Sunderland Harrier Kevin Jeffress is on the marathon trail again after an absence of four years.
The England Masters’ Cross Country international and three times North East Over-35 champion is looking for a big improvement on his previous performances over the classic distance.
He competes in the Greater Manchester Marathon in Trafford on Sunday and is determined to shatter his previous best over the 26 miles 365 yards distance.
The Seaham athlete said: “Training has been going well, it has been a long slog over the winter, running over 100 miles each week with two to three hard sessions included. This has also included running twice a day every day.
“I’ve been fitting in training between working in my sports therapy clinic (Stride Sports) and spending time with my daughter Neve, and occasionally doing some short runs with her, as she is keen to join the Harriers when she is old enough.”
Jeffress is looking to run under 2.35 and this is the target time he has set himself, based on his three previous modest marathon performances.
His first attempt was in the Kielder Marathon in 2010 when he recorded 3.30 as an unattached runner.
In 2012 he clocked 2.59.16 in the Sunderland Marathon before improving to 2.47. 35 the next year only for the result to be annulled as the course was found to be 200 meters short.
The 37-year-old is now a much better athlete than when he dabbled with the marathon previously.
He added: “Both of the club distance coaches (former marathon internationals) Ritchie Tough and Glenn Forster have both said I’m in good shape and I should be capable of a time going under 2.35, so this is the goal I have set myself.
“My previous marathons were done on less than half the mileage I’m on now and minimal concentrated training. This will be the first marathon I’ve specifically trained for.’’
“I’ve done a few races in the build-up on tired legs including last week’s Thirsk 10 mile road race.
“I felt I should have run faster, but could feel the accumulation of miles in my legs and the wind didn’t help. But I felt strong and ran an evenly paced race, so I was happy with my performance.’’
Last Saturday, Jeffress was at Blackpool for the Northern Athletics 12-Stage Road Relay Championship and he showed a true measure of his fitness when he ran an outstanding short leg of 5.2km for the Harriers to move the club up to their highest position throughout the 48 mile race.
Against quality athletes his time of 16.13 was the second fastest by a North East runner and 19th best overall.
“I felt great and it really helped with my confidence, I just got my head down and really went for it.
“I’m now really looking forward to stepping up to the marathon distance again.
“I’m also a bit nervous as a lot can go wrong during the 26.2 miles. But I’m confident that Ritchie and Glenn’s coaching at the club will serve me well and I just need to get to the start line now,” said Jeffress
There is another reason why he needs to have a good performance on Sunday. The British Masters’ Athletics Federation are using this race as a qualifier for the BMAF international Marathon Championships at Chester in October and he is targeting a place in the England team.
In the South Shields Temple Park 5km on Sunday, won by Birtley’s Adrian Bailes (15.22), Houghton Harrier Alex Brown finished runner-up (15.44).
There were a number of Sunderland Harriers that dipped below 20 minutes and they were headed by Ian Ritchie in fourth (16.01). Then came Michael Thompson V45 seventh (16.29), Aidan Crowe 13th (17.12), Callum Grieg 20th (18.00), Alice Smith 23rd (18.24), Kris Cantle 27th (18.55), Darren Stoker 29th (18.58), James Johnson (19.16) and Vicky Younger (19.39). Sunderland Stroller Luke McCormack was 22nd (18.16).
A group of Sunderland Strollers were at Kielder at the weekend to compete in the increasingly popular Dark Sky races organised by the Trail Outlaws.
John Cook finished in a fine third place in the marathon on Saturday night in 3.17.41.
On Sunday night, it was the second Trail Outlaw event over 14 miles and Stroller Luke Kennedy finished eighth (19.25.57).