Runner Profile: James Nial

As I sit here writing this in the evening of the day it’s due (wondering how I forgot about it for the last 31 days!), I’ll start by thanking Kerry for the nomination. As a relative newbie I wasn’t expecting it so soon!

How I got in to running

At school I was one of those irritating kids that loved running and cross country. Hearing that we were doing cross country in the freezing cold and rain at the start of a PE lesson filled me with joy and I spent the next 3 or 4 miles with my eyeballs popping out and my chest burning as I gave it my all, sniggering as I spotted people hiding from the teacher in the bushes on the lapped course only to pop out and finish in the top 10!

I ran in a few cross country competitions, a relay type event at Chantry Park (a sign of things to come) as part of a Sue Ryder charity event and didn’t do too badly. I could certainly hold my own but was never really top 10. One memorable cross country was at Framlingham and after being told by a mate that Lucozade beforehand really helps your energy levels I picked up a can of it and drank it all 30mins before the race. He failed to mention that it was the still Lucozade and not the fizzy one that I should be drinking beforehand and after the large hills, water jumps and an attempted sprint finish the crowd were treated to a spectacular show at the finish where the gassy, orange Lucozade made a bid for freedom..

I ran a 2:32 for 800m in the final year of primary school and thinking this was pretty good at age 11 I decided I wanted to run faster and join a club. I elected to run for Ipswich Harriers and whilst I enjoyed the 2/3 training sessions I did I became a bit disillusioned as I wanted to run 800/1500’s and they were making us do these things called ‘intervals’. WELL! I didn’t want to be a 100m sprinter so these were obviously a waste of time for me I thought! When my first race for the club didn’t yield a particularly great result I decided to call it a day with them.

There were many other interests other than running for me as a teenage boy and indeed into my twenties and early thirties, you’d more likely find me in a car flying around the Nurburgring or on a motorbike at Silverstone than on a running track.

Fast forward to 2015 and I was sitting in the office at work and an email came round that we were sponsoring the Ipswich Half Marathon, egged on by the team who claimed there was no way I could run that distance I decided to take up one of the places! Off I went to JD sports, picked up an £18 pair of cheap shoes that looked like they might be for running, strapped my phone to my arm and set off for a 5k…. 28mins. I did three or four more 5k’s and then ventured out for a 10k.. 53mins…. Pffft, this half marathon would be easy! With 3 weeks to go and my 30km total training runs complete I hung up my shoes for this magical taper I’d heard about and awaited race day.

OH, MY, GOD. Hills, in a race, several times? Which sadistic person created this course? The above picture pretty much says it all. I finished in 1:52:56 and collapsed over the finish line in agony. Never again.

Two days later I signed up for the Norwich Half Marathon, 2 months later, where I’d knock 2mins off the time after doing ‘huge’ 25km weeks leading up to it.

It kind of snowballed from there to be honest, races all over the place and I’d found Run For Your Life so was enjoying trail runs, runs for coffee and my personal favourite, run for beer! I’d started to go over 13 miles on social runs and finding that my endurance was pretty good so, sitting watching the 2016 London Marathon, I thought ‘how hard can that be!’ and fired off an email to Asthma UK to see if they’d have me. They accepted me and the training (and fundraising) began in earnest. Come the week before the marathon I’d raised £2,700 for AsthmaUK, completed 18 weeks of training and was on antibiotics and steroids for a chest infection. Doh. I’d set myself an A goal of 3:15, B goal of 3:30 and C of 3:45 and having put 3:15 as my time on registering I was surprised to find many people in fancy dress starting in front of me.. I suspect some had been rather ambitious with their predicted times and it resulted in me having to do a lot of weaving! According to the stats after I passed 5,058 people up until 35k, having had 223 pass me. It was a good race but I was destroyed by 21 miles and pretty much crawled in at 3:27. Still though, what an amazing race, absolutely loved the atmosphere and a dream ticked off to do London.

It’s not all been positive though. My ‘chocolate legs’ don’t always keep up with what I want them to do. 2018 was a mixture of achilles and knee issues and I missed the first half of 2019 with a rather nasty stress fracture of my tibia (after the physio told me it was ok to keep running on it!) and the more the mileage increases in these marathon training blocks the greater the risk to my legs.. especially when speed work is thrown in too. I’ve learned to rotate lots of pairs of shoes which seems to have helped and getting on the trails when not road marathon training softens the blow on the legs too. Fingers crossed!

