This is Stuart Weir’s first part of the interview with Jess Warner-Judd, one of the most enduring and competitive middle-distance and long-distance runners on Team GB. 

Jess Warner-Judd is a runner. 

Jess Warner-Judd is a runner. She ran in the 800m in the 2013 World Championships, 2014 Commonwealth Games and European Championships, 1500m in the 2017 World Championships, The Fifth Avenue mile in 2017, various 3000m races, 5000m in the 2021 Olympics and 2022 World Championships, 10000m in the World Championships on 2022 and 2023, and the 2022 Commonwealth Games, a10K road-race in 2024, two half marathons not to mention the 2023 European Cross Country Championship. She is planning a Marathon next year. She said, with a laugh: “If I could do like world champs in all the distances, that would be pretty cool.” I think she likes running!

The British Women ‘s 5000m, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics.

It is all her dad’s fault! When she was growing up, he used to do 10Ks half marathons and then marathons. There was often a little fun run before the main thing for kids, and Jess used to go along and run in the fun run. I asked her when she realized it could be more than just for fun. She replied: “I’d say I probably didn’t realize it, but the people around me realized it quickly. I think it was when I was 10 and went to an Essex Cross Country League race, and we missed the under 13 girls’ race, so they put me in the under 15s, and I came round in 5th place.” A coach from the Thurrock Harriers club was watching and invited her to come and join the club. She recalls, “People then started to make a bit of noise and think that I might be alright, but I was just enjoying it. At that age, I never really thought about being good at it. I just enjoyed the feeling, so I just did it”.

In terms of her career, it was trying different events and seeing what seemed to suit her: “When I was an 800m runner, I definitely didn’t think I was going to keep going to the 10K and even possibly the marathon. I got nervous before the races and found the 800 was too short. I get so nervous about it, and it all comes down to positioning. I haven’t got that raw speed – like, I think I’m fast, but I watch someone like Keely Hodgkinson, and I would never be able to compete with her at all over 400. I decided I didn’t like having to front-run 800 all the time. I knew I had to try and run a 59 first lap and keep it going. That was the only way I would ever run a good 800. So I moved up to the 1500, and I enjoyed that”.

Jess Warner-Judd, the winner, photo by Getty Images for UK Athletics

She talked about how easily an 800m race could do wrong, that you could be in the shape of your life but make one wrong move if you haven’t got that raw speed to get back on it; the race was over. She switched to 1500m but now thinks that the 1500m has become more like the 800m. “The 1500 has got quicker and quicker. I realized I didn’t have quite the range and speed of some of the top ones. I’d like to go back to the 1500, to be honest, but I would never go back to the 800 ever”.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JULY 09: Jessica Warner-Judd of Blackburn competes during the Women’s 5000m during Day Two of the UK Athletics Championships at Manchester Regional Arena on July 09, 2023, in Manchester, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk – British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)

“Then I dabbled a bit in the 5K. I think the five is probably the one I enjoyed, at least: I don’t enjoy the 5K. When I first watched the Highgate Night of the 10Ks, I wanted to give that a go. And that was the real reason that I wanted to do the 10K because I wanted to compete at the Highgate event. And that was the one I fell in love with. So I just stuck at it. But it means I have to do 5Ks, which is sad because I don’t enjoy the 5K”.

In addition to her track career, she has done a couple of half marathons and plans to compete in the 10K in Paris and try a marathon in 2025. That has been planned for some time, but as it gets closer… “I’m starting to get a bit nervous. That’s why we’ve experimented a bit with the higher mileage this winter, and it’s been hard, but I’ve responded well to it. So, the fuelling strategies and things we’re improving are also. So I’d like to do that, but marathon running moved on, like all the other events. I do not assume that it’ll be easy to make teams. I know it’s going to be really hard. So I think if I want to go to it, I just need to be ready because I need to respect the distance and the people doing it. And in my head, I still want to do a marathon next year. But we’ll see”. But before that, there is qualifying for Paris and trying to better her eighth place in the Budapest World Championships, where 5 of the seven to beat her were East Africans.

Jess Warner Judd, photo by Getty Images for UK Athletics

In part 2, Jess assesses her 2023 season.

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