Long-running love story . . . and Jenny is still hooked

Friday 21st January 2022

Jenny Selman races at the Lindsays XC National Relays in front of Scone Palace (photo by Bobby Gavin)

Jenny Selman has started 2022 in the kind of form she was showing during 2021. This article first appeared in PB magazine in December.

By Katy Barden

While it’s not exactly a smile on her face, the images of Jenny Selman racing through the glorious Perthshire countryside at the Lindsays National XC Relays show a happy athlete.

‘Cross country is so inclusive,’ she says.

‘You can be an Olympian standing on the start line of the National, but you could be standing next to someone’s granny.

‘It doesn’t matter how fast you are or how long the race will take you, it’s just all about getting out there and everyone putting in your own best effort.’

Selman, who represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the European Junior Championships in 2009, is vocal about the benefits of being involved in sport, in particular for girls and women.

The 30-year-old works for Edinburgh Leisure and is responsible for securing the external funding required to run a programme of projects that use the power of sport and physical activity to support people who are affected by health conditions, disabilities, inequality and poverty to improve their health and wellbeing.

‘All the projects we do at work, whether it’s with care-experienced young people or people with dementia, it’s not about actual fitness, it’s about keeping connected, combatting social isolation, confidence, resilience – all the things that come with being active,’ she says.

‘It’s exactly the same for girls, particularly teenage girls in sport.

‘Not everybody is going to progress to the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, but there are so many other things that being involved in sport can give you that are really beneficial not only for health, but for life in general.’

Arguably, that’s why Selman herself has persevered.

After a decade of mixed performances fuelled by injuries and inconsistency, she has had an exceptional year recording lifetime best marks over 800m (2:01.64) and 1500m (4:11.48), in addition to earning her first Scotland track vest since 2010.

‘I don’t know where the time has gone,’ says the Fife AC athlete.

‘It’s really strange to think that all those trips as a junior were so long ago because it doesn’t feel like that. There were a lot of very average years in between but I was always still running.

‘I just think that a string of average level injuries stunted my progress, then starting work and other things.

‘I was still running fairly well when I was at Uni but towards the end things started to tail off.

‘I started working with a new coach (Lewis Walker) – who I still work with now – and things were going well, but once you start to pick up random little niggles, unless you’re a pro athlete with medical or physio back-up, they can linger on and turn into bigger issues and then all of a sudden nine months have passed and you’ve not trained properly.

‘For me there were just these low level issues that were just taking so long to get better. I felt like I spent quite a few years being injured, then getting back fit, then to get injured again, and it was just a cycle of that for years.

‘I kept running and when I look back I’m like ‘why did I keep running when I was running so badly?’, but I just really enjoy it.’

Selman’s commitment has paid off and after a period of consistent training, completely focused on her coach’s programme, she’s now reaping the benefits.

‘When I moved to Edinburgh there was a group of girls I started jumping in (on sessions) with and he (Lewis) was happy for me to do that.

‘But maybe in the last year or so I’ve started following his programme completely again and, actually, when I look at the points when I’ve run well, it’s been when I’ve been following Lewis’s programme.

‘I think his training really suits me.

‘He’s now taken on some of that middle distance group, so I have this perfect scenario where I’m doing Lewis’s sessions but I have a great group to do them with, and I think that’s a big part of why I ran better last summer.

‘We had this brilliant group working well together and we had a great atmosphere at training and we all really benefited.’

As a result of her resurgence, Selman now finds herself considering the Commonwealth Games a possibility when it wasn’t even previously on the agenda.

If she doesn’t make it, the process of getting faster has, at least, been a satisfying one.

‘I was so happy to run big PBs over 800m and 1500m in 2021’, she says.

‘At the start of the season I never thought I could run those times, so it’s kind of made me think maybe I should stop putting limits on what I can run.

‘Obviously I’m in an event that’s so strong in Scotland. Laura and Jemma have both run 1:56 then if Lynsey comes back she’s got a good shot of making the time, so even if I actually do run it, there might be other girls that run faster.

‘If I make it then brilliant and if I don’t make it, I’ll be fine with that. It’s not something I was expecting to do but I’ll still be happy with running a PB and knowing I gave it a go.’

For Selman, running quick times is a positive by-product of loving the sport. For others, simply loving the sport is enough. Ultimately, that’s what matters.

‘You know there are athletes who get to a certain age and they decide they’re going to hang up their spikes, but I can’t really imagine ever doing that,’ she says.

‘I think I’ll be trailing around at the back of local road races when I’m old. I think I’ll always run, I just fundamentally enjoy it.’


Tags: Fife AC, Jenny Selman

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