Since London 2017 I’ve enjoyed many many races and made many great friends along the way, even stepping up to a mini Ultra in Stort 30 (crashed and burned at 27). A spell training and racing with Kruisers whet my appetite to compete for a team and whilst I’ve always competed against my own times and been quite proud of being unaffiliated I think I always knew I’d end up joining a club at some point.

2019, 2020 and 2021 have basically been one long marathon campaign which started with 3 goals:

  • Go Sub 3:00
  • Get a Good for Age for London (3:05 at that time)
  • BQ (Qualify for Boston USA)

It was in the build up for the sub 3 attempt in October 2019 that I started chatting more to Mr Glanfield (come on, you all knew he’d get a mention!) as we both had very similar goals. We’d found a good training plan for the marathon and started running the occasional long run together. I’m quite fortunate that my Mum loves coming to races and gives me a massive amount of support but I found having a training buddy was making me work harder and having someone to compare runs to and run with is simply amazing. Chelmsford went well and I scored a 2:58, first goal achieved! It would have been London GFA too but this was revised in 2020 so you needed a 2:57 or so for 2021!

Anyway, 2020 saw us both training for the marathons that never happened and with Jon now acting pretty much as a coach, physio, shoe adviser (!), training partner and good friend at this point I was going well. After a couple of 20 milers with some FRR lads in early 2020 (including the Lucozade bottle incident, sorry again Solly!) the seed was again planted, and I decided to join the mighty reds

Anyway, that kind of brings us to this year, if you’re still here then well done! The marathon was epic, with a 2:49 but I’ll come on to that in my favourite races below and I smashed a sub 60 minute 10M in a time trial just before that. I’ve just PB’d at Bromley 10k and come 10th at Bury 10k so it’s going well, sub 6 minute miles are becoming the norm which is rather scary. Loving being a red and the sense of comradery on the start line and the training sessions I’ve been to so far have been amazing, thanks coaches.

The Future

Well, I’ve achieved my other two goals after the last marathon – I’m off to Boston USA if I’m allowed to travel in October and it should be good enough for a GFA in London 2022 too… after that I may take a break from marathons for a while… and maybe go a little longer too ;) I’m on a bit of a mission to PB every distance this year so we’ll see… 5k, 10M and HM to go..

Favourite Races

Essex Marathon

So, as mentioned earlier, this one was great.. not because of the course (6 laps of an airfield) but because it was the culmination of 18 months of training, hard work and a fair few tears. Jon and I set the pace at 6:25 and ran the entire thing until the last 0.2 miles (when he disappeared) together, chatting, reminding each other to take gels, and pulling each other through those dark moments that everyone has in marathons. The target was sub 2:50 and we came in at 2:49 with change to spare, it doesn’t get any better than that. Made even more special as it pretty much guaranteed my London GFA and BQ.

Hadleigh 10

So yeah, love it or hate it, I love it. With the hilly first half and the downhill second it’s a weird old race. Some say it’s fast, some disagree but for me it’s always a great race and a tough fight.

The picture above was 2017 where I had probably the closest ‘race’ I’ve had. Mr Harper and myself traded places for 10 miles, he flew past me downhill, I’d catch and pass him again, only for him to then take me again! It was cat and mouse right to the finish line, where we both clocked PB’s going under 1:05! What a race.

Scenic 7

Another tin pot classic here, not sure why I love it so much but the fast downhill start always ensures I go out too fast and the hill at halfway feels like it never ends but always finish with a smile on my face here (despite the above picture!).

Stour Valley Marathon

Possibly my favourite race. 27 miles through the gruelling countryside but being rewarded with spectacular scenery and it finishes right near a pub where you can watch everyone finish with a pint in your hand… what’s not to like! It’s always 300 degrees though!


I love Great Bentley Half, fast and flat, usually cold too (perfect for me). Colchester Half can be superb and quite fast if run right. Coastal 10, depending on the weather and I’m quite nostalgic about the old Ipswich Half too (not GER, that’s utterly terrible!).


Anyway, I’ve rambled enough and Peter is waiting for me to submit this so a final word to say thanks for being so welcoming as a club and looking forward to meeting many more of you soon at training or events!

So the last thing to do… next month… I nominate you.. Henry Catling!

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