Author: Lecky

Alex Whittaker – Mountain Running

I first heard of the John Taylor foundation grant through friends at training sessions and decided to apply. My main discipline is fell or mountain running and the cost of this specific equipment alongside road running and training shoes, especially whilst at uni, makes it an investment I can’t always afford.

I was successful in my application and with the grant, was able to purchase a replacement pair of trail hiking shoes and 500ml racing flasks for my recent sky running world championship race in Italy. 

The cost of training shoes and extra equipment easily adds up and the financial help provided was greatly appreciated. I am very lucky to also be supported by Scarpa who, alongside the John Taylor foundation helped make my race this summer a success. I placed 8th in both the Vertical Kilometre and the 23km Sky Race disciplines and am really looking forward to future years of racing at these new formats, and hopefully start competing at the senior levels in mountain running.  

The money I saved through the awarded grant was used to fund my flights to the championships and has hugely helped my financial footing when returning to uni this September. 

I am extremely grateful to the John Taylor foundation for their support this year, and for the brilliant work they do supporting athletes in all their racing ambitions!

Thank you!

Chris Richards – Mountain Running

Support from the John Taylor Foundation has been hugely helpful in contributing towards the cost of travel to and from races and training sessions. This has been of massive benefit towards my preparation for the GB trials in early May in my effort to make the team for the world mountain and trail running championships in Innsbruck in early June.

During this training build up I’ve tested my fitness in two events; the Chapelgill Hill Race near Broughton in the Scottish Borders which claims to be the steepest hill race in the UK with gradients reaching a steepness of around 45%, and also the Northern 12 stage road relays which took place in Redcar which was a pan flat road race. Both exceeded expectations and I won at Chapelgill and was only 19 seconds off of the record, and at Redcar I clocked the second fastest time on my leg running at 3:05 min/km pace for 9.5km in blustery conditions despite doing only hill and mountain work in the fells which I took to be a very positive sign.

The support from the John Taylor Foundation has helped ease some of the financial pressures of travel to and from races and I’ve been especially grateful for it as this year as athletes who qualify for the GB team for the world champs will have to contribute towards the cost of travel due to budget restrictions. The mountain and fell running season is almost all year long and so the support from the John Taylor Foundation has played a crucial role in helping to funding this year’s season.

Laura Brown – Orienteer

Junior European Cup 2022

The Junior European Cup was an incredible opportunity and I am so glad that it was my international debut. JEC 2022 was held in Blankenburg, Germany right on the edge of the Harz mountains. The competition consisted of a sprint race, a long/classic race and a relay race. The nerves when we arrived were through the roof, as entering the hotel after a slightly stressful journey we saw all the different teams (from 12 different countries) wearing all their national kit and I think that’s when it really sunk in for me that I was really about to compete for GB!

After doing a practise sprint in the town we were staying at, we had a lot of time to chill so many of us went to explore the stunning town to get a good view of the castle that overlooked town on the hillside.  

It was an early start on the Saturday and a short drive to a neighbouring town to go into quarantine for the sprint race. Surprisingly I felt pretty calm, the only thing I was nervous about was the 135m of climb!!! The area was very challenging both physically (due to the amount of climb as we went all the way up to the castle on top of the hill) and technically challenging.

On the Sunday it was an even earlier start to the day to get to the long event. The long was combined with the German Championships, so it was very busy and you could feel the buzz. The finished was inside a castle on the top of a huge hill- with 80m climb to the last control!!! The area we were racing in was amazing with 3 different kinds of terrain to run through so it was challenging. It was very very hilly towards the end of the course and with lots of little rock features so was tricky but very fun.

Finally, the relay on the Monday. I have got say I was most nervous for the relay as this time it’s not just about you, you are running for a team and I was determined not to let them down. The relay area was amazing, a hilly but technical area that was really runnable so it was a fast race. I was on the 1st leg sharing a mass start with around 80 M/W 18s and M/W 20s. The race went really well and it was amazing to run alongside so many other amazing athletes. As the girls GB team (with Alice Kemsley and Emma Crawford) we managed to get 22nd out of 43 other girls teams so we were really really pleased.

