MATTHEW PIERSON has already written his name into the Holmfirth Harriers history books once this year – and on Sunday, he’ll be aiming for another honourable mention as the club begins its second century.
The 23-year-old London Marathon hopeful has Holmfirth legend Graham Ellis’s club record of 2hr 20min 50sec in his sights as he prepares to take the streets of the capital – and if he fails, it won’t be for the want of planning.
Pierson, from Outlane, began looking towards this year’s race immediately after finishing last year’s, when he ran 2hr 34min in what was his first, and so far only outing over the famous 26 miles, 385 yards distance.
And he’s bang in form, having recently become the first Holmfirth runner ever to land a national bronze medal, at the Half Marathon Championships in Wilmslow, where he chalked up a personal best of 65min 53sec.
“It gave me a massive boost, and I can’t wait for Sunday to come around, because at the moment, it just seems like I’m marking time,” says Pierson, a former Holmfirth captain who has been with the club since the age of eight.
“Looking back, I was fairly pleased with last year’s time, but I believe I’m capable of far better, and having reviewed my training, I think I’ll be far better prepared this time. Before last year, I was averaging 65 miles a week. This time it’s been 100-plus.”
Of course training is about quality as well as quantity, and Pierson, who was at Salendine Nook High School and Huddersfield New College before gaining a sports science degree at St Mary’s University College in London, has learned from some of the best in the business.
“I could have got the same degree in Huddersfield, but I went to St Mary’s because it was a specialist athletics centre, and it gave me access to some of the top runners, coaches and facilities in the country,” he explains.
“People like Mo Farah, Andy Baddeley and Steve Vernon were there as well as leading Kenyans, and I was coached by Mick Woods, who is now working with Steph Twell, one of the country’s top ladies, so I Iearned a huge amount.
“I trained with Mick’s club Aldershot, who are among the best in the country, and when I wasn’t involved in the training sessions on the St Mary’s track at Teddington, I was down there watching and picking up any tips I could.”
Pierson, who is the manager of specialist shop Up and Running in Brook Street, Huddersfield, is also quick to hail the influence of Holmfirth stalwarts like Ellis and his fellow former England international Alwyn Dewhirst.
“They were both great runners and have a huge amount of experience which it’s great to tap into,” adds Pierson, who takes part in Dewhirst’s track sessions for Holmfirth members as well as training with fellow Harrier Dave Turnbull and Golcar-based Glenn Comish, of Sale Harriers.”
Pierson, who ran a leg for Holmfirth in Saturday’s national road relays at Sutton Coldfield, is planning a busy track season, with qualification for the AAA Championships, preferably at 5,000m, his main aim, but the marathon remains his main focus, both in the immediate future and the long term.
“Track provides competition and also building blocks, because I really want to break four minutes for 1500m, 15 for 5,000 and 29-30 for 10,000, and you have to be able to run those kind of times if you want to success with marathons,” he says.
“I’ve long thought endurance running was my thing, because while I’m not quite fast enough for the shorter distances, I can maintain consistent mile times.
“That said, I’m going to London having run just one marathon previously, so I’m very much on a learning curve. Talking is one thing, doing another.
“I look at Graham and Alwyn, and while they both hit 28 for 10,000 and 63 for the half marathon, neither of them got under 2-20 for the marathon, which shows how hard an event it is.
“Perhaps a realistic aim for Sunday is 2-23, but thinking about Graham’s club record gives me that little bit of extra incentive and focus.”