When Team GB’s Jess Piasecki (pictured above) makes her Olympic debut in the Women’s Marathon at 23:00 (BST) this Friday, 6 August, it will cap a remarkable triumph against adversity. We spoke to her recently about her life, career and future goals.
London Marathon Events (organisers of The Vitality Big Half) provides funding to 30 of Britain’s leading endurance athletes – 10 of whom are competing for Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Jess is one of those athletes.
Just five years ago, Jess had to withdraw from the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon when she was diagnosed with seven compression fractures of her spine, which caused her to lose 4cm in height.
She has suffered from Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) for most of her adult life and this has led to numerous injury setbacks. However, due to sheer determination, she qualified for Tokyo 2020 by winning the 2019 Florence Marathon in a time of 2:25:29, becoming the first British athlete to win the race for exactly 20 years.
Here’s what Jess had to say when we caught up recently...
What are your hopes for your Olympic debut?
I just want to compete as well as I can and finish as high as I can. That’s all I can ask for.
Who’s inspired you on your journey, through all the setbacks?
My fellow competitors inspire me and keep me going. Knowing I want to compete among the best and be one of the best means that everyone inspires me.
Who was your first sporting hero?
Dame Kelly Holmes. I vividly remember watching her double gold at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. I wasn’t really involved in athletics at the time, but the way she ran the races was most inspiring and instilled confidence.
How did you first get into running?
Through events at school and English Schools Cross country, then onto my local club.
What does this extra funding mean to you? How will it help?
It allows me to invest in the extra per cents that I wouldn't normally have a lot of access too, for example massage and psychological support.
Where’s your favourite place to run?
The High Peak Trail. It’s local to me, beautiful and challenging.
Favourite post-race meal?
Fish and chips at home!
Best injury prevention tips?
Do your rehab and pre-hab. Listen to your body.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take up running?
Take it slowly and don't push too soon. Everyone is different, it is important to start at your own level and progress at your own rate.
What helped you cope during lockdown?
Being able to still get out and training, knowing it would be put to good use at a later date!
Describe your perfect day
Running, brunch, coffee with friends, some down time with a good book and a nice evening meal with my husband.
You can only choose one – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok? Which one and why?
None of the above – I’m useless at them all!
Favourite place on the planet?
I like home, but there are many places I still want to explore in the world.
Finally, what’s the one thing you can’t live without?