Biggleswade Athletic Club were thrilled to host multi-medal-winning Team GB athlete Jenny Meadows last Saturday, as she headed up a fascinating training session. On a glorious morning at Sandy Track, Jenny was joined by her coach and husband Trevor Painter, who is also GB’s Under-20 Team Leader for athletics, and between them they gave valuable tuition in running mechanics to members from the Little Bees, aged 8-10, through to juniors, seniors and veteran performers.
Jenny is recognised as one of Britain’s best, but most unfortunate athletes of the last two decades, competing in an era when systemic doping by Russian athletes denied her well-earned podium opportunities, and although she ran in the 2008 Olympics, injuries cruelly deprived her of participation at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. Despite these setbacks, she won two bronze medals at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin across the 800m and as a member of the 4x400m relay team, and silvers at World Indoor and European Outdoor Championships in 2010. Her 800m PB of 1:57:93 set in winning world bronze in 2009 is the fourth-best time in the UK all-time ranking list.
She was retrospectively awarded gold from the 2011 European Indoor Championships after the first athlete across the line was stripped of the medal two years later, and in 2017 she lamented that Russian doping had potentially cost her at least three more medals during her career.
Two years after retiring from competition, and in spite of the mixed emotions she experienced as an athlete, Jenny says she remains passionate about her sport, and she now mentors youngsters and helps club athletes to improve.
Through a series of drills, athletes were shown how to improve their running form, and how the wrong technique meant that every stride was potentially holding runners back. Soon all were reaping the benefits, as Jenny and Trevor broke down, step-by-step, how to improve acceleration while improving efficiency in movement. In time the techniques demonstrated can help runners perform faster for longer.
Julie Cooke attended the session alongside husband Paul and her daughter Holly, who is one of the club’s Little Bees. “We really enjoyed it and I’ll take away some tips which I’ll remember when I’m running. Jenny and her husband were so down to earth and easy to learn from.”
BAC committee member Stuart Goodwin watched from the sidelines, and was delighted with how the members responded. “Jenny was brilliant with the youngsters in particular, and it was a real thrill for them to be complimented on their technique by someone so decorated on the international stage. At first everyone was finding some of the coordination needed really hard to master, but suddenly it seemed to just click, and the development throughout the session was incredible.
“At one point she complimented club secretary Hannah Broom on her speed – ‘You’re pretty nippy!’ – and Hannah’s face was an absolute picture. When a world champion and multi-medal-winner tells you you’re decent, that’s got to be a good moment in any club athlete’s life!”
Hannah, who organised the session, said: “I found both Jenny and Trevor to be encouraging and engaging while remaining informative and fun! My apprehensions of ‘performing’ in front of a world class athlete and coach were soon put to rest and I found myself at total ease through the session.
“The way in which Trevor explained the techniques and technical bits were put into language that every age group could understand. My biggest takeaway is I need to think about running specific activities in the gym!”
Alison Ridley was fascinated to see how the techniques could translate to all areas of athletics. She said: “From my point of view as a coach I found the session very informative. I have taken away from it drills I can incorporate into the throwing side of the sport and what a difference they can make to the overall performance of an athlete.”
Jules Mackay, one of the club’s run leaders, added: “I found the session so useful, and both Jenny and hubby Trevor were very approachable. I learned loads that I immediately started to share with my Monday night group, and for me, personally, I am hoping to use it to improve my Parkrun/5k times.”
Initially pencilled in as a two-hour session, Jenny and Trevor were delighted to stick around for much longer, fielding questions and posing for selfies with athletes young and old. Afterwards Jenny praised a “superb club and exemplary members”, adding: “The dedication and enthusiasm left us both very inspired by you all! I really hope that we can come to visit you all again at some point in the future and work on some different things with you.”
More feedback from members:
Colin Harries: “A very good session run by Jenny Meadows and her coach, made us think again about the exercise we do to improve how efficiently we run and how to improve our core.”
Madison Ball (age 12): “I thought it was helpful and fun and I learnt a lot of new warming up exercises as well as Jenny being a nice person.”
Neil Harvey: “It surpassed my expectation. I found the coaching fun and relevant, and made me realise this was a part of my training regime that i really needed to put focus on. The training was excellent and fast paced with both Jenny and her partner enthusiastic and fun. The training was delivered at a good pace for everyone and in addition it was great to hear about her history
The Q&A session was also excellent. The personal and general encouragement was great, so thank you to them and the club for arranging this session.”
Nigel Bush: “The session was very informative and full of useful information. Jenny and Trevor were a great “double-act” and kept everyone enthralled by their knowledge and understanding of the sport. Many years ago when I first started to run seriously, there was very little information about drills, running styles and efficiency, and that lack of knowledge is now contributing towards injury problems. I would urge all aspiring young athletes to incorporate the exercises Jenny & Trevor showed us to help prevent injury layoffs and improve their running style, efficiency and ultimately ‘speed’.”