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Jonny Mellor – Q&A

All your questions answered by our athlete ambassador, Jonny Mellor… 

Jonny has a marathon personal best of 2:10:03 and was the British Marathon Champion in 2020. He finished in sixth place for Team England at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games marathon and captained the GB and NI team at the World Athletics Road Running Championships in 2023.

What are your main goals for this year?

Tough one! After the disappointment of missing the Olympic QT, I really need to find a new goal to work towards, as this has been my main focus and fuel over the past 8 years or so now. I still think I can run inside 2:09:00 for the marathon and I have my eyes on the Liverpool Harriers club record of 61:39 for the half marathon but otherwise my main goal is to continue enjoying my running and having fun racing. Cheesy I know, but sometimes we can take it for granted.

What do you see yourself accomplishing in the next 5 years?

I’d like to continue to run well into my late 30s and maybe even see where the body is at when I turn 40 with regards having a go at the British v40 marathon record. Trying to win as many races as I can and do a bit more travelling to race.

How do you balance your training with family life?

My life has changed a lot in the past 14-months in terms of balancing training and family along side work. We’re a lot more flexible as to when we run (my wife also runs) so we often run at different times throughout the day rather than having a set routine that we stick to like we have had previously. Structure and routine is important, but my life is a little different now and the flexibility has now become more important. Often we’ll make a decision in the morning when we wake up who runs first, it might not be textbook but we’re making it work for us. It’s just one big relay with a 1 year old as the baton essentially. Having the use of the Noble Pro has also been a life saver, being able to run on the treadmill while Evie is in her bouncer or similar has been essential to being able to maintain high training levels over the past year.

What is your greatest achievement?

Running 2:09:06 at 37 is up there! Also, finishing one-two with my long term training partner Ross Millington at Manchester Marathon. But probably finishing as first Brit at the Elite only London Marathon in 2020. More because of what went into that run during the build up, preparing during a pandemic and battling tough conditions on the day.

How many times a week do you do weight training? Do you phase this with your running?

Twice a week normally and yes I’ll taper the weight training as my mileage increases when I enter key marathon blocks. This is partly by design, partly driven by fatigue (and a loss of love for the gym over the years being 100% honest!!) However, as I get older, strength training is important, so it’s a goal of mine to maintain strength training and make it a more key part of my weekly training plan over the coming years.  

What is your favourite work out?

I love progressive long runs. I just enjoy the feeling of pushing the pace and turning the screw over the duration of a long run as I think this also most closely mimics the demands of the final stages of a marathon too. Nothing can quite prepare you for how the final 5km of a marathon feels, but this is about as close as you can get! 

Do you follow a special diet plan or do you eat with the family?

Not specifically, I eat a healthy balanced diet, which like many people could be better. I have a sweet tooth and could definitely eat more fruit and veg, but life is about balance and it’s important to get the calories in for some extra fuel for the fire. My close friends sometimes call me Mr Beige, hopefully this is based on my diet and not personality! 

If you could race against anyone who would it be, and why?

I’d love to race against Geoff Smith, who competed in a very different era to me for the same club. Geoff had club records from 3,000m up to the marathon and I’d love to have raced against him as he certainly knew how to win races. (Geoff won Boston in 1984 and 85 before I was even born!) 

Do you cross train and if so how often / what do you do?

Only when injured. I used to do a lot of swimming in my teenage years and early 20’s but not very often now. I’ve never been a lover of the bike, I think it’s partly because I associate it with injury and not being able to run.

Do you prefer loop runs or out and back?

Loops all day!

Is it important to vary the gradient of hill repeats?

I think variety is important yes, when running hill intervals I like to run on a variety of inclines as long as they’re ‘runnable’. If it’s too steep I think I change the way I run too much and I lose some turnover. I have a few hills locally that are my go to hill sessions, each slightly different in terms of incline.

What do you believe is one of your weaknesses and how are you looking to improve it?

Early in my career it would have been my head and mindset, Steve Vernon my former coach was huge in helping with this and managing my head better. Now it’s being smart and not pushing too hard. I’m still guilty of this, despite telling others daily through coaching not to do it. I could also improve in the gym as this one area that I’ve not been consistent enough with in the past year. Diet also could be improved, that’s three!

What strengths do you believe you have that make you such a good athlete?

I am resilient and have learnt to over come set backs over the years. I’ve always had to work hard for my success, never been naturally the most gifted and that’s something I’m really proud of.

Any words of wisdom for those starting their running journey?

Enjoy it! Too many times over the early years of my career I put too much pressure on myself. Focus on the process and not the outcome. Always be humble and never take being able to run for granted!

What are your hobbies outside of running?

Football, watching Liverpool, walking my dog (Buncus) and spending time with the family. I’d love to say there was more, but there’s not much else going on in the life of a marathon runner in all honesty.

Is there a coach or athlete you look up to as a role model?

Both Steve Vernon and Ross Millington, but also Geoff Smith from my club who set such a high benchmark for future generations at Liverpool Harriers. 

What age did you start competing and when did you realise how good you were?

It was always involved in both football and swimming growing up and it wasn’t until I started secondary school and started running a bit more cross country that I realised I was ‘pretty good’ at this. I was never dominant as a junior and just making the county team was always considered a success never mind doing anything on a national basis. I stopped playing football after the u16 season and started running more during this phase. 

Races would take priority over football matches, but I didn’t have any real structure or knowledge of what I was doing at the time. It wasn’t until I moved to Liverpool Harriers when I was 17 then I started taking running seriously and racing on the track more. I was really fortunate to start working with Dave Evans when I was around 21 and Dave changed me from being a good athlete to an athlete that could compete on the national level. Here I won University titles and u23 Championships over 5,000m and alongside some good training partners I was able to develop at Liverpool Harriers eventually turning ‘pro’ when I signed for New Balance and moved over to Team New Balance Manchester and this is when I realised I was ‘good’. 

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