How’s retirement treating you?
Very well actually! It feels like I’ve been retired for ages, but it’s only been since October. I’m enjoying the flexibility and freedom to do different things and not having the rigidity of
training every day. I’m not missing competition at the moment. Once the World Championships and the summer season starts, I’ll maybe have that feeling of “ooh, what could I have done?” But
I feel pretty content with my decision. I was ten when I got involved in athletics, and being an athlete has been my whole life really. The benefits and opportunities that I’ve had have been incredible, and I love sharing my passion for sport. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to enjoy exercise. Even now I’m retired, I still want to keep active. My sister always says to me “why do you want to run now you don’t have to train?”, but I can’t imagine not running. It’s that feeling you get when you exercise.
You still live in the Peak District. What makes it special?
It’s the best place! I feel very lucky to have been brought up round here. My grandparents live in Castleton and we always used to come to their house and go on big walks in the countryside, sledging down hills in the snow and things. When you’re a kid it’s just great to get out of the city and do something different. We’ve got a chocolate Labrador called Myla and these days we always take her to random places around here. There are loads of great walks – we’re kind of spoilt for choice. I remember staying at the old YHA Castleton when I was at junior school. I must have been ten or something. My whole class stopped there, and we had bunk beds and probably caused chaos! I’ve stopped at YHA Edale as well, with my senior school. It was just great to have the opportunity to explore the local area.
Where else do you enjoy exploring in England and Wales?
I think you sometimes get caught in your own little world, your little city, your little area, and you forget what else is out there across the country. There are so many great places to
visit. We always used to go to Wales when we were younger – to Abersoch in a caravan. The Lake District is beautiful too. I think as kids you just want to go and experience lots of different
places, and there’s so much in the UK.
How about overseas?
I’ve travelled about a lot while competing and been to some really great places. I’d like to go to New Zealand. I’ve been to Australia but never down to New Zealand. In a weird way it looks
quite similar to here – really lush and green. I’d like to go and spend a bit of time there.
You recently received your damehood. How was that?
Going to Buckingham Palace again was just incredible. I went for my CBE a few years ago and I never thought that I’d be back receiving anything else, so it was really special. A few of
the staff were saying “ooh, you’re back again!” which was really funny. It was just great to share that with my family again. Prince William was really nice – really friendly and chatty.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Always love what you do. If you enjoy and are passionate about what you do, you’ll have success – and you’ll also take a lot from it.
Jessica is currently promoting her new running festival, Vitality Move.