Runner Profile:  Jessica Craig

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At 22 years old, Jessica Craig, an accountancy student and regular charity volunteer from Bangor is recognised as one of the provinces best female runners.

The County Down woman, who has recently been nominated for a ‘Millennium Volunteering Award’, had the honour of carrying the Olympic Torch through Newcastle (County Down) last summer.  In the last year she has produced some excellent performances on the track, on the road and over cross country terrain.

Throughout the winter, Jessica has been a regular podium finisher and was selected to represent Northern Ireland at the IAAF Antrim International Cross Country in January 2013.  If her current form continues, it looks as if 2013 will be another highly successful year.

Full Name:  Jessica Craig

Current Category:  U-23/Female Open

Associated Club:  North Down AC

Personal Bests:  800m – 2:19, 1500m – 4:46, 3000m – 10:35, 5k – 18:07, 5 miles – 31:03, 10k – 38:07

What is your favourite Northern Ireland event?  I love the ‘Runher’ events held, usually twice a year.  Michael Jenkins, a member of our club does all the organising for the event so I like to support him as much as possible.  I love them because they are fun, although on a competitive level I think the Laganside 10k road race held in September each year is a great race.  It’s close to home and it’s a fast flat course, great for Pb’s, and usually brings a great standard of competition!

When did you start running?  I have been a member of North Down AC since 2002, and was selected for U-15 and U-17 Northern Ireland teams when I was younger.  However, in the last three years I have been running more competitively and setting myself more goals.

Why do you run?  I love running! I really enjoy the cross country.  I actually look forward to it every year; in fact, I wish the season lasted slightly longer.  It’s more interesting than running on the road, and requires more strength and a different running style which I feel is more suited to me.  The great thing with cross-country is that no one race is ever the same, so it’s never boring!

Obviously training and races are really hard but I also love running with my friends and it’s good to get a good old natter with them on a long run while building the miles up. It’s also great to have friends around you that are able to motivate you and are so positive about your running.  I have a great coach as well; Francis Marsh, who knows how to train you hard and is able to pick out my weaknesses as well as strengths to ultimately help me improve and reach my goals.  I guess I love it when you reach that goal which you have set for yourself, that’s when you can really say ”that’s why I love running!”

Your performances throughout the XC season have impressed many people, are you happy with how your winter running has gone?  Yes, I trained hard prior to the cross country season to make sure I was in good shape from the start, I was really looking forward to going into each race better prepared both physically and mentally, and feel that I have achieved this.   I just got stuck into the cross country season right from the start and now I am trying to get fit for the road races

I will have one more blast at the cross country for my university on 9th March 2013 at University of Ulster, Jordanstown playing fields.  As the event is happening after all the other cross country races have finished, it allows me to build up more speed endurance.  This will be my last year competing for the university so I want to feature well in the race, especially when it is on home turf this year!

You have raced over Road, Track and Cross Country; do you have a favourite terrain?  Definitely, as I mentioned before, I love cross country!  When I was younger, I used to love road running but in the last couple of years I have enjoyed the cross country much more, I think I am more suited to the multi-terrain!  Track would not be my favourite event, but it’s good to do some races each year to keep my speed up.  I would like to improve on my 1500m and 3k times this track season.  Although, I will be focusing more on my 1500m, and aim to get a Pb this season.  I am looking forward to the slighter warmer conditions.

What is your next race and what do you want from it?  I am focusing on the Queen’s University 5k Road Race at the end of March 2013. I feel that I will be in better shape than last year when I ran 18:07, so I aim to break 18 minutes this year.  I look forward to a fast race and racing some amazing runners!  As I have been racing cross country until now, it has been hard to get a fast firm course because of the horrendous weather conditions this winter, usually I am too busy trying to get my feet out of mud than trying to pick up the speed!  So, I will get some good quality training sessions in before hand.

What is your favourite training ‘session’?  I love a session were you go away thinking “that really hurt”, but in a good way.  Something that you leave knowing you have benefitted from the session, such as a hard track session e.g. 1600m Tempo 3 x (1200m, 800m, 600m, 400m) with three minutes recovery between the sets and ninety seconds between the reps.

What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals?  Before a race, I always have a big bowl of porridge, with chopped banana, raisins and honey; this is usually three to four hours prior to the event.  Then, two hours before I would have an oaty cereal bar and a pancake, to drink I would have a little bit of Lucozade.  Depending on the length of race (for example a 10k road race), I would have an energy gel about thirty minutes before the start.  After the race I always get something to eat, maybe some nuts as soon as possible after.  Then I try to eat some chicken or fish with vegetables when I get home.

What is your running ambition?  I aim to get my 5k time below 18 minutes, which I hope to do at the QUB 5k, and my 10k time below 38 minutes, hopefully at the Titanic 10k in April 2013. I have always wanted to do the Half Marathon series; I think they would be good training for me and a good way to get an extra few miles in.  So I may give a couple of them a go this year, but with the track season coming up soon my main focus will be on the 1500m to get my Pb.

What would you consider your greatest achievement in running to be?  Probably the most recent would be being selected to be a part of the Senior Northern Ireland team at the Antrim IAAF Cross Country in January 2013.  I placed third in the Northern Ireland Championship which I was pleased about.

What other sports do you like?  I love rock climbing, tennis and swimming.  I used to do rock climbing two years ago and represented my university, but being in my final year now, running keeps me busy enough.  If I feel like training and I am too tired from my running training, I go to the pool to do a swimming session, it’s good to vary your training.