Runners World Interviews: Iwan Thomas

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With the GB 400m record still firmly under his belt, Iwan Thomas is now a regular on the long-distance running circuit. The former European and Commonwealth Champion reveals his love affair with the London Marathon – and how to resist temptation and hold back at the start of a race. This weekend he’ll be lining up wearing the number one bib to race in the K-Swiss City of Manchester 10K.    

What are your aims for this weekend’s race?

I’ve only raced three 10Ks and my best time was 42:01. I’m not in great shape at the moment but I’ll probably run it in around 43 minutes.

What tips do you have for people taking part in their first 10K in Manchester?

It’s an ideal distance for beginners because it’s not too far, so anyone who’s generally fit can get round. My main advice is to not set off too fast for the first 2K, as you can get carried away with the crowds and the people around you. Ignore everyone else, find your own pace and then just try to stick to that rhythm.

What’s the difference between competing as an elite athlete over 400m and now taking part in in events as a fun runner?

I know that when I line up for a 10K that I’m never going to win it but I run now to better myself. My approach is that I’m doing it for fun but you’d be surprised by how many people try to race me whenever I do an event. It’s not a bad thing because it means I always get the best out of my own performance.

Is it hard to turn off those competitive instincts?

It can be frustrating because I’m 37 now and I’m not as fit as I once was. When I race I have to hold myself back for the first couple of kilometres but I’d love to be tearing it up from the start.

What are the biggest differences between being a sprinter and an endurance runner?

The training is completely is different and it’s a different running style. You have be as efficient as you can for long-distance running and your weight is around 65-70kg. Whereas when you’re running 400m, you’re thinking about your stride and driving your arms. The aim is to get to top speed as quickly as possible and then to try and maintain it.

Why did you take up long-distance running?

It’s just for fun, I’m never going to be an elite. I’m fortunate in my position that I can raise awareness for big charities and I’m an ambassador for Macmillan Cancer Support. I like to push myself now that I’m not an athlete and I try to find that challenge and fun in running and triathlons.

What has been your proudest running achievement?

Probably my first individual gold medal when I won the European Championships. It was one of my proudest moments and after  that I went on to win at the Commonwealth Games and the IAAF World Cup. The first individual medal is always going to be special.

You’ve run the London Marathon three times. Have you got any more marathon ambitions?

I don’t think I’ll do the marathon next year as I’ve done it three times already and it’s always tough. However, it has been an amazing race to take part in because of the camaraderie. When you’re in pain, you can just look at all the people running around you and everyone is helping each other. You just keep digging in and you focus on running for your charity. I’m concentrating more on 10Ks and triathlon at the moment as the marathon requires so much training.

Who are you looking forward to watching at the World Championships in Deagu?

The good thing about the World Championships is that newcomers can really shine. We have a strong GB team; Dai Greene is running really well this year, Phillips Idowu should perform at the triple jump and I really enjoy watching Jenny Meadows as she’s a very gutsy runner. I’m looking forward to cheering on all the GB team. I just wish I was ten years younger so I could take part myself. Being able to travel around the world, meet other athletes and compete as an elite was an amazing experience, but I still get that thrill from running and taking part in triathlons.

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