Sunderland Harrier Nathan Reed has not let a chronic Achilles tendon injury ruin his athletics career.
The 29-year-old has been hindered by the problem for years and it forced him to miss chunks of training.
In 2017 he was forced to have a substantial break from the sport he loves in a final attempt to rid himself of the injury.
He spoke to his coach, Albert James, and they both agreed to strip training right back and start off running and walking for just 10 minutes at a time.
That simple remedy, along with treatment, worked and having not raced for a full year he soon had some pleasing results.
The highlight being his performance in the Elswick Road Relays where he came back second on the first leg.
It was in 2019 that he really got going and had some good performances over the shorter distances. He was the clubs fastest short leg runner at the Northern 12-stage Road Relay Championship. He clocked 15:49 at the Sunderland 5km when finishing as the team counter in the Northern silver medal winning team and was also part of the triumphant winning Gosforth relay team.
He was ready to kick on after that but a lot of races were cancelled in 2019-20 through flooding during the cross country season. He had to wait until March to finish a pleasing third in the Harrier League at Alnwick and this was his final race before lockdown.
Reed joined the Harriers in 2004 and said: “My Dad had read in the Echo that there was an open cross country race at Farringdon. I entered and finished in third place. Following the race I was invited by Ken Jefferson to join the club. Ken would be my coach for the next three years. I really enjoyed my time at the club as a youngster. I got to travel up and down the country racing in Birmingham, Norfolk, Liverpool, Manchester, Loughborough and Wales to name just a few places.’’
His highlights were winning team bronze medals in the National Under-13 Cross Country Championships in Birmingham (2005).
And as an Under-13 he showed immense promise by winning the silver medal in the Northern Cross Country Championships at Consett in 2005.
He was fortunate enough to be part of a strong team going through the age groups that won North Eastern Cross Country titles at Under-13, Under-17 and a silver at Under-20.
Club coach John Archer took over Reed’s coaching from the age of 15 until he was 23, helping him to transition through to senior level. This enabled him to win a North East Junior title over 5000m (2010) and record his first senior road race win in the Old Monk’s race in 2014 at Hart Village.
As a senior athlete he is especially proud of of his three Penshaw Hill race victories.
The Science teacher at Southmoor Academy added: “The race has a great history and I have many childhood memories there with my grandad, so it meant a lot to race and win there.
“I was delighted with my first win where I became the first Sunderland Harrier to beat the ‘King of Penshaw’ Brian Rushworth. I am also pleased to see that my 2015 winning time of 16:24 remains the fastest since Nick Swinburn’s win in 2008.
“I was honoured to be selected as club captain in 2016, having been asked to stand for election by the team manager. The role had changed hands frequently over recent years and I knew how important a stable management team is.
“To me one of the primary roles of the club captain is helping the younger athletes to make it through to senior level, as it can appear quite daunting. There is a significant drop off rates, but having a captain who keeps in touch, knows who you are, what your ambitions are really helps.
“As captain I am proud of our recent success, especially our relay success in 2019 and Harrier league victory last year. We are aware of the great history the club has in this event and are determined to ensure that continues.
“I trained well during the first lockdown, enjoying lots of trail runs around Seaham and also down the Haswell to Hart line. But come the end of the summer, start of the autumn I did lose a bit of motivation with the lack of races. “However, I have really got back into it since October half term where I managed to get down to Cornwall and do some fantastic runs. I have been mixing the training up doing different routes, paces and lots of hills to keep the enjoyment there,
“I also really enjoyed meeting up with some other club members when restrictions allowed. I think keeping in touch with club mates has really helped, as captain I think it is important to check in on members and keep spirits up. “That’s why I was delighted we were able to host the annual boxing day Pudding Run, despite numbers being down it was great to see athletes out there enjoying competing again.’’
I am currently running between 50-60 miles per week with cross training on my exercise bike and various strengthening exercises to keep the injuries at bay.
After the years of injuries and the year we have all had, I really just want to enjoy my running and compete on a regular basis. I still harbour ambitions of running a PB over any distance and savour more team success with Sunderland Harriers, I would love to be part of a senior men’s team that can compete in events like the Northern 12 Stage Road Relay and perhaps one day win the North East Cross Country Championships, a feat we haven’t achieved since 2006.