A year on from the disqualification that made him a national headline, Jack Gray is quickly proving he’s at home in an England vest.
The Cambridge and Coleridge elite is no stranger to the national stage but, in a recent acceleration of form, Gray has his eyes set on something bigger.
2018 proved an eventful year for Gray; earning his first national call-up when finishing 13th at the Easykit Cross Cup in Belgium and setting personal bests in almost every distance both on and off the track. This year has already brought a huge amount of success for the 25-year-old, showing his off-road prowess by winning the Midlands Counties
Championships over the challenging 12km course at Leamington before going on to finish Nationals with an impressive 6th place.
Gray is also no stranger to success on the road, having smashed through the sub 14 threshold earlier in the year. Finishing 8th at the Armagh 5k in a respectable time of 13:52, Gray destroyed his 14:17 5k PB set at the event the previous year.
He believes breaking both physical and psychological barriers will help him push forward onto bigger and better things over the
next year. ‘When you really really want to achieve a goal… and you smash through the ceiling it’s great,’ he added when speaking after the British Half Marathon Championships.
Jack rectified last year’s unofficial 66 minute time at the Cambridge Half Marathon with a dominant performance in this year’s Vitality Big Half – a race that also played host to the British Half Marathon Championships. Despite the adverse conditions, Gray’s time of 65:01 was enough to earn him a top 10 finish overall, 5th in the British Championships and the 14th fastest
half marathon by a Brit this year.
The elite runner, who is coached alongside other notable athletes by Mark Vile, says the group’s supportive environment provides a great atmosphere to push him on. ‘We all celebrate each other’s success no matter how big and small.’ The depth of quality within the group is apparent with a huge number of athletes also competing on the international stage.
Tom Keen, the current English Schools and European U18 3,000m Champion being one of the rising stars within the group.
‘I’m 25 and focusing on longer distances and Tom’s there at 17, focusing on shorter distances but we still share the same sessions.’
The self-described bloody minded and tenacious athlete has his sights firmly set on qualifying for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which are being held in his home city of Birmingham. Gray’s drive to qualify for the Marathon is only furthered by his love for his old stomping ground ‘‘It would be amazing to run around the streets you grew up in wearing an England vest and competing in a major championship,’ describing thechallenge as ‘an unbelievable motivation.’
With 3 years before the Games, Gray is focused on building up his mileage but insists he won’t lose the holistic approach to training that has got him so far already. For an athlete competing successfully at national and international level his low mileage training has drawn attention from the press. ‘I firmly believe and focus on speed work,’ says the athlete who exists on the relatively low mileage of 45-50 miles a week, significantly lower than that of his competitors.
On the road to Birmingham 2022 the Cambridge and Coleridge athlete has said he’ll strive to win national medals, improve his PBs, and achieve selection for the world half marathon championships along the way – while all the time enjoying it and keeping himself grounded. In the meantime, Gray is set to race the Parelloop 10k which takes place this weekend (24th March). The multi-lap race on the streets of Brunssum in the Netherlands saw Micah Kogo produce a world 10k record in 2009 of 27:01, which still stands as the third fastest 10k of all time.
With a personal best of 29.31 over the distance, Gray believes a 28 minute clocking is within his reach but maintains that time is secondary to position when competing against the high class international athletes.
With the summer fast approaching and PB’s to be broken Gray is targeting 10,000m both on and off the track saying he wants to take advantage of those wanting to run quick times later on in the year before the world Championships.
Gray will be joined at the Parelloop 10k this weekend by Lucian Allison (Lincoln Welllington, Mark Baddeley), Dejene Gezimu (Liverpool Harriers, Tony Clarke) and Will Mycroft (Enfield & Haringay). The women’s team is fronted by Jess Piassecki (Stockport Harriers, Robert Hawkins) who will be joined by Dani Nimmock (City of Norwich, Pauline
Ash), Lucy Crookes (Leeds City, Phil Townsend) and Danielle Hodgkinson
(Wallsend, Paddy Dinsmore).