With improved strength and confidence, 800m runner Emma Jackson believes she can mix it with the best runners on the planet
You would never know it, but Emma Jackson has had one of her worst winters to date.
The Commonwealth fourth-placer suffered a freak injury in November last year, when she banged her knee on her front door while rushing out of the house. It bruised her kneecap, putting her out of action for six weeks.
In her rehab back from that, Jackson pushed her training a bit too hard, resulting in a strained calf and another few weeks on the sidelines.
“At that point I thought ‘oh no, that’s it for the year’,” Jackson told AW. “But I managed to come back from that really fit and ended up running two PBs in my first few races – God knows how!”
Earlier in May, Jackson finished fifth in the 800m at the Doha Diamond League, running a PB of 1:59.37 – comfortably inside the Olympic A standard. Just over a week later, she took a second off her 1500m PB with 4:11.54 in Loughborough.
“It’s a massive confidence boost to do that, and my coach said he’s learnt a lot about me as an athlete, we never knew I could get so fit off such little training,” said Jackson, who is coached by Alan Morris at Stoke AC. “It’s been a good learning curve for both of us.”
“The pressure is off because I’ve achieved the qualifying standard, and it’s such a relief to have done it in my first race.”
But in recent years the women’s 800m has been one of the most competitive events in Britain, and simply achieving the qualifying standard will not guarantee an athlete a place on the team.
A top-two finish at the Trials, however, will book your spot on Team GB. Having done that last year to gain selection for the World Championships in Daegu, where she finished fifth in her semi-final and was one of very few Brits to set a PB in the Korean city, Jackson is confident she can do it again.
“I loved Daegu so much,” said Jackson, who will turn 24 next week. “I wasn’t overawed, I just loved every second of it. To compete in the Olympics in my own country, I don’t think I could describe how amazing that would be.
“Last year I let Jenny control the race,” she added of last year’s Trials, where she finished just 0.20 behind former world bronze medallist Jenny Meadows. “I waited for her to kick, and in the end it was quite close between us but I look back and think ‘why didn’t I kick first, why did I let her make the first move?’ But that was just me being a bit young and inexperienced.”
With her first experience of competing at a global senior championships under her belt, Jackson now has a renewed approach to her races. No longer does she run the race of other athletes, waiting for them to make a move. Instead she races in a way that’s best for her, unafraid to mix it with the world’s best.
“I’ve definitely got a different mind-set now,” said Jackson, who will compete at the Diamond League in Rome tonight against the likes of Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo and former world champions Caster Semenya and Janeth Jepkosgei. “I’ve just got so much more belief that I can mix with the best. I wasn’t a million miles away from making the final in Daegu – I’m only 23, so with a bit more training under my belt I now believe I can be one of the best in the world.
“That change in mind-set has just put a whole other perspective in my training and racing,” added the 2007 European junior silver medallist. “I don’t think last year I’ve have had the belief to go to the front like I did in Loughborough. I now know how to race best to suit me, which is a new thing. Last year I was all over the place – I’d run everyone else’s race apart from my own. But now I’ve looked back and I know how to run for me and it’s really made a difference.”
Although Jackson is currently almost exclusively an 800m runner, she feels that her best chance of future success will be over the metric mile.
“The long-term plan is to move up to the 1500m eventually,” she revealed. “As a youngster my endurance wasn’t the best so it will take a while to build that up. When I’m ready and have got the endurance I need, then I’ll move up.
“I still think that I’ll always be able to run a really good 800m, but if I want to look at medals then I think it will be over 1500m.”