Ahead of Jessica Ennis-Hill's new running festival, Vitality Move, I got the chance to meet Jess and ask her some questions. Here's what she had to say:
How did you get into the heptathlon?
I started running first at a two-week summer camp. After that I was asked if I wanted to start training and so I started training once, then twice a week and then before long I started trying out all of the events in the heptathlon.
And you just stuck at it?
Well I didn’t really enjoy it at first and I didn’t really understand how the heptathlon worked. Obviously with seven events you’re not going to be good at them all, it took a while to master them. I did struggle at the beginning.
Do you enjoy any other non-athletics sports in your spare time?
When I was training I never really got the chance to do any other sports because of risk of injury you’re training the body in a different way but I love other sports and trying new things. I love tennis and now that I’m retired I’ve the opportunity to try things like skiing.
You could go on The Jump?
Oh no, it’s so dangerous. I could never ever do that.
Do you miss all of the training?
In all honesty, not really. I did it for so long and I know of how much sacrifice it takes and how much training you have to do to get to that level. I did enjoy it at the time but now it’s nice to have Sunday mornings doing other things and not having to go out and do hill sprints. It’s nice not to have that soreness in my body all the time. Now I get to enjoy running and keeping fit, rather than having a regimented training plan every day and at weekends.
When you’re training for a big event what would your typical weekly training schedule look like?
As we got closer to a Championship it tapered down and the training that week and the week before became high quality: short reps with heavy weights. It would essentially become a week of covering all of the events so I’d go through by weaker events probably three times during the week, my stronger events twice in the week; weight sessions, plyometric sessions, running sessions all the gym work, all the physio; there was always so much to cram in but it was always really varied so it kept me on my toes which was good.
How did you make yourself go to training sessions, in a morning when your alarm went off and you didn’t really want to go?
I’d definitely be lying if I said I didn’t struggle. I struggled a lot, especially after the London Olympics. I’d had some time off and then I had to get back into winter training and I was like “I’ve just won the Olympics, what am I doing, this crazy” but then I suppose you always want to be a little bit better and I felt that I had more to give. I was always aware that the rest of the world was training incredibly hard and I had that feeling that if I missed something I was going to be behind, you know that guilty feeling, so I always made myself do it … and my coach did as well.
In 2012, going into the last event, did you know you were going to do it?
Well after the javelin I went back to the combined events room under the track. I saw my soft tissue therapist and my coach and I was welling up with tears because I was thinking “I am so close”. My coach was like don’t say anything, come on, one more event. I knew that I was literally there but I was just worried that my shoe would fall off whilst I was running, or that I’d fall over, or get a stitch. I was worried about something really silly would happen that would stop me from getting there. I just kept focussed on crossing the line and then when I finished it was the most incredible feeling ever. It was amazing.
Did it sink in straight away?
More than anything I felt relieved like arrh I’ve done it. I didn’t have to worry about getting through any more events because I’ve won and all that time that I’ve spent training and all those sacrifices I’d made had all been worth it. It didn’t really sink in until I got home really and had some time on my own to think about what I’d done. Then I kept worrying that someone was going to say ‘Oh no you haven’t won after all, it was all a dream.’ I kept feeling like I was going to wake up. It was just incredible.
Was it a hard decision to make deciding to retire?
It was hard because it was such a change to my life. But at the same time I had just had so many years in the sport achieving things that I never thought that I’d achieve and getting to a level that I never thought that I would and being at that level for so long. I actually felt really content and happy where I was at that stage of my life and ready to move on to something else. It actually felt like a great weight off my shoulders. Although I had many years of great times in the sport I also had times which were stressful with injuries and you’re always worrying about something so it was the right time for me.
Do you find it hard now not having such structure to your life?
I still try and bring structure to everything I do because that’s just who I am and the way I’ve been for so long. I think the thing I’ll miss is when the Championships are on or the Olympics. ”Ooh I wonder if I could be there and I wonder if I can beat somebody, or even win”. I’ll probably miss that but I like having weekends free and not having to train or travel.
Did you ever consider keeping on one event, because you were very good at two or three?
Yeah, the hurdles was one of my favourites. Probably one of my regrets has been that maybe I should I have swapped and specialised in the hurdles at a certain stage. When I got to Rio last year and I’d done all that I could do I was just so overwhelmed and emotional and I just knew it was the right time to stop. Also, it’s a very big sacrifice to just go to one event. The hurdles are so competitive too, the Americans are running really incredible times, I’d have to be right at the top of my game and with getting older and having a higher risk of injury it would have been so much harder.
The Vitality Move events have a big focus on running and music, how important has music been for your training?
When I was training music was a huge part of that, especially on the days when you don’t feel motivated and you don’t want to do anything. Sometimes you just need music to lift you up and get you in the mood to run. I wanted to create an event where people could just enjoy it and it didn’t really feel like you were running a strict timed run. I wanted to create a fun atmosphere and it’s exciting that Trevor (Nelson) is coming along and he’s going to play all different genres and get everyone ready to run fast hopefully.
If you could pick any song to exercise to what would it be?
That’s so hard, what would yours be? Right back at you! I love Jay Z so some kind of Jay Z. Music is so personal and Trevor has such a hard job creating a list for everyone but it’s so great because hearing your one song will make you run that little bit faster.
Why did you choose Diabetes UK as the charity to support for Vitality Move?
I think it's a fantastic charity and after speaking to people at the charity it became apparent that their message of just trying to be a bit more active, moving more, even just walking can make a huge difference in your life. I’ve obviously experienced sport at an elite level and it’s changed my life. If I can bring my experiences to charities and people attending the event and encourage people to be more active that’s the main thing.
When are the Vitality Move events?
There are two! One is in Chatsworth on 9 July and the second is in Windsor on 16 September. You can buy your tickets here and if you enter the code LUCY10 you’ll get a cheeky 10% off your purchase price.
What it happening at the Vitality Move events?
There are 3 race distances to run: 1 mile, 5k or 10k. There is going to be a festival feel with music and entertainment so there’s much more than your average running event. The 1 mile event is called music miles and there is the opportunity to run those any time throughout the day. Then there are two chances to run the 5k and 10k with both races being held in the morning and in the afternoon. There will be plenty of activities for all of your family to enjoy. There will be sports zones to give you the chance to try new sports and also a healthy food village to keep you going throughout the day.
I'll be at the Chatsworth event on Sunday 9th July with my friends and family. I'd love to meet you and run together so please let me know if you're going to be there and don't forget to use my code LUCY10 when you're buying your tickets.