Meet UCT’s half-marathon star

24 May 2017 | Story Yusuf Omar. Photo Supplied.
Jessica Pollock wins the 30th Safari Half Marathon on May Day this year.
Jessica Pollock wins the 30th Safari Half Marathon on May Day this year.

Safari Half Marathon winner Jessica Pollock had only one request for this article: “Please make it as small as possible!”

It fits with the almost apologetic reason she offered for winning the Safari in May this year with a time of 1:24:54 – “I think it was just a lucky day to do it, because the field wasn’t as strong as it should have been or as it’s been in the past”.

With her time, Pollock reckons she should have had “other people up there with me”.

The fourth-year medical student at UCT insists that she doesn’t like the attention she gets. But her rather glitzy athletic CV would struggle to fly under the radar.

She ran her first half-marathon in 2012, her first year at UCT, and although she started off with just three or four races a year she is now running a lot more.

At the end of her third year, Pollock received the Chairperson’s Award for representing UCT at seven sports. The seven (you read that correctly) were rowing, canoeing, hockey, tennis, golf, running and cycling – she rode the Cape Town Cycle Tour under the UCT banner.

“The golf wasn’t serious, though,” she explains.

A younger Pollock was more interested in tennis and hockey, with some running on the side. An injury in her second year at UCT saw her switch to rowing, which was the only thing she could then do. Her brother was a UCT canoeist, so she joined the canoe club too.

All this in between getting two degrees – a BSc and BSc (Hons) – which she read for while taking a ‘break’ from her medical studies.

Now Pollock’s mainly focused on running.

“I think that’s why I keep improving.”

Before Safari, Pollock was the 20th woman to cross the line in this year’s Two Oceans Half Marathon with a time of 1:24:15.

“This year I’ve been running most days with the UCT club and doing some structured training, and it’s paying off.”

The Two Oceans time was her fastest since last year’s Gun Run, when she posted a personal best of 1:24:00. Pollock’s sights are trained on another personal best at this year’s Gun Run, and she’s also entered the gruelling Cape Town Marathon in September.

The marathon sounds daunting, but after finishing a three-day trail run in March, the AfricanX, Pollock’s worry over managing long distances has eased somewhat.

“Sport’s always been a big part of my life, so I just like to fill up all my time with it.”

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