Guest Blog: Joe Monk Sponsored Athlete

Guest Blog: Joe Monk Sponsored Athlete

Joe is one of our Sponsored Athletes. To provide some context Joe is an incredible runner ( a few of his PB’s are: 5k: 14:40, 10k:30.19 and a 68 minute 1/2 Marathon to name a few!) and a great character. He is wise beyond his years and has a tremendous attitude towards training and running in general. We tasked Joe with writing some content regarding his training experience during lockdown with some context about him and his sport. What he delivered was this amazing piece, one I personally thoroughly enjoyed reading. I hope you enjoy too!

My name is Joe Monk and I am a highly motivated and ambitious long-distance runner. I thoroughly enjoy pushing myself in training and thrive in a race atmosphere where it allows you to show off the hard work you have put in. I haven’t always been a runner, initially starting out as a footballer for my local team playing in centre midfield. I think playing in this position did help to build my endurance given it is arguably the position that requires the most running. At this point I was only running once or twice a week for Chorley Harriers, purely just for enjoyment and not for competitive reasons. Once the football came to an end, my focus shifted to running more and competing in local races. Once I started to take it more seriously, I made the move to Blackburn Harriers as they had more races and training, thus providing a good framework for me and also allow me to train on the track weekly. By the age of 16 it was then I started to notice I was making good progress and getting more recognition for my results. One race in particular was the Salford 10k in April 2014. Throughout the winter leading into this my goal was to try and break 35 minutes, with my PB currently in the 35:40s. I managed to get in a good group and hold on and surprised myself, running 34:26. I definitely feel this was the race that made me realise that with more belief in my ability and determination to succeed that I could really make a good mark in the running scene. 

The next couple of years consisted of good progress being made, with a combination of track, road and cross-country racing. 2016 saw me break 16 minutes for the first time, which again was another milestone I was proud of. This was after incurring a stress fracture on my right tibia bone through January to April earlier in the year. That summer lead me to having a really good winter, running 54:17 at the Yorkshire 10 mile, running mid-32s at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k and winning more road races. This coincided with my first year at university, which consisted of more training on my own or with the university running club. I definitely felt that during the early months of 2017 that my training had stepped up a gear and led to improving my 5k time in running 15:17 and doing more track races, running 8:45 for 3k and even a 2:04 800m. The winter was particularly hard, picking up Achilles tendonitis in November after shortly breaking 32 minutes for the first time over 10k. This brought with it inconsistent training and trying to rush the process. 

Joe 2.0 Picture on the right is following 6 months of our strength and conditioning, notice the muscle bulk and tone difference.

Once the injury was over, I felt that I needed a change in clubs. Having seen and done more training with Preston, I felt that I was getting pushed a lot more and that if I was to improve then this was the way to go. The following winter in 2018, saw me develop anterior tibialis tendonitis which was quite worrying as I had crepitus in addition to this. Gareth would be able to explain this better but from my recollection it occurs when there is a lack of blood flow in the area and the sheath of the muscles contract to make a creaking noise. Every time I tensed my leg, I would hear a squeeze-like noise, almost as if floorboards were squeaking. I really doubted at this point whether It was any use continuing with the sport. I was cross-training relentlessly and feeling quite depressed about the situation. This tested my resilience and determination to get back and by April 2019, after a great block of training, I beat my 5k and haven’t looked back.

I joined Gareth around June 2019 and he was able to offer me a spot in his team as a sponsored athlete. The support and advice he has given me has shown with my performances and how consistent I have been in my training and racing. With working in professional football, his knowledge Is impeccable, and I have been able to get a real insight into his ethos towards elite-level training. With my height touching 6 foot 4 and around 10 and a half stone I am one of the lighter runners, and through testing I have done with him, Gareth has been able to develop an individual strength and conditioning plan to enable me to gain more strength and power as an athlete. This has translated to keeping healthy and injury free and if I do pick up a niggle, he is there on call to hear my worries, most of the time mainly me reading too much into it!

Joe in action at the Armagh 5K finishing with a great 14:40 time.

I think that Gareth and I would agree that I have taken a positive outlook to how lockdown has affected us, especially athletes. I was lucky to have ran PBs in 5k, 10k, 10 mile and the Half Marathon just before the lockdown occurred, thus Gareth and I took the approach of just trying to be sensible and maintain fitness, not chase it. Many would have used it as an opportunity to run as many miles as they could in attempt to get really fit. Despite the temptations of wanting to experiment with 100-mile weeks, we had to be smart with the situation and think long-term especially with regards to `virtual racing`. Particularly in the months between April-June there was no point taking risks in training to then do a virtual race on a dodgy loop that gives generous GPS splits. You are just cheating yourself and it counts for nothing. Also, I wouldn’t want to know I’m in PB shape when it doesn’t count for anything. 

With races now on the horizon, I have been doing more track sessions and it has been great to see the shape I am in despite not having a track season which allows you to sharpen your speed. I think this is a testament to the approach Gareth and I have taken during lockdown and having his guidance when I have been unable to access treatment has been fundamental for keeping me on the right path. 

I cannot recommend Scholars Therapies enough for the work they put into their athletes and clients. Since joining I have never been so consistent with my outlook to training and racing and I can’t wait for what the future has in store. 

Thanks Joe!

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