high, long and triple-jumper in his youth, Cohen took his love for the sport into teaching in the early 70’s and taught for over thirty years, such was – and still is – his passion to educate others.

Around the turn of the Millennium, he left the teaching system, explaining:

“I was fortunate to be elected Chairman of English Schools in 2000 but I knew I had come towards the end when the new Head-teacher announced himself to me in the school playground as a former county sprinter whom I had coached while he was at school!”


Keen to use his new-found spare time for good, Cohen went onto coach two-time World long-jump champion Fiona May and his most recent accolade is testament to the years of establishing himself as one of the world’s finest, well-travelled officials.

“It was a real surprise to be considered for the (England Athletics) award,” Cohen explained.

His shock confirms the modesty of a man who has achieved so much in a voluntary career spanning more than two decades.

His officiating days took off, quite literally, with a trip to Seoul for the 1988 Paralympics, where he Cohen was asked to educate the officials on how to run the athletics competition:

“I was the only person who knew the rules of all the disabilities so that meant I had to travel out to Korea six months before the Games to teach the three-hundred plus officials,” Cohen revealed.

“I was appointed Technical Delegate for the Games, a task I performed at each of the next five Paralympics.”

Working on the Paralympic stage on five occasions is an honour Cohen understandably holds dear and further emphasising his authority in the field, he was elected Chairman of the International Paralympic Committee – a post he held until retiring after the 2008 Beijing Games.

“This was partly due to the fact that I had been in that position for nearly twenty years but also because we were to stage the next Games in London and I wanted to be involved more closely, which I could not do as an international post holder,” explained Cohen on the forthcoming 2012 extravaganza.

His duties in the post ranged from being responsible for the management of the sport and its technical progress to the staging of wheelchair and disability exhibition events at IAAF World championships and Olympic Games between 1988 and 2007:

“One of the areas that were fairly obvious from the beginning of my time in disability athletics was the lack of knowledge and understanding of both the rules and how to stage competitions, so these were priorities from the outset,” Cohen revealed.

Leading seminars all over the globe and acting as Chairman of the Jury of Appeal as late as 2008 in Beijing, Cohen at the time, combined his efforts with his work in raising standards in UK official’s education, which resulted in him chairing the track and field and endurance Officials’ Education groups:

“Along with a dedicated group of senior officials from all disciplines and all parts of the UK, this has led to a new system of education and training for all our officials, including school and university students who can achieve a Young Officials award,” explained Cohen.

“The next step for this system is to take as much as possible of it online so that candidates can learn at home rather than have to wait until there are courses available for them to attend.”


Since retiring from the IPC in 2008, Cohen has been involved in a project for Manchester University’s School of Business as part of their World Academy of Sport through writing an online resource to teach officials around the world the rules of Paralympic athletics.

“I enjoy officiating at all levels of the sport, from helping at my local club, Derby, through to national and international level,” Cohen revealed.

Though when asked to pinpoint his favourite memories, he names watching the men’s World championship long-jump final in Tokyo between Carl Lewis and Mike Powell and Cathy Freeman’s 400m victory in the Sydney 2000 Olympics as his top two.

“I also enjoy officiating at combined events competitions at any level, especially schools events because the athletes are together for the whole day or two days and work together to support one another and, again, enthusiastic officials can make a real difference to the outcome for the athletes,” explained Cohen.

At present, Cohen is a newly-qualified IAAF International Technical Official – a role which he participated in at the World junior championships in Canada last summer - after spending four years as an Area Technical Official for European Athletics:

“As an ATO, I was fortunate to be appointed as Chief ATO at the European Indoor Championships in Turin in 2007 as well as the European Team Championships in Munich,” Cohen revealed.

“In a few weeks time I will be in Paris for the European Indoor Championships as an ATO, have also been appointed as Technical Delegate for the European Youth Olympic festival in Turkey this year and I have just been appointed as the Technical Delegate for the 2014 European Championships in Zurich.”

Honoured with a CBE in the 2010 New Year’s honours list for his work in sport, it is little wonder that this globe-trotting official with such vast expertise, experience and respect, has been recognised by England Athletics – long may his adventures continue.

Going the Extra Mile


Alfa Romeo Cuore Sportivo (Sporting Heart) Coach Award – Peter Meredith.

