After a breakthrough at the Berlin Marathon (September 24), Jonny Mellor is hoping to be selected for England’s Commonwealth team, which would represent a great comeback after complications from a life-threatening medical condition.
The Liverpool Harrier ran 2:12:57 for 10th in the German capital to take nearly four minutes from his PB. He is now back at his best after the diagnosis three years ago of low platelet levels in his blood had a big impact on his running career.
The inability of Mellor’s blood to clot put him at risk of bleeding to death from a simple cut, so he had to give up running for a time. Further, the initial treatment had side-effects which included weight gain and loss of bone density. The latter was probably responsible for three stress fractures.
However, he is now managing the condition with daily tablets. “I’m still not out of the woods,” he told Fastrunning.com this week. “It could be with me for life… What I do now doesn’t affect my performance. The medication at the time had a big impact on my body and my performance but now I can manage it. I can run, that’s the most important thing.”
Mellor recovered to be in good shape for this year’s London Marathon but ran only 2:18:48 after hitting the wall. Berlin went much more to plan.
“For me to get it right I had to make sure I got all my fluids in,” he said. “I took gels in instead this time. I think I was in just as good shape this time as when I did London but it didn’t go well in taking in fluids and I actually ended up in hospital after the race dehydrated.”
The former world indoor 3000m representative believes he has more to offer, though. “The conditions weren’t ideal and I still feel with the marathon I’m learning the distance all the time,” said the Stockport-based athlete. “It’s so different to the track, so different to shorter distances on the road, so I definitely think there’s more to come. I’m excited. I’m already looking forward to my next marathon.”
That could well be in Gold Coast, Australia, next spring, if England Athletics decides at its meeting this Monday to nominate him for the team. He is inside the standard required of 2:14:00 and is ranked second Englishman during the qualification period after Mo Farah, who is almost certainly not wanting to be considered.
Mellor competed over 10,000m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games but is yet to show his talent on the track. One of Britain’s most successful male athletes on the domestic road scene admits he is best suited to roads. “I’m not a cross-country runner,” he said. “As much as I enjoy it, I’m just rubbish at it. My running style is quite bouncy and I think it does suit the road more than the track and I haven’t got as much speed as I would like either.”
So it seemed inevitable he would move up to the marathon. Now aged 30, he made his debut in 2015, two years after coming under the guidance of former GB international Steve Vernon. “When I first moved over to Steve, my coach now, he said, ‘Let’s have a bit more time on the track, work on the shorter stuff first and then when we feel we’re both ready, then we’ll work on the next step up’,” he said.
Mellor, who clocked a half-marathon PB of 62:23 in New York this March, just missed out on his 10,000m best with 28:46.80 at the trials for the 2015 World Championships. He was outside the qualifying time and so that autumn made his move up to the marathon.
However, he has not necessarily given up on the track. “I think I’ll be focusing on marathons but people like Mo [Farah], Pete Riley, Paula [Radcliffe], they’ve all ran well on the track after running marathons so I’m not ruling out going back to the track, but I will be focusing on the marathon for the next few years,” he said.
After long being one of the most talented runners in the country, Mellor’s time in Berlin would finally put him in contention for World Championships and Olympics places.
However, regarding the 2019 World Championships in Qatar, he said: “Where the World Championships is 2019, if I’m going to race there, I wouldn’t want to be doing the marathon. It’s going to be really hot and my main goal as an athlete is to compete in the Olympics… It might be detrimental to competing in Tokyo.”