Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Judd's Journey from the School of Hard Knocks towards a Biology Degree; with the Help of Paula Radcliffe, England's 800m Hope Used an Agonising Back Injury to Rebuild Her Life. by Matt Majendie

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Judd's Journey from the School of Hard Knocks towards a Biology Degree; with the Help of Paula Radcliffe, England's 800m Hope Used an Agonising Back Injury to Rebuild Her Life. by Matt Majendie

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Majendie

WHILE most children on Christmas Day are obsessed with ripping open their presents, Jessica Judd's mind was always on her festive run.

For the first time that she can remember, last year she was unable to run, meaning December 25 was a bleak day. The problem is that Judd lives to run and, for four months from October 2013 it was a pleasure she was denied.

Out on a cross-country training exercise, she slipped and fell. Initially the pain was in her foot, her immediate concern over a twisted ankle. She shook it off, continued running in the session and for the rest of the week. But a niggle in her back steadily got worse, it transpired she had fractured her sacrum, which meant she needed an extended break from running.

"I remember the doctor telling me I had a four-centimetre fracture in my back," she says. "I cried my eyes out. I rang Rob [Denmark, the former Commonwealth 5,000m champion and her coach]. My dad took half a day off from work while my mum came home with chocolate cake. I was devastated."

Steadily, the 19-year-old has patched herself back together and is slowly getting back to the athlete who had a stunning break-out year in 2013 with a Diamond League win in Birmingham and gold in the European Team Championships. Judd is looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where she will compete in the 800m, giving her a chance to put those months of frustration behind her.

"It's been so, so hard. I basically didn't have a winter," she says, which makes her personal best of 1min 59.77sec in Oslo in June all the more impressive. "To not run from October until the beginning of February was a long time. I couldn't even do my Christmas Day run. I'd never had an injury like that before. It was really tough."

With nothing else to do, she threw herself headlong into her rehabilitation, hours spent on the bike or in the pool, time spent working on her strength and conditioning.

She also had an expert in overcoming injuries on tap in Paula Radcliffe, Judd's idol and someone she calls "an unbelievable saviour". …

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