In the series profiling winners of recent awards, Nicola Bamford spoke to the 2010 Alfa Romeo coaching award winner – Peter Meredith.

Selected from over 14,000 athletics coaches nationwide, 68-year-old Meredith not only won the prestigious honour but also a years’ use of a brand new Alfa MiTo in recognition of his commitment and dedication to the sport in forty-five years of service.

In an impressive collection of roles spanning the past five decades, Meredith’s latest recognition is well-deserved in light of both the sacrifices and achievements in his coaching history.

Travelling over one hundred and fifty miles each week to coach a forty-strong group of young middle-distance runners in Cornwall, Meredith revealed:

“I have to say I was really excited at getting the UK Athletics/Alfa Romeo award.

The car is great and I enjoy retelling the story of how I won it! I'm really pleased for all my athletes and fellow coaches and officials at Cornwall AC.

I travel twice a week to Carn Brea (which is a seventy-five mile round trip) to coach, and much further afield at weekends for local and national events - I once kept a separate log of my miles done for athletics and it came out at 14,028 in a year! - But I love every minute of it.”

A member and coach at the club since 1994, Meredith prides his athletes’ success as based on the ‘fun factor’ – even organising the occasional relay in funny hats and costumes, with a Mars Bar for a baton:

“My first requisite is that they enjoy themselves,” Meredith explained.

“I firmly believe that if they have talent and, above all, enjoy what they are doing, they will succeed.”

Previously a member of Reading AC, Tipton AC and Dudley and Stourbridge, Meredith has to date guided six England or English schools junior internationals and among his group of young athletes, can boast:

Jordon West, the 14-year-old who won the English Schools 800m and in so, doing set an all-time British age best ahead of Coe, Cram and Ovett, Connor Robinson, winner of the County, South West, English and British Schools Cross-Country Championships, all in his first year of competition and currently ranked first over five-miles and 10k and Helen Glover, a former England junior international who recently won silver at the World Rowing Championships.

In previous years, Meredith enjoyed coaching relationships with Olympic marathoner Liz Yelling, European 3,000m steeplechase fourth-placer Hatti Dean and former internationals Juliet Doyle, Heidi Hoskin and Helen Pearson.

Sixth himself in the European over-fifty 10km road championships in the mid-nineties, Meredith also had a hand in the careers of Michaela Breeze, a former 800-metre runner who represented Wales and GB at the Olympics at weightlifting and Annie Vernon, who gave up long-jumping to pursue rowing and is a current World Champion and Olympic silver-medallist.

But his coaching expertise and talents were not only reserved for elite athletes.

He began his foray into athletics back in 1965 as part of his first teaching job in Berkshire at a small boarding school, where he ran the athletics clubs twice a week and provided half the county intermediate boys team, despite a class of only twelve in his first year on the job.

Evidently with a knack for growing talent, Meredith’s teaching and coaching careers suffered a setback in 1973 when he was suddenly diagnosed with a detached retina:

“One minute I was in school, the next in hospital with a subsequent eight- hour operation,” he revealed.

“Thankfully, everything went well but I had convinced myself that I wouldn't be able to run again and then helped found Bridgnorth AC. Luckily, I did get back to running, and have done ever since.”

From 1978 after joining another school in Cornwall, Meredith’s coaching had become less of a hobby and more of a second job:

“I was on the Cornwall Schools Athletic Association board for many years, several as Chairman, did a short stint on the ESAA, and have helped stage both the Schools cross-country International and the British veteran’s International,” Meredith explained.

Having retired from teaching in 1994, Meredith still runs regularly but hasn't raced for a couple of years:

“I twice missed the England veteran’s cross-country team by just two places, so still have ambitions - roll on seventy!”

It is this very drive and passion for the sport which has helped this popular coach, quite literally, go that extra mile.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Leap of Faith


Having under-performed over the past two years, British high-jumper Tom Parsons has finally hit peak form just in time for the first of two important events in the countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 26-year-old Birchfield Harrier has won five of the past six competitions this season and will go to the European indoor championships in Paris next weekend as a medal contender after jumping his highest height since the 2008 Beijing Games.

Registering an impressive 2.31m in Sheffield when taking the UK title earlier this month, the West-Midlands athlete extended his lead in the national rankings to 6cm and leapt to fourth on the all-time British list in the process.

