Jones' biggest coaching call pays rich dividends for Britton
It sounds like they’re already well versed in the question, the when, if not how soon, before Fionnuala Britton starts exploring the marathon. In terms of potential it might well be that great ocean of oil lying just beneath the surface.
Even before defending her European Cross Country title on Sunday, Britton has made no secret of her desire to someday try a big city marathon – and it’s no secret either there’s the prospect of a big pay day to go with it. If there’s anyone out there to challenge Catherina McKiernan’s 14-year-old Irish record of 2:22:23 then it’s Britton.
For Chris Jones, the man who has helped transform her from championship contender to the first woman ever to win back-to-back European Cross Country titles, the marathon is already ear-marked as Britton’s ultimate distance. “I’ve no doubt she’d run a very, very fast half marathon right now,” he says, “and her long-term future is in the marathon, for sure.
“But by that I mean the Rio Olympics, in 2016, not next year, or the year after. She won’t rush into it. But if you consider her training load right now, the fact she seldom runs less than 95 miles a week, and on average 120 miles a week, with the long runs, we’re already preparing to run a marathon, just without the specific marathon work.”
In the meantime Jones is still focused on extracting the absolute best from the 28-year-old from Wicklow.
It’s only two years since Jones took charge of her coaching, after the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona, and he is convinced there is still considerable improvements to come in her performances on the track, with plenty of unfinished business in cross country, too – and that’s what the next two years are all about.
“We’ve the World Cross Country in Poland coming up in March, which has gone every two years now, but is important, and will actually be the big race for Fionnuala this season.
“Whether it’s a top 10, the best European, whatever, she’s got to keep improving, has got to be competitive there as well.
“Her confidence is coming on all the time too, and we will see more of that on the track. This summer was her first serious year running the 10,000 metres, and she understands the event much more already.
“I also think she can go sub-15 minutes for 5,000m. That will be the focus for the World Championships in Moscow, next summer.
“I want to see more consistent growth over 5,000m, and then for 2014, really target the European Championship 10,000m and 5,000m in Zurich. That’s the two-year goal.”