Overall, despite being pretty disappointed with my individual results, I was really pleased with my mindset and the way I handled the pressure of the races. Now that I have had a taste for international competition, I am even more determined to improve in the hope to be selected again in the future.

I would like to thank you for sponsoring me, your support makes it possible for me to be able to take these opportunities and grow as an athlete. These kinds of experiences encourage and motivate me to further improve my orienteering, as it is a good platform to prepare me to start my final year of W18.

Thank you, Laura Brown, LOC W18

Eve Whitaker – Triathlete

Just an update on my John Taylor Foundation funding – I bought the Asics running shoes and a pair of triathlon specific cycle shoes.
I wore both in the recent British Triathlon performance assessments and placed 1st – super chuffed so wanted to say massive thankyou to everyone on the trust as all the equipment made a huge difference!
I have attached some photos as well :))
Again massive thankyou for everything!
Eve Whitaker

Struan Bennet – Triathlete

Just sending through a small update after your help with getting me a wetsuit and triathlon cycle shoes.

I have used the wetsuit and cycle shoes you helped me buy to become Scottish Junior (U20) Sprint Triathlon Champion in my second triathlon after a covid drought, I also used them in my first triathlon of the year, which was the European Junior Selection Race In Llanelli Wales, where I w\s going well until I got knocked off my bike on the third of the five bike laps, I managed to pull myself back into 24th on the run. I have also used the tri shoes in a Club Time Trial where I set a new club record up the hill climb which was a minute faster than my PB from a year and a half previous.

I have more info on my website

I used the wetsuit to help me win the British triathlon super series with the maximum available points after being first Youth B at the last two races at Mallory, my final race of the season was Superleague Jersey where I came 3rd Junior, but I could have been higher had my chip not been knocked off in the first swim.

Thanks for your support


Iris MacMillan – Orienteer

Dear John Taylor Foundation,

Thank you so much for supporting me to represent Great Britain

at both the European Youth Orienteering Championships (EYOC) and the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC).

The European Youth Orienteering Champs was held in Salgótarjáni, Hungary from the 1st-4th of July. I was selected as one of 4 under 18 girls and had an amazing time competing in the foreign terrain.

On the 1st of July we went to both the forest and sprint model event which were in similar areas to the races and gave us the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the Hungarian terrain and mapping. The forest was pretty different from anything I had competed in before but the majority of it was runnable with not too much vegetation in the white areas.

The next day was the long race where came 49th out of 94. I struggled a lot in the heat which was over 30 degrees but it felt like a solid first international race.

The sprint race was held on the Sunday, I find sprint races more challenging because I come from such a rural area and don’t have access to many places to train for them so definitely have a lack of confidence when it comes to this discipline. This, combined with the heat and pressure of an international competition really affected my performance as I made mistakes on the second and third controls. Afterwards, I was determined to redeem myself at the relay the following day.

I ran the first leg of the relay and so was part of the mass start. I enjoyed the pressure of running first leg, it was the best experience setting off with my competitors from all over Europe. Everyone started off together as a pack for the first couple of controls, however as the gaffles started the pack began to spread out as everyone headed off to their slightly different controls. The race went well and I was consistently in the top 6 until the second last control where I lost concentration and made a mistake, dropping me to 10th place.

I ended up with a good time but I was disappointed, especially when I checked the live results and found out that I was in 3rd place halfway round the course. It gave me a confidence boost and I learnt a lot from this race, especially how to put my head down and not get distracted by others. It also made me motivated and hungry for more.

After EYOC me and 3 other teammates traveled straight to Portugal for JWOC.

