I was 7 years old and was always the fastest runner at school, everyone knew I was quick. I have an older brother and boys would always knock at the door, he would think they were coming to ask if he wanted to play out and they just asked ‘Could we have your sister a race?’ And they would come from all over!
I would normally beat them or they were a lot older and taller than me and they’d only just win. But the boys would say ‘you’re kind of alright at running.’ So I knew I was good and I just went down to the local running club and it all started from there.
I think he just gave in and knew I was faster than him! He didn’t really do sport after that, which was strange because both my parents are sporty.
Yeah, maybe I’m the reason why he’s not sporty, because he thought ‘Oh, I can’t beat my younger sister, so that’s it!’
Both my parents were disciplined and used to say ‘Do well at school, put all your effort in to whatever you do’. They were sporty, but never forced me to do sport, it was just that I chose it myself and then they supported me.
I went down to my local running club and there were competitions straight away, [it started] locally, then regionally, then nationally.
It was quite cute when I think about it. The first stage was for Under 9s and now I see them all, they look so tiny and I think ‘Gosh, I was that age!’ I remember the first pair of shorts I had, someone actually said they look like a nappy on me, because I couldn’t buy any small enough!
Yeah, I was!
I guess sport is more of a culture now. To do athletics, it is such a running culture in keeping fit now, so you do have a lot of child’s sportswear.
When I was that age, a lot of girls would do swimming, ballet or gymnastics, it was as if running wasn’t cool. Whereas now, everyone who was at school who was not even sporty, they’re all doing 5ks, 10ks and half marathons. It’s a really nice time that everyone is actually taking health and fitness quite seriously. When [back in the day] I thought it was almost a little bit nerdy to do athletics and to run.
It was always performance based and if you were good you kept involved with it all. But now it’s open to a lot more people; there is always going to be people who are the best at sport, but now the message is everybody can be fit and healthy, it doesn’t have to be sport specific, it can be just leading a healthy lifestyle.
It’s more inclusive; people can go down to running clubs or take part in events, just because they enjoy it, not to have that goal of having to win.
Trevor: I know Rob from when he worked at Wigan Warriors, which was a long time ago. I’d seen him once or twice and we hit it off.
We were chatting because Jen had a problem in the 2004 Olympics with her knee, so she failed to qualify [due to this problem] and the physios were telling us ‘you need to get it injected’. We told Rob about this and he asked ‘What are they injecting?’ ‘We don’t know’, he says ‘Right, don’t do it’. He came and saw us and was shocked at the kind of help [Jenny] had been getting, the lack of standard of good physiotherapy, despite her being a high standard athlete.
So [Rob] said ‘Listen, I’ll help you, come see me when you need it.’ And that was it.
Jenny: So basically, I had a problem with my knee and no one really knew what it was, I’d been suffering with it for several months and ultimately I’d missed going to the Olympics by one place. One place! And I went to see Rob and 10 days later I was fixed.
Trevor: Didn’t need an injection – It wasn’t even the knee that was the problem, he looked at the knee ‘Well, you’ve got a fantastic knee, your problem’s here, it’s in the back.’ He gave her some treatment in the back and then boom, she was fine!
Jenny: Which was absolutely unbelievable, but at the same time it was so frustrating, because I thought ‘Gosh, if I would’ve known Rob, just three weeks earlier, I would be going to the Olympic Games.’ It was one of those moments, where I was so, so grateful, but at the same time really frustrating because I hadn’t got the correct diagnosis.
So ever since then, I just thought ‘Well I’m working so, so hard, sacrificing so much, I need Rob to look after me – he’s the missing piece of the jigsaw, that will obviously have such a beneficial outcome.’
Trev: Also underprepared, because you’re missing out on experiences. You only grow as an athlete through experience and what you face in life. Ultimately, she missed that Olympic experience but she’d been to the World Championships both years either side, so it was like ‘We know we could’ve been there, it was just the body let us down, but the body didn’t need to let us down if somebody helped with the looking after and that’s the problem in our sport, is that if you don’t get the right answer, the right treatment at the right time, everything falls apart.