Jill Boltz opens her training diary from the summer of 1991 when she ran a PB of 31:07 in the European Cup 10,000m final

When Jill Boltz (formerly Hunter) finished a close second behind Germany’s Kathrin Ullrich in the 1991 European Cup 10,000m in Frankfurt, little did she think her 31:07.88 result would still place her fifth on the all-time rankings 25 years later.

Aged just 24 and running under her maiden name of Hunter, the former Blaydon Harrier and Valli Harrier had already built up an impressive CV of world-class performances, with two top-10 results in the World Cross Country Championships, a Commonwealth 10,000m silver, reaching the European Championships final over the same distance, and her first stab at an Olympic medal in Seoul in 1988.

She knew she was in the form of her life when, two months before the European Cup, she broke the world 10-mile record with a superb 51:41 in New York. Paula Radcliffe remains the only Briton to have run faster, clocking 51:11 17 years later.

“I feel a lot of my best races were on the roads,” Hunter says. “I felt I could get rid of my opposition early on in the race, and once I didcthat the pressure was off, and I just ran as hard as I could. Why I never took this attitude to the track is still a mystery to me.”

But the build-up to her career-defining 10,000m performance in Germany was crucial and, looking back, the Harry Wilson-coached athlete feels the one session that proved her readiness for competing against the best in the world was 8x1000m intervals, averaging three minutes with one-minute jog recovery between each.

Boltz had mixed feelings about the session before she started it. “I dreaded it, but at the same time I looked forward to it, as I knew how my body reacted, and I always felt afterwards that I had upped my fitness a level,” she says. “It started out with me feeling comfortable, but after the third rep I had to start concentrating, and after the fifth rep I had to really dig deep and silence the demons in my head. The seventh rep was always the hardest, but I knew come the last rep – despite how tired I was – I would be strong enough to finish the session off as I had started.”

That level of speed endurance certainly helped her excel in the European Cup final, when she stuck to her plan of ticking off consistent 75-76sec laps, running from the front in the race until the last 200m when, agonisingly, Ullrich overtook her to claim a championship record of 31:03.62.

The Northumberland-bred athlete now lives in Australia with her husband, Danny Boltz, a former Olympic marathon runner, and their children. Although 1992 saw her reach her first Olympic final in Barcelona, placing 10th in the 10,000m, as well as placing a highly respectable eighth in the World Cross and 15th in the World Championships 10,000m final, she feels her move to Albuquerque that year to become a full-time athlete was, in retrospect, a mistake.

“Before I moved to America I had a recipe that worked,” she recalls. “I was doing part-time clerical work with non-runners and had as much time off as I needed for racing off 70-mile training weeks. In Albuquerque I upped my weekly mileage to 95, a lot of which was junk miles, and it affected my build-up to the Barcelona Games.”

In that race, she describes herself as being distracted by other athletes. “Elana Meyer went for a water sponge and I followed even though I didn’t need it,” she says. “I came away feeling disappointed and determined to go back to what worked for me. Unfortunately I was never given that chance, as for the next few years I was riddled with stress fractures. I did manage to make a few teams but never to the level I once was at. However, my experience has given me a better understanding of how to achieve a balance in training, which I hope to relay to the kids I now coach.”

TRAINING DIARY IN 1991 EUROPEAN CUP 10,000m FINAL BUILD-UP

All my runs were 6:00-6:30 mile pace, unless it was an easy run. On those runs I would not look at my watch and just ran according to how I felt.

Wednesday June 19, 1991
AM: 3 miles easy
PM: GB v Germany Crystal Palace 3000m, came 3rd in 8:52.27. Not happy – just one pace, feel frustrated.

Thursday June 20, 1991
AM: 5 miles easy
PM: 5 miles steady

Friday June 21, 1991
AM: 6x750m grass circuit (30sec rest)
PM: 5 miles

Jill Boltz training diary Feb 18-19 1991

Saturday June 22, 1991
AM: 3x4x400m (90sec, 60sec, 30sec rest, 3min between sets) – 68.1, 67.6, 67.8, 67.2, 68.2, 67.8, 66.8, 67.4, 68.2, 67.8 67.4, 67.2.
PM: 5 miles

Sunday June 23, 1991
AM: 10 miles – hilly, then circuits at the gym
PM: 3 miles then 8x100m strides

Monday June 24, 1991
AM: 5 miles
PM: 2 mile warm up, 3x8min (2min easy jog recovery), 2 mile cool down

Tuesday June 25, 1991
Rest

Wednesday June 26, 1991
AM: 4x400m in 66sec and 4x200m in 31sec
PM: 5 miles easy

Thursday June 27, 1991
AM: 3 miles easy
PM: 5 miles easy

Friday June 28, 1991
AM: 5 miles easy
PM: 2 miles then 8x100m strides

Saturday June 29, 1991
3 miles easy

Sunday June 30, 1991
European Cup 10,000m, 2nd in 31:07.88. Felt pretty good, led for 24.5 laps.