An exclusive interview with Jessica Warner-Judd after the race of her life in Budapest
By her own admission, Jessica Warner-Judd is not very good when it comes to rest days. Even in the 48 hours which immediately followed her top-eight finish in the women’s 10,000m final at the World Championships, she didn’t need her arm twisted very far to join some of her fellow British team-mates as they stretched their legs around Budapest. “I love to run and I love to chat,” she laughs.
Part of her also simply wanted relive the race of her life. “In my mind, I could hear the bell…” Again, there is a hearty chuckle to accompany those last remarks. With the 28-year-old, a wide smile is never far away. With some athletes, you’re never entirely sure what you’re going to get during post-race interviews. With Warner-Judd, whether it’s at a major championships or the mud-caked cross country courses at which she can regularly be found, almost always there is a sense of unbridled joy that she is in the position to race competitively at all.
According to the athlete herself, though, that is not always the case. She does indeed adore her sport – and has done ever since she started out in it as a 10-year-old – but only now is she starting to give herself a little bit of credit.
When Warner-Judd sits down with AW, she does so via video call. The championships in Budapest are in full flow but she is already back at her Loughborough home, having returned after only a couple of days. With her event having fallen so early in the schedule, and with her work done, the Blackburn Harrier did not want to be a distraction to her team-mates – particularly those she says had gone out of their way to support her and, in turn, gave her confidence levels a timely boost.
“I think I’m very pessimistic,” she says. “It’s funny, after races I think I can come across like ‘it’s great. I love life’. But before [races] I’m awful.”
In championships gone by – and Warner-Judd has seen a few since competing in her first World Championships as a teenager in the 800m, 10 years ago – she admits to experiencing a sense of isolation. This time, however, the process has felt far more collaborative.
“In St Moritz [at the pre-championships holding camp] I had a good session and I said to [UK Athletics head of endurance] Steve Vernon: ‘Was that good?’ and he said: ‘What are you on about? Of course it was…