The 2:31 marathoner has endured injuries, a bike crash and a kidney stone problem but remains focused on the London Marathon

Since running a marathon PB of 2:31:00 in London last year to qualify for the World Championships in Doha, luck has not been on Tish Jones’ side and she has endured injuries, a bike crash and a kidney stone problem among other things.

Speaking from her training base in South Africa, she says she has had “a bumpy road” in recent months – and she is not exaggerating.

The build-up to her first GB appearance in Doha went well, with much of her training done in Colorado, but just before going to the holding camp in Dubai her carbon fibre bike was stolen in Teddington – a blow for an athlete who enjoys mixing cycling with running.

She was then forced to pull out of the marathon in Doha in October with a leg muscle injury.

Then just days later she came off her mountain bike while riding along a trail and broke a bone in her arm and cut her face badly in the crash. This led to her arm being in a sling for a while but she battled on training with Tokyo selection in her sights.

However, 2020 then began with her father suffering a major heart attack and her own training has been troubled by a kidney stone problem.

“It’s been a bit physically and mentally exhausting lately,” she says with some understatement.

Based in Cape Town and covering several hundred kilometres every week on her bike, in addition to running, Jones is used to taking the unconventional route. In her younger days she was not a keen runner at school and instead spent more time horse riding before eventually coming into running after impressing in obstacle course racing.

She has faced plenty of obstacles during recent months of training too. On her bike crash in October, she says: “I’d ridden the trail many times but my front suspension didn’t take kindly to this one chunk of wood that I tried to go over. My wheel planted into it and stuck and my arm collapsed on the handlebar. I landed on my face and my elbow, so I broke my radius.

“I think I was mildly concussed but I got up, checked that I had everything in my pockets and that my teeth were okay because there was blood everywhere. My helmet was crushed on one side and my ear was cut up with gravel. I thought my arm was sore but didn’t realise it was broken. I was at a high point on the mountain so had to ride down, although I realised I couldn’t brake properly so I got off occasionally and carefully made my way back to the gym in the end, where my stuff was.

“When people saw me, they were shocked. I didn’t know how bad my face was. When I got to the emergency room, I ended up being there for six hours until midnight. Although I was fine after that. It was just annoying that all that stuff (bad luck) happened at the same time.”

“I think I was mildly concussed but I got up, checked that I had everything in my pockets and that my teeth were okay because there was blood everywhere”

On her current kidney stone problem, she says: “The doctor didn’t seem too concerned about the size of it so I think I just have to wait and it’ll go of its own accord and I’m keeping myself as hydrated as possible in the meantime.”

The 34-year-old had an injury-hit build-up to London last year, though, but she came good in the end to finish second Brit behind Charlie Purdue and ahead of Lily Partridge, Hayley Carruthers, Tracy Barlow and Sonia Samuels. Jones was unable to run during January but kept fit with cross-training and then packed lots of work into the final two months before taking two minutes off her PB in the big race itself.

“I was devastated not to run in Doha,” she says, adding that the British Athletics team were brilliant in helping her through
her preparations and subsequent difficulties. “The hot climate didn’t matter to me. I wanted to run and I would have dragged myself to the finish. But my coach says it was a blessing that I missed it because I could have come out of it in a bad way.

“I was so upset not to race there though as it was my first British vest. I was in bits. It was like being in mourning afterwards. But with the injury there was no way I could have run it – that was the problem.”

She adds: “It took me so long to get to that position as part of the GB team. I got to the start line virtually but then couldn’t race.”

“I was so upset not to race there as it was my first British vest. I was in bits. It was like being in mourning afterwards”

Jones was really keen to race the Vitality Big Half earlier this month but ultimately decided with her coach Nick Anderson that she was better off focusing on preparing for the Virgin Money London Marathon and Olympic trials itself on April 26.

Based on their 2019 times, Purdue, Jess Piasecki, Steph Twell and Steph Davis will be the favourites for selection but Jones is one of a number who have the ability to rise to the occasion and qualify.

“It’s exciting and women running those times means it’s pushing others to do it now,” she says. “Running inside 2:40 is very good but a large number of women are doing it now in such a small country like ours.”

She adds: “I’m a bit frustrated. I just want a London build up that isn’t screwed up. Eventually it’s going to happen one day and my body is still learning how to cope with the process. Also 42km is a big ask and trying to train for it needs the patience of a saint.

“I don’t have much patience for most things. I lose my temper so easily. But I have patience for running. Everything goes into my running.”

» This interview was first published in the March 5 edition of AW magazine

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