The Junior World Orienteering Championships was held in Aguiar de Beira, Portugal from the 9th-16th of July. For this competition, I was one of 6 under 20 girls running for Great Britain. This was pretty daunting for me because I am 17 and was competing against girls three years older than me, however, after being selected as one of the youngest we were on the team to gain international experience racing for our future junior careers.

We were joined by the rest of the GB team on the Thursday, however, on Friday evening we heard that due to the extreme temperatures causing forest fires, there had been a ban on forest access in the whole of Portugal meaning that the forest races would not be able to take place. We were then told that the sprint race would go ahead and they would also put on the first official JWOC mixed sprint relay and an extra unofficial sprint relay non-medal race.

I struggled during the individual sprint race as I had a late start in extreme temperatures of over 40 degrees. I had never orienteered in these temperatures before and it really affected me.

However, there was still the mixed sprint relay on the Wednesday. I had one of the best runs of my life and came in in 4th place. Even though I was in the B relay we still had the same courses as the A one and so were able to compare times, I had the fastest time of all the GB girls and worked out that if I had been running the A relay I would have been 17th.

This was the highlight of my competition and a massive confidence boost. It definitely changed the way I feel about sprint orienteering, having proved to myself that it was something I could be successful in.

Towards the end of the week we also heard that the forest races were being postponed until the autumn and so I will be returning to Portugal in November for the middle, long and relay races. I’m delighted that I will have the opportunity to run in these amazing forests.

Overall, this was such an incredible experience, I’ve learnt so much about the pressure of competing at a world class level and the highs and lows of international competition. I have also gained valuable experience for future years. Again, thank you so much for your funding, it’s allowed me to gain so much from my international debut.

Fiona Bunn – Orienteer

I recently returned from competing at the FISU World University Orienteering championships in Switzerland and would like to thank the John Taylor Foundation for their contributions towards my costs for this event. My experiences at this competition was especially valuable and I have come away from this season with more confidence and motivation for future years.

The World University championships were my main aim this year, and I was competing in 4 disciplines: Sprint, Long, Sprint relay and forest relay. I was particularly grateful for the contribution from JTF as it enabled me to travel out to Switzerland early and have three days of training in relevant terrain, instead of just one day as the official competition programme allowed. I felt this helped me to build confidence and understand the techniques to use and factors influencing route choice decisions, which can often be difficult when racing in unfamiliar terrain.

My performances through the week got progressively better. I was in the mix for a top 6 position in the sprint race until an error at the map flip resulted in a big time loss and dropping out of contention. I finished 12th in the Long distance, 5th on first leg of the mixed sprint relay (team finished 5th overall), and 1st= on first leg of the forest relay (team finished 7th nation). I am now looking forward to the final round of the World Cup, also in Switzerland, before heading into a winter cross-country season. None of my races were perfect, but I felt that I dealt with the pre-race nerves and pressures of the relays well and now have confidence that I can be a reliable orienteer and that my form is good. I have also come away from the week having moved up 40 places in the World Ranking and with many memories and new friends.

I’d like to thank the JTF, Edinburgh University and the coaches/support team who travelled with us to the competition.

Laura King – Orienteer

World University Orienteering Championships 2022

Having spent most of the previous year living in Switzerland, I was really looking forward to racing at the World University Orienteering Championships in the Swiss Jura. Not the typical alpine terrain that first comes to mind when picturing Switzerland, but a challenge nonetheless.

I had been selected to run three out of five races at this week-long competition, all of which were in the forest, as opposed to the sprint discipline which is usually in an urban setting. This meant I could really focus on my forest orienteering technique leading up to the competition. My preparation was slightly hampered by catching COVID a few weeks before the competition and missing some of my key training races in the build-up. Luckily, I had planned to travel out to Switzerland a few days before the competition to train on relevant areas, test different techniques and come up with a race strategy.

