WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Training up to 90-miles per week, steeplechase specialist Luke Gunn combines life as an athlete with a full-time job in a hectic journey en route to 2012, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 25-year-old from Birmingham usually runs at 7am each morning ahead of yoga or circuit sessions in the gym, an eight-hour working day and training again in the evening in his quest for the international breakthrough he craves.
Working as the Sports Scholarships Manager and West Midlands Regional Hub Manager for the Talented Athlete Support Scheme at the University of Birmingham, Gunn enjoyed a mainly positive 2010 campaign, with a 3:42.1 1500m lifetime best, fourth and eighth-place finishes in two IAAF Diamond League appearances and also claimed the UK 3,000m steeplechase title.
However, the 8:28.48 ‘chaser was left disappointed when failing to make the Team GB squad for the European championships this summer in Barcelona and placing only seventh in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi back in October:
“My season was on the whole satisfactory but in raw honesty, I was hoping for more and feel that with a little more fortune in my early races - I could have seriously revised my best for the ‘chase and gained selection for the European’s,” Gunn explained.
“I was fortunate enough to attend my second Commonwealth Games, which I ran aggressively taking on the Kenyans, to my detriment in the end but most importantly, it was the first time I was unafraid to run with them - and I will take that sentiment with me through this winter and beyond to raise my game once more.”
Coached by Bud Baldaro, Gunn is not supported by UK Athletics despite claiming two national titles in recent years but since graduating after six years at Florida State University, he was happy to take up his current role.
“I am not in a position to gain funding or sponsorship, which would enable me to train full time, so I sought out a system that made me self sufficient whilst giving me enough freedom to train,” the Derby AC runner revealed.
“I am still learning to balance the work-load to its maximal efficiency, but I would say on the whole I have found a sustainable balance of the training-work load. There are of course times when one of the two must take priority over the other, but as long as these are planned for well in advance - neither need suffer.”
Proving athletes do not necessarily need to train full-time and enjoy bouts of warm-weather and high-altitude to experience success, Gunn even braves the cross-country season during the winter in order to gain more strength for his track outings in the summer.
“With the focus on laying down a strong endurance base for the summer track season,
I aim to compete in the National and Inter-County cross-country events this winter (in February and March),” explained Gunn, who placed an encouraging tenth and eighth, respectively in his over-distance efforts earlier this year.
Sixth in both the 2005 and 2007 European under23 championships, Gunn always knew that his forte lay within the steeplechase event but it has been a frustrating discipline to be part of at times.
“The standard now in Britain is largely poor, but I cannot say I am surprised,” the British number one revealed.
“UK Athletics made some grave errors on selection in the past that have put us in the situation we are in today. In 2008 we had at least four guys that looked as if we could take the event forward again, into the sub 8.20's.
But the strict, confusing and demoralising standards for the Olympic Games (in 2008) meant that Andrew Lemoncello moved to the marathon, Adam Bowden switched to triathlon and Stuart Stokes walked away from the sport entirely until a brief return this year.”
With the World championships (in Daegu, South Korea) and the Olympic Games in London among his biggest goals for the next two seasons, Gunn can recognise the hard work ahead but is confident he can realise his Olympic dream two years from now.
“I want to a GB regular at major championships and work towards becoming the best European at my event,” Gunn explained.
“Europeans have proven in current years that the Africans are not super human. I know a major medal is a long, long shot but to be able to mix it with them and be competitive in a major final would be incredible.
Essentially I want to walk away from the sport knowing I got everything I could out
of my body.”