“Science teacher by day, GB middle-distance athlete by every other hour”. Jamie Webb’s biography on Twitter suggests he has a busier schedule than most.
“I’m usually out the door by 6am to do my morning run…eat, run and teach is pretty much all I do”, jokes the 24-year-old, who has represented Great Britain at the European Championships.
But having finished his studies – during which he won four British Universities (BUCS) titles – Jamie admits that without full-time funding, working in order to earn money is the reality of his situation.
“I know what I want to achieve and that is to become a world class athlete. The guys ahead of me are lucky enough to be training full-time, so if I want to beat them, I have to work hard.”
The 24-year-old says not having the extra financial support used to bother him more. “I was negative before, but I like the balance now. I’ve got something else to focus on and that’s healthy because it’s so easy to overthink.”
“There is interaction with teaching, even if it is testing sometimes! I enjoy science and I suppose I have an investigative nature. It is the sort of subject that can be boring if not taught well. If they make you read the textbook it can send you to sleep!”
Jamie, who is coached by his father Adrian, is based in London and teaches biology, chemistry and physics at secondary school. But as you would expect from a competitive athlete, “running comes first”. The Liverpool Harrier is committed to making the most of his potential that has begun to blossom over the last few years.
“My biggest breakthrough was probably when I ran 1:50 for 800m and then with proper training that went down to 1:48. I won the (England) under 23 title in 2014 and that got me thinking ‘maybe I can be good’.
“2016 then made me think ‘I can be really good!’ I was second at the Olympic trials, then got a stress fracture at a really bad time and wasn’t able to run the (qualifying) standard.”
Webb had started the year by winning the British Indoor title, and following up with silver at the outdoor trials saw him earn a place in the Great Britain squad for the European Championships in Amsterdam, which he describes as an “amazing experience that will definitely come in useful next time.”
There is disappointment that he wasn’t able to make the Olympic Games, but determination now he is back on the path he believes is best. “I moved to British Athletics for a year and that didn’t work for me so I went back to my dad. It’s a close relationship and we understand each other very well.
“Since I’ve moved to London. I’ve been working with Matt Yates and dad is like the CEO! He overlooks everything. My speed is better than it has ever been and my endurance is better than it has ever been.”
This positive mood comes off the back of 2018 in which he broke the 1:45 barrier for the first time. “Last year was probably my best year yet. I ran well in more or less every race but messed up the trials. I ran the qualifying standard and was second indoors so I missed out on both major championships by a hair – by nothing. I hope the experience will pay dividends.”
As you might well know from watching him on runjumpthrow.com, Jamie has plenty of racing experience to draw upon. At last May’s BUCS Outdoor Athletics Championships, he contested both the 800m and 1500m. A thrilling comeback in the latter saw him rise from 11th place with 300m to go to win, in a moment picked out as one of our favourites of 2018.
“I probably won’t do that ever again! Six races in three days. I feel like I’m consistent over 800m, but with 1500m you can flip a coin, it either goes really well or it doesn’t. I was exhausted. I think I made no strides in the warm-up. I thought ‘I’ll just stand on the line and see what happens’.
“With 400m to go, I just tried the complete change of pace.”I knew it was my last BUCS, so I found something to bring it back. It came from a big long winter, digging deep and being a bit annoyed by being beaten by Dan (Rowden) in the 800 and then pipped on the line for third.”
Jamie Webb on his way to winning the British Universities’ Championships. Photo: Jack Anderson.
As Jamie touches on, middle-distance running can be cruel and he is no stranger to experiencing the good and the bad of it. “I’ve just come back from running a terrible 1500m in Dortmund. But it’s up and down, that’s the nature of the sport. The thing about the best athletes is people forget about your bad races, it’s how you bounce back.”
“The biggest thing I’ve learnt is about me as an athlete is…not dictating the race…but playing to my strengths and not just letting it unfold.
“I’m 24 now, I’d like to think my late 20s will be better than the last five years. I’d say I am a late bloomer…I only started training properly at university really. I’ve been very progressive every year I’ve had under my dad. If I continue that way, I’m on track to be a 1:43 athlete by Tokyo. Obviously that’s ambitious, but I think you’ve got to be ambitious.”
Jamie’s 1:47.6 last month was his quickest ever 800m season opener, but he feels that times aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to setting goals. “My mindset has changed a little away from time, it’s more about being an established member of the GB team and making teams (for major championships).
“The British Outdoors is the one I’ve not won so I’d like to do that. In the short term being in the top two at the indoors and then getting to Glasgow (for the European Indoor Championships in March).”
While working hard in training for a great 2019 season, Jamie will be making sure he’s as organised as possible, to fit in the hours to plan lessons and mark homework. So how would he describe his persona in the classroom?
“I guess firm but fair. It’s important to have good relationships with students to get the best out of them. I look back at my favourite teachers and I was willing to work for them. Then it links back to being cruel to be kind – you can’t always let stuff slide.”
As for what the pupils think about his athletics career: “Some are more interested than others. Most just look because they want to know what my first name is!”