Jason – the Best is yet to come

JUNE 2017: Jason Best joined RunBrighton in November 2015, to train for Brighton Marathon, and hasn’t missed a season with us since.

He also came along on our Algarve training camp this March.

Definitely a part of the RunBrighton family now and, with his running going from strength to strength, I met up with Jason to find out how his running began and to see what he has planned next.

How did you originally get into running, Jason?

At school, I used to really enjoy taking part in any sport, and still do now. I remember my first sports day at my new primary school when I arrived in year 6; in the 90m race, I beat the lad who had won every year up to that point. Maybe that was a sign that there was some potential in my legs for all things running.

We also did some cross-county running in high school, which I loved. I think, at that time, team sports were very much the focus for me. Football took up any spare time, so running as a hobby never really crossed my mind back then.

Then college, university and part-time work took over my life for five years, when I continued to keep active by going to the gym, including many miles on the treadmill.

It wasn’t until the start of 2011 that I saw an advert for a 10km race in Trowse (just outside Norwich, where I was living at the time). The gym was still my main way of keeping fit, but I decided to buy a new pair of trainers and give this race a go. I began running more often after reading, in Runners World, about the benefit of having a schedule that encouraged outdoor sessions. After four months of training, race day came around. The mix of nerves and adrenaline on the start line was something I’d only previously experienced at the start of a football match. The race went fine; it was very hot, but I was totally hooked! I’m naturally competitive, so to be part of a race, with the excitement before and then the high and relief afterwards, was something I felt I needed to experience again. I have since done so, many times over, and still get a huge buzz, come race day!

What do you do when you’re not running?

For business (and pleasure), I work in Lewes as a Graphic Designer, at an award-winning branding agency called Pixeldot.

When I’m not working, I love going to gigs and have been to some amazing ones in Brighton since moving here. For me, the adrenaline and buzz of live music is one that mirrors running.

I also keep pretty active, doing lots of walking, taking part in 7-a-side football, once a week, and the odd game of badminton too.

Catching a movie, reading (am getting stuck into a new book at the moment called ‘Running for the B-Team’!) and hanging out with friends, fill any vacant gaps in the weekly schedule.

Ha ha, I know the author of your current book! What originally brought you to Brighton, Jason?

I moved here in September 2015 and have absolutely loved every minute of it. I’ve met some truly wonderful people, and finding a strong running community was something I was lucky to stumble across. I came here because of the opportunity to work at Pixeldot. I’d got to a point when I needed a change, so I packed up my life in Colchester and headed South. The offer of working with such a great team, as well as living in a vibrant and culturally diverse location, was one I couldn’t turn down!

Your running has been coming on, leaps and bounds, and it’s been great to watch your parkrun times come tumbling down over the last few months. What’s your current best time?

As I began to get more serious about running and entered more races, I had milestone times I wanted to beat for each distance. My 5km target was originally to break 20 minutes. It took me until January this year to dip under that magic figure, and every parkrun I’ve done since has been sub 20.

My current best is 18:50, which I’m hugely proud to have achieved and it was done on Hove Prom.

What do you put your recent big improvements down to?

It’s difficult to pinpoint anything specific, but I think a combination of hard work, being realistic about what my body can do, and having refined my running technique at the Algarve training camp, all seem to have helped. I’ve achieved personal best times for 5k, and both half and full marathon, all in the first four months of this year, so couldn’t have asked for much more. Completing Brighton Marathon in 3hrs13mins35secs has been my proudest moment in running so far!

Is cross-training and strength & conditioning work something that features significantly in your weekly schedule?

The football and badminton, as well as lots of walking, all provide opportunities to train different parts of my body. I’ve also been doing a yoga class once a week since the start of the year, which I feel has really helped strengthen various muscles sets, most notably my core. This has provided me with more confidence and a better posture when running. I can recommend it to anyone, as it helps improve running performance, no matter what level you’re at. I also enjoy doing a HIIT session after a run.

And having read an article on the benefits for people who sit down all day, some work colleagues and I now do a plank for 1 minute, twice a day. After four weeks, we’re all feeling the benefit of these short breaks from the work routine.

I know you’ve completed a range of races, on and off road, and most recently the Endure 24 team event a couple of weeks ago. How was that experience, and what would you say is your favourite type of event?

Endure 24 this year was my third time of competing and was by far the best. Doing the event with fellow RunBrightoners Chloe, Natalie, Angie, Ruth and Val was such fun and we did amazing as a team, completing 150 miles between us during the 24 hours. Being part of a team gives you that extra motivation to keep pushing when the going gets tough. And feeding off the spirit and positive attitude of your team mates, to achieve a common goal, is so rewarding.

I’ve also done another team event called the Ekiden, where you run 26.2 miles in a team of six, as a relay, which is great fun and enables you to work to people’s strengths depending on their choice distance.

Up until RunBrighton’s last summer season, off-road running was only something I’d done in the above-mentioned team events. But, more recently, I’ve done the Three Forts and Seaford half marathons. I’ve absolutely loved the different challenge these offer, as well as the spectacular scenery I’ve been lucky to run through. My favourite distance is a half marathon, so, combining that with an off-road element, I would say is my favourite type of event.

What is it you enjoy about RunBrighton?

I can say, without hesitation, that RunBrighton has been one of the best things about moving to Brighton. I was very keen to find a running club when I moved here, to help me make friends and open up social circles with like-minded people outside of my work environment.

The way it’s organised, making everyone feel welcome, whatever their ability, is what makes it such a success and it keeps it going from strength to strength. I had always previously trained on my own, so, to find a group that offered the chance to run with people of a similar ability, was extremely refreshing and very rewarding. Group running is also very motivating, keeping each other going and pushing you to better yourself, both physically and mentally.

Even the lift-sharing is beneficial, not only to the environment, but to the people too. Angie Bowles was the first person I met at RunBrighton, when she offered me a lift to the first session of the winter 2015 season, which was her first season too. She once thanked me for getting her out of bed on a Sunday morning, as, if we hadn’t lift-shared, she probably wouldn’t have made the effort. It works both ways, so I can second that.

The relationships I’ve formed, with the opportunities that RunBrighon has opened up, has been the biggest bonus though. The social events are a great way of meeting people from the other pacing groups, who you might never see on a Sunday, so I try to attend all of these if I can. And I’m so glad I went on the Algarve trip this year. I had such a brilliant time and got to know 12 new RunBrighton runners who I now consider good friends.

What’s next on your race calendar?

I’m doing a 10km race around the fine city of Norwich at the start of August, when I’ll be going for a PB. And I’ve also entered an off-road half marathon near Tunbridge Wells, at the end of September. That will be great preparation for my biggest challenge to date, at the end of October… the Beachy Head marathon. I’ve heard tales of broken bodies and minds, come the finish, from fellow RunBrighton members, so I’m hoping the summer season training, along with continued personal progress and strengthening, will put me in the best possible place when standing on the start line in Eastbourne.

And what about long term goals and aspirations?

I haven’t yet thought about the next challenge after Beachy Head but, if that goes well, I think the next step will be an ‘ultra’ event. I need to have goals to train for to keep me motivated. I also love to cycle when I get the chance, so maybe I’ll do a triathlon in the future too. As long as I can stay fit and healthy to enable me to enjoy my running, enjoy my work and enjoy life, that is fine by me!

Jason, great to catch up, as ever. Thanks for your time. I’m delighted you’re enjoying the RunBrighton experience, and good luck with all your forthcoming races!

By Mike Bannister