RUNNING: MANY a tired athlete has felt as if they are running uphill, but for Jonny Mellor that is actually the case.
The 16-year-old from Irby has already represented England twice as a fell runner, including finishing second at this summer's World Championships in Germany.
And although injury cost him a chance to race in Alaska recently, he is back in training and determined to go for gold in 2004.
Jonny, who also races on the track and in cross country for Wirral AC, first got into fell running four years ago.
"My coach recommended it to me and in my first race I did quite well and enjoyed it," he said.
"Then the foot and mouth epidemic meant the sport was basically closed down for a few years, but since then I have started racing again and received my England call-up.
"That was in a home international race in Wales, before I went to Germany for the World Championships where England finished in the top three positions."
An A-level student at Pensby Boys High School, Jonny said he enjoys the different challenges fell running presents.
He explained: "It is different to track sports or even normal cross country as it is quite an old sport and a lot of the races are held alongside village fetes and things like that.
"It is also challenging and exciting because you are running up the side of a mountain over all different types of terrain like shale, rocks or grass slopes.
"It is pretty rugged and often you have to scramble, or even put your hands on your knees and walk up because it is so steep. Once you get to the top then it can be foggy and runners have got lost plenty of times.
"Then on the way down you can go pretty fast, so you have to run with your arms out to keep your balance and also protect you should you fall down, while I have special fell shoes with moulded soles to help support my feet."
It was on a descent when Jonny fell and injured his back, which meant he could not travel to Alaska in September.
After a short period of recuperation, he is now back in training as set by his coaches
Derek Isherwood and Norman Matthews, the England team manager.
That involves running up to 50 miles each week around Wirral, including tackling local hills in Thurstaston, West Kirby, Brackenwood and Bebington.
Jonny said: "Obviously you have to build up a lot of strength and stamina, but you also need to be determined not just to race but to fit in training because I am studying for A levels in PE, biology, IT, leisure and recreation and general studies.
"That means I often go for runs before school which can be tough, but it's also good too and relaxing because you can get away from everything else and just run through some great scenery."
He added: "I will be working hard in training until Christmas before running some cross country races in January, including the nationals.
"The fell season starts in April and I am hopeful of going to the World Championships again, which are in Italy this year. At the moment I am in the under-18 team but I want to race for the senior England team in the future."