Having cheered on my teammates running in the individual sprint race the previous day, I was ready to step up to the start line of the long distance race. The terrain consisted mainly of coniferous forest with varying degrees of brambles and brashings underfoot, big forestry tracks and some steep gullies that made for interesting route choice. Despite this area feeling fairly familiar to some areas in the south of England, a momentary lapse in concentration meant I messed up my direction out of a control and proceeded to make a costly parallel error which involved losing a lot of height. Frustrated, I tried to hold it together for the remaining half of the race but always had a nagging feeling of needing to make up time. As many orienteers will appreciate this often forces more mistakes, and for me a very scrappy second half with many smaller time losses. Overall, I was unsatisfied with my performance but tried to use the frustration to fuel my preparation for the middle distance race, my preferred discipline.

The area of the middle distance was much more suited to my strengths. It consisted of a steep slope with lots of limestone rock and contour detail, and lots of controls meaning there were no opportunities to switch off. After a slightly hesitant start into a tricky area of forest with low visibility, I settled into the map and began to find my flow. Following two long uphill legs across an open field I knew a top French runner was closing me down. Keeping a cool head, I managed to stick to my plans and pick off the next set off technical downhill controls, whilst the faster French runner weaved in and out making multiple mistakes. Having got a gap, I reached the arena passage having caught two other competitors, now on my tail. The arena run through was a very steep bank which left me in a fair amount of oxygen debt going into the final loop. I tried to focus on my direction crossing the steep slope however being a few degrees off meant I was much higher than my control and had to drop down. This mistake proved significant and meant I just missed out on at top 20, finishing in 23rd. Despite being initially annoyed at how close I was to a clean run, there were many positives to take into the relay.

The relay marked the final day of racing, and after a flying start by our first leg runner I was set out in the front group. After leading the first few controls, the group had spread out and split on a routechoice leg. In trying to balance sticking to my own routechoices and keeping the front runners in sight, I began to lose control and take some suboptimal routes. Going through a thick area of forest I found myself running alone and similarly to the long race, a few more scrappy controls meant I had lost some time to the leaders. Luckily our last leg runners managed to claw back some time finishing 7th nation.

The week was a brilliant experience and incredible fun, despite some races not going as I had hoped. I connected with many old friends who I haven’t seen since junior competitions pre-covid and met new people from as far as Japan and Hong-Kong. I’ve come away with a renewed motivation for the winter season, and my move to Sweden this September. I hope to be able to focus more of my time on orienteering training so I can be better prepared and more confident going into important international competitions.

A huge thankyou goes to the John Taylor Foundation for their continuing support of my Orienteering endeavours. In such an underfunded sport, athletes are responsible for funding the entirety of these competitions, which adds up across the year. Therefore, the John Taylor Foundation’s contributions really do make it possible to continue competing at an elite level, for which I am very grateful.

Laura in the mixed relay
Laura on the run-in
The GB Team

Charley O’Neill – Pole Vaulter

When I received the money at the end of 2020 I was 3rd in the country as an under 15 and it was going to be difficult to maintain that position as in the age group up I would be the youngest person and there was some very good people in that age group.  I was looking at being 7th in the under 17 age group at the very best.  2021 was a difficult year with very few competitions taking place and for me personally 2020 and 2021 have been extremely tense.  As a child in care there are individuals who make my life difficult and I really struggle mentally to block out my past. 

I started the season really low at 3.10m which was 15cm below my personal best and at this point my new poles had not arrived.  This was really disappointing as was my position at English School where I should have been 2nd but came 7th.  I am trying really hard not to let things get on top of me but I am not always successful and I believe this is what happened at English School which unfortunately took place at a point in my life where I had had some disturbing news. 

I did go on to win the Midlands under 17 and under 20 championships and if the Welsh international had taken place I would have got the England kit but it did not due to covid.

 Yet another disappointment.  I also achieved the standard for the under 20 and the under 17 English championships and was 3rd at the under 17 and got a bronze medal and 4th at the under 20. 