Guided by Fuzz Ahmed at their Birmingham and Loughborough bases, Parsons has jumped higher than his 2010 2.28m best in half of his competitive appearances so far in his 2011 campaign and despite a blip at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham last weekend - where he won with a height of only 2.21m – he is still confident of performing well in France.

“For once, I’ll be going into a championship as a medal contender and I feel I can really push on,” Parsons explained.

“There will be a world-class field in Paris, what with the Russians and a few others, so there will be around eight of us challenging for the medals.

I’ll need to jump well to even make the final and maybe around 2.28m to get a medal. I’d also like another PB and I now have peace of mind that I can deliver on the day.”


A sixteen-time national medallist across the past nine years, Parsons credits the part-time move to Loughborough to train alongside other elite high-jumpers and a change in his run-up as the key factors in his progression this winter.

Working with English champion Robbie Grabarz, who will make his senior international championship debut in Paris and British indoor bronze-medallist Matt Roberts, Parsons has also moved from an eight to ten-stride run-up in order to find a better rhythm before reaching the bar.

“This season’s gone almost to plan – I wanted to beat my personal best and to re-invent myself by getting over the injuries and finding a nice rhythm on my run-up,” revealed Parsons.

“The change is really helping me to get the consistency right and progress quite well.

I’ve been doing some psychological work with the British record-holder, Steve Smith (2.38, 1994) for help on my game plan.

I’m more focused and the quality of my training has improved.”

An avid Aston Villa fan, Parsons has suffered two years of frustration since placing eighth with 2.25m in the Olympic final three summers ago.

Missing out on selection for the 2009 World championships, he failed to progress beyond the heats of the World indoor championships in Doha (with 2.26m) at the start of 2010, no-marked in the European Championship final in Barcelona last summer and finished only fifth in the Commonwealth Games last autumn (with 2.23m).

“The low-lights were not jumping well in the finals of the two major championships last year,” Parsons explained.

“Though, I did quite well in the European trials and UK Championships and was happy with my first European Team Championship performance – coming second in both.

In Barcelona, I wasn’t getting the best out of myself and we were still chopping and changing my run-up in Delhi.

A six-stride run-up didn’t work and I was out of control but I’m now using my ability more and I’m feeling more comfortable.”


After tackling the continental championships, Parsons intends to train in the warmth of LA for a month and will then fly out to Italy to train with his group in preparation for the outdoor season.

With aspirations of improving on his tenth position from the 2007 global event, Augusts’ World championships in Daegu, South Korea will provide Parson’s main aim of the year and with several British men on his heels, the pressure is on even to qualify.

“Five or six of us are jumping qualifying times for championships and the standard’s been raised since Germaine (Mason) got silver in Beijing,” revealed Parsons.

“Martyn Bernard (European bronze-medallist), Samson Oni (UK number-one in 2010) and Robbie are jumping well, too but we’re all friends as the main rival is the bar.”

Indeed, the high-jump bar has not been too kind to him in the past but this year, Parsons hopes to finally break into world-class as he continues to chase his Olympic dream:

“My target is top-five in Daegu as I’ll need to do that if I want to medal in London,” Parsons explained.

“I don’t see why I can’t achieve that as I know I’m capable of jumping 2.35m – it’s all about raising my base level and winning as many competitions as possible for experience.”

With his major target only a little over five-hundred days away, Parsons will be keeping his fingers crossed that the changes he is making now will reap the rewards when it matters most next summer:

“My goal is to make the 2012 Olympic final and improve on eighth from Beijing,” he revealed.

“I’ll be in my prime then but it would also be good to make the team for Rio in 2016 – going to three Olympic Games would be a good achievement.”

Marathon Ambition


Having finally achieved a career goal of winning the English national cross-country title, Steve Vernon is now turning his attention to a new event, with the dream of making an Olympian impact next summer, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 30-year-old from Stockport claimed his biggest domestic victory to date a fortnight ago at the Staffordshire Alton Towers course, following a year with as many ups and downs as the said rollercoaster venue.

Winning by over twenty-seconds in mud-drenched conditions, Vernon’s success is even sweeter having succumbed to injury and illness in the previous two editions when placing second and third, respectively and after three attempts at just missing gold, his recent win has spurred a bold decision:

“I’m looking towards a marathon later this year and would be stupid not to have a go for 2012,” explained Vernon on his ambition to make the GB Olympic squad for London next summer.

