Jimmy Johnson got involved in athletics after quitting playing football and his life on the side lines resulted in his weight ballooning to over 13 stone, this was considerable, considering he stands at just 5ft 4in.
In a determined effort to rekindle his fitness he started running in 2012 as a hobby and went from doing 10-minute miles to 8-minute miles in 4 months, as the weight flew off him.
He said: “My wife entered me in the 2013 Sand Dancer 10k race at South Shields, my debut as an unattached runner and I ran 49:07.
“Two weeks later I competed in the Sunderland 10k and completed it in 46.30, it was then that I got the racing bug.
“I made by 5k debut at the Middlesbrough 5k a few weeks later and was delighted to run 20.51. It was that performance that persuaded me to join a club and I decided to enrol with Sunderland Strollers.
“I was at the Strollers from May 2013 until December 2014, before I decided to join Sunderland Harriers”
The Sunderland postman likes all disciplines of the sport and tries to stick to an annual cycle of cross country, endurance relays, road racing and track. With cross country being his toughest discipline, but he says it lays the foundations for the year ahead.
When he is in competitive mode he runs 40 to 50 miles each week, but the year has been a complete write off, due to the Coronavirus, and has only trained to keep fit.
But he has tasted some success in being a member of the Harriers team that won the 2016 NEHL title as well as individual and team medals, gold and silver, on the North East Masters road and track circuit.
The 43-year-old’s interest in athletics moved in another direction when he took over the role of Sunderland Harriers endurance men’s team manager. This was just over 12 months ago and his enthusiasm for the job has certainly lifted team spirits.
He said: “The team managers position came up by chance, Albert James had put in 12 months’ notice to step down. It was at the 2019 Sunderland 5k that Albert had asked me if I was interested. I immediately said yes and was elected at the club AGM.
“I immediately drew up a battle plan for the 2019/20 season and discussed it with men's team captain Nathan Reed and Albert who I asked to stay on in the role of mentor.
“The plan was then put to the athletes at a specially arranged team meeting and I’m pleased to say they all gave the thumbs up to it.
Although it was a much shortened 2020 season Johnson did steer the club to winning the North Eastern Harrier League title, winning bronze team medals in the North Eastern Cross Country Championships and silver medals in the NECAA Royal Signals Relay.
“My plans for the future are to build on this success and have teams competing on all fronts including having a bash at the English and British 5k,10k, half marathon and marathon road championships.''
The Town End Farm athlete added: “We must not forget the youngsters that are hopefully going to come through under the tutelage of coaches John Archer and Michael Hill.
“I am also hopeful of local and national success for our veteran athletes in all age groups under the guidance of team captain Dean Phillips.
"Any success will undoubtedly be indebted to the senior coaches of the club in Richard Tough, Albert James, Glenn Forster and Simon Taylor. Without their knowledge, planning and nurtured guidance we wouldn't be the athletes we are today.
“I'm looking forward to getting more into the role after the Coronavirus has subsided. I've dipped my toes into the water and now want to get my knees wet.’’