I am Warwickshire schools champion and under 17 Warwickshire champion and I hold the Warwickshire school and county record.   

I was selected to take part in the UK School Games where I got a silver medal without my coach being present (because coaches were not allowed in due to covid).  This was probably my most impressive achievement of the year as I was only 15 at the time and some of the other girls on the podium were 3 years older than myself and I would not have normally competed against them but because of covid the age group was extended meaning they were able to compete.  It was the most amazing experience and one I hope to repeat this coming year

This year I am hoping to be 1st as an under 17 in the country.  I am currently 28th in the country overall (this includes all age groups) and this has improved every year.  If I can get another 20cm PB this would take me to about 15th in the country overall and will put me 20cm away from the European junior qualification height of 3.90m which is what I would need the following year to be selected.  I was selected to take part in the National Talent programme where I go and train with Kate Rooney (Dennison) to improve my fitness and run style.

I am going to work really hard this year to make sure I make progress, however I would really like to do some sessions with a sports therapist to help me with my nerves during competition and with dealing with issues in other areas of my life.  I would also really like the next two poles so that my progress is not delayed.  Thank you very much for your support and if you feel that you can help me with either of these two things please let me know.

Lizzie Williams – Wheelchair racer

Despite how the season ended, I was still able to finish the season with my best ever national rankings! Even ranking #1 for the first time in my career, and in one of my favourite distances, the 200m. During the winter off-season I worked really hard to recover and come back stronger. 

Come January this year, me and my training squad spent 10 days in Spain for a training camp which was absolutely brilliant. It was well timed that at the end of the training camp there is a half marathon (Medio Maraton Almeria) which we all entered prior to the camp. The objective of this for me was purely to see what difference the training camp had made as we were able to do lots of road training, something which I haven’t done much of prior other than pushing along the seafront. And as a track athlete, and a sprinter nonetheless, it was very different putting in so many miles but my body welcomed it and I was feeling really excited at the prospect of crossing the finish line for my first ever half marathon. As it was a local event, it’s not an event that is known by other wheelchair athletes so I knew that I would have to push the whole 13 miles on my own with nobody to work with. Despite this and the little road training I had going into this, I finished the race and crossed the line in an incredible 1 hr 1 min!! Just 11 minutes outside the world record. I was absolutely over the moon, and my coach and I realised that there is a huge potential for me to reach great success in road races as well as the track. 

Once I was back home from Spain, I had qualified and was invited to compete in the elite division of the Vitality Big Half. As this would’ve been my 2nd ever half marathon in the space of 4 weeks, it again was a matter of just getting to the finish line. Road races are a completely different ball game because each event/course is different, and for me I still have to build my confidence of propelling myself across a course that is changing in surface, gradient etc. Early into the Big Half we went through a tunnel and on the downhill I believe my speedometer recorded my top speed as 31.5mph!!! It was super scary yet exhilarating at the same time. A little further into the race and we came across sections of road which was cobbled –  they were a nightmare! I was in a pack with 2 other female racers who ultimately finished 2nd and 3rd, but once we got to the cobbles I had to stop and pull over to tighten my wheels as bouncing around on the cobbles had loosened them and they were going to fall off! If it wasn’t for that I am confident I would’ve stuck with the pack and got on the podium. Oh well, it’s all experience! And it was certainly great fun to be a part of!

So that’s kind of it for now, as the world stops to tackle Coronavirus, uncertainty lingers and myself and my training partners wander what the season will bring – if anything! But I am safe and well, training within the comfort of my own home which is the most I can do for now. I hope you too are keeping safe and well.

I do believe I had applied to you for funding towards new racing wheels, and unfortunately I haven’t reached the total needed to buy them yet. But I have your contribution ready and waiting for when I can make the purchase. And I’ll be sure to send you more updates as I go, and any photos from events. 

I have a couple action shots of me from the Vitality Big Half marathon this year, I hope you like them as much as I do!