“It would be really tough (to qualify) but you have to dream big.

It’s a slim chance as even the ‘B’ 2:16 qualifying standard is hard, a lot of good guys will be chasing selection and I haven’t even raced one yet but I hope to do well in the trial (in the London marathon next spring) and there would be nothing better than running in the Olympics in your own country.”


Although such goals may appear lofty for a marathon virgin, Vernon is quietly confident of being able to join Britain’s top 26.2-mile ranks in time for the biggest sporting event of the year next August.

With seven men registering times either around or below the qualifying mark in 2010, the Stockport Harrier is well aware of the stiff competition he will face for team spots but his current form shows an exciting potential, especially following double surgery in the past twelve months.

Coached by Dave Turnbull, Vernon impressive winter campaign comes off the back of a stomach operation in late 2009 to halt ongoing stitch problems and a procedure on his calf last autumn to no longer inhibit his foot-plant on hard surfaces:

“Although I missed the whole spring and summer, I’ve not been injured just managing some problems,” revealed an athlete who refuses to complain and moan.

Things have improved massively and I’m on the right track with the help from a fantastic team around me.”

A top junior over 3,000m in the late nineties, Vernon bounced back into the racing scene after eight months out last November and into fine form once he had blown away the cobwebs:

“I had the complete disaster at the European cross-country trials (placing twenty-fifth in Liverpool) following illness but I bounced back in Brussels (as top Briton)
running really well,” he explained.

“(The Bupa Great) Edinburgh International was a great performance for me (placing fourth and top Briton) but I ran like an idiot at the start of the Northern cross-country champs (eventually finishing runner-up).

Though, I knew the national would suit me – I’m a strong mud-runner and if you’re fit, there are no excuses.

I knew it was a tough course, as I’d ran there in 2008 (placing third) but I knew I’d have a good chance of winning if I ran well.

I wanted it badly and the national’s the event that goes down in history – it was such a big goal and to finally achieve it after putting so much pressure on myself, makes me want to win it again - it’s where everyone’s career has started.”


A full-time national participation manager for British Orienteering, Vernon will next target this weekend’s British inter-counties championship in Birmingham, where he may have a shot at making the squad for his sixth World cross-country event.

“It’s been hard to pick myself up again and I’ve not even read the selection criteria as all I can do is run my best – I’ll run to win or at least get a medal and making the GB team will be a bonus,” he revealed on the race in Spain later this month.

“It would be a fantastic achievement to go, as it’s the greatest race on earth but I’m taking it one step at a time.

The biggest thing for me is staying injury-free and for the first time in my life, I have been for nearly twelve months now.

I’ve been consistently running around 90-miles per week this winter – with work commitments, it’s hard to keep it over 100-miles but it’s about finding the balance.”

Forty-fifth in the 2003 edition, Vernon typically works nine till five hours and fits his double-day training around his role at the sport’s governing body:

“It’s great as it’s a running sport and I’m not sat behind the desk all day,” he explained.

“I really enjoy it and the flexibility is really good. The job means I can’t go warm-weather or high altitude training more than once a year but I have a great coach, training squad and environment at home.”


A two-time North of England cross-country champion, Vernon led Team GB to gold in the 2008 World Mountain Trophy in Switzerland with his thirteenth individual position and is intending on returning to his first love next season.

Rather than competing on the roads like most marathoners this summer, Vernon’s biggest aim will be the European mountain running championships in Turkey in July before tackling his marathon debut in the autumn:

“When I’ve focused on the mountains in past summers, I’ve had good results in the winter,” he revealed.

“I’ll still train on the roads – the mountain racing is just tough endurance training. Andi Jones (Britain’s number-two marathon runner in 2009) is a mountain runner so I know I can combine both.”

As yet undecided where his first marathon will be, Vernon is relishing the increase of mileage in his quest to achieve his Olympic ambition:

“It will be very, very hard but 2012’s not unrealistic,” he explained.

“I see myself running well for many more years as I still feel fresh after so many with breaks – maybe I’ll have to wait another four years (in Rio 2016) for my chance but I’m going to give it a good shot.”