It is not a mistake that Andy is at the top of this list. He is my current coach and without a doubt has inspired and coached me to running times that I never thought capable. In my eyes he is one of the best coaches in the UK and Ireland at least. He has a select group of athletes but each one has excelled under his guidance and expertise. The amount of time and effort that Andy puts into his coaching is remarkable and I am thankful that he said yes to coaching me in 2011, when I was little more than an average club runner. Our coach-athlete relationship continues to grow over time and with it our friendship. We are travelling this journey together.
The Training Group
This is the group of friends who have seen me at my very worst, struggling to complete a session, grunting and in a world of pain. They know my little tics for when I am tiring and share in my joy when everything is going well. Andy’s athletes are a tight knit group who like to keep their head down and quite simply, get the training done. Every time I have had a bad race they are there with words of encouragement and support. If it were not for this group of (slightly crazy) like minded individuals, I would have lost the joy for running a long time ago.
Richard BlagroveStrength and Conditioning
Rich is one of the most recent additions to my team and I already regret that I did not have his expertise on board sooner. Having never stepped foot inside a gym before I met Rich in September 2015, he has moulded me into a stronger, more conditioned athlete. Rich is one of a number of well respected S+C coaches based at St Mary’s University in Teddington. The facilities are some of the best throughout the UK and I am fortunate that they are located only a short walk from my house. Most mornings of the week I can be found in the St Mary’s gym, working on my form and technique under the guidance of Rich. It is a slow process but big gains can be made with time.
Noel PollockSport's Doctor / Brother
It is safe to say that I would not be running at the moment if it were not for Noel’s expertise. He is currently one of the leading doctors at UK athletics, working with a number of the top British athletes. Over the years, and even more so recently, Noel has diagnosed and treated a number of potentially career ending injuries that I have sustained. For any injury or niggle that I have, he is the first person I turn to and I will always be grateful for what he has done for me. He is another vital member of the support network, ensuring that when I do break down, a management plan can readily be put into place.
I first met Tom in June 2014, when I was suffering from sciatica pain. He is renowned throughout the majority of athletes in Teddington for being ‘The Fixer’. He was the lead chiropractor at the 2012 London Olympics and spent ten years working in professional football with the Queen’s Park Rangers and Chelsea football teams. He has been instrumental in the treatment of many of my injuries and I cannot speak highly enough of his expertise. The majority of athletes hobble into his Waldegrave Clinic bent over in pain and an hour later leave with a spring in their step. Sometimes I do wonder if he might have magic hands!
Jo HarveySoft Tissue Therapist
Jo became part of the team after my injury in the summer of 2015. She was highly recommended by fellow athletes and being based at the St Mary’s Clinic, located just beside the gym, she was the obvious choice for my weekly massage. She is a former international runner having studied at St Marys before going on to complete her Masters in New Mexico University. Every Wednesday afternoon she has the challenge of trying to smooth out the many knots in my legs. It is an unwinnable battle but is an important step in injury prevention and one that she always does with a smile on her face.
Bobby ReaCoach (Abbey AC)
Bobby was the first coach I ever had. He founded my first club, Abbey AC, which I joined when I was still a teenager. Through his motivation and energy he taught me the love of running and the joy that it can bring. Sadly Bobby passed away in 2006, after a short illness. It is testament to the man and the enthusiasm that he put into Northern Irish athletics that many of the members of Abbey AC remain close friends to this very day. I can still hear his voice screaming at me near the end of races. My life would have taken a very different course were it not for Bobby Rea.
The above people are only a select few of the many members of my support team. I could easily have added several more. The amount of time and support that my family have put in over the years will never be repaid. I am extremely lucky to have such a close family, which I sometimes take for granted. To my immediate family – mum, dad, Conor, Siobhan, Fionnuala, Gareth, Tanya, Sophie, Amelie, Alex, Isla, Matthew, Eva, Rosa, Oisin and Orla (and Noel), thank you for your continued support and love.
To the many others I have not mentioned – my friends, work colleagues and sporting specialists who have helped me in the past, thank you also. You have all made an impact in my life and if ever I do produce something special through my running, know that part of that success is down to you. To all the members of my running clubs Abbey AC, Annadale Striders and Kent AC and to every athlete that I have ever run with in the past, thank you for keeping me sane through the many, many miles that we have covered together.