Stephen Jackson has gone back to his roots to improve his hopes of becoming a much improved marathon runner after joining Sunderland Harriers.
The former Elvet Strider, who was born in Sunderland but lives in Durham, is seeking the help of Sunderland Harriers former international marathon runner Glenn Forster.
Jackson, 37, said: "Training pal Andy Powell, who I had been training with during the lockdown, put me in touch with Glenn, who I knew was a long-time member of Sunderland Harriers.
He has a fantastic pedigree as a runner and I wanted to see if he could provide some guidance towards another shot at the marathon in 2021. I had been self coached for a number of years".
"I wanted to join a club that could be competitive at team and relay events at local and national level at both senior and veteran categories. Having been born in Sunderland I thought it would be a great honour to represent my city."
Just before lockdown he was in the shape of his life, clocking 68:55 at the British Half Marathon Championship in London. He was in a big block of training for the London Marathon but that was in vain as the event was another casualty of the virus, with the organisers hosting an elite race only.
And there has been few opportunities since spring to show his form. But he did manage to run a personal best of 31:31 in the Barrowford 10k on the 19th September after the Wrexham Elite Marathon was cancelled.
During his marathon build-up he will run around 100 miles per week with a run in the morning before work and another in the evening. Even with nothing to focus on he is still running around 85 miles to 90 miles a week to build up strength for the winter and hopefully competition.
Jackson added: "I started running for fitness in 2012 when I still lived in Sunderland, nothing serious but I managed a few parkruns. Having moved to Durham I became aware that Elvet Striders trained at Maiden Castle which was also where the parkrun took place. It was here that I was introduced to club athletics. I didn't start competing until my 30s. As a late starter in the sport I believe my best years are ahead of me."
In May 2019 he won the Sunderland Half Marathon. "It felt like a victory on home turf even though I was running for Elvet Striders. I had run 2:29:05 at the Manchester Marathon the previous month and was in decent shape. I also won the Durham City 10k twice.
He represented England Masters in the International cross country in 2019 and is aiming for another masters vest next year. His favourite event is the Great North Run where this year he was invited as an elite athlete, but unfortunately it was another event that suffered cancellation due Covid19.
"I prefer the most competitive local races like the Sunderland 5k or the Blaydon Race, there's nothing quite like the atmosphere of the Great North Run or London Marathon, but I'm equally at home in a muddy cross country race," he said.