WRITTEN FOR SKYSPORTS
Despite a disappointing championship season, Tom Lancashire bounced back to record the fastest 1500m time by a British man in five years and by spending the winter in
the mud, he hopes to get closer to the medals this summer, writes Nicola Bamford.
The 25-year-old Bolton runner finished a frustrating tenth and eighth, respectively, in last year’s European championship and Commonwealth Games finals following injury and poor tactical decisions, but enjoyed a trio of confidence-boosting performances in between the two biggest tests of the summer.
In Brussels last August, Lancashire registered a scintillating 3:33.96 lifetime best over the metric mile to not only head the national rankings but to also jump to twelfth on the British all-time list for the distance.
Only a week earlier did the Florida State university graduate speed to a 3:53.39 mile at Crystal Palace in London, to reach the British number-one spot before racing to a 3:55.22 road mile in New York for second on the national all-time rankings – all of which went some way to making up for the two championship blips in his 2010 campaign.
Guided by Norman Poole in Manchester, Lancashire explained:
“Last season was mixed – I was happy with my time progressions and making two finals but I didn’t run as well as I should have done due to tactics, not running my own races and also getting injured earlier in the summer.
But I’ve not focused on it and I hope I can give a lot more this year.”
Training alongside European 800m silver-medallist Michael Rimmer and 19-year-old Commonwealth Games 800m semi-finalist Niall Brooks, Lancashire turned down the chance to study medicine three years ago in order to become a full-time athlete.
With the desire to fulfil his second passion after his athletic career, Lancashire may have made the correct decision considering his success in recent years.
A five-time national 1500m champion in his teens, the Northern runner captured 2003 European junior silver and placed sixth in the 2004 World junior final before breaking through onto the senior middle-distance scene four years later.
Reducing his 3:38.92 best to 3:35.33, Lancashire won the 2008 Olympic trials and UK championships at finished seventh in his heat in Beijing at aged twenty-three.
A big Manchester United fan, Lancashire went on to place eighth in the World championship final the following year in Berlin before the recent blemishes in his athletic CV.
Using the often-thought unusual method of cross-country racing to gain strength for the summer, Lancashire revealed:
“Things are going really well, it’s definitely the best winter I’ve ever had.
The main difference this year is that I’ve managed to stay clear of illness and injury so I’ve been able to do more endurance work and it’s paying off.
I’ve always loved cross-country and it fits in with our approach of building a strong base for the summer. I hope to maintain my endurance longer than in the past.
I did the same last winter, getting strong through cross-country and I think I’ve moved on again this year so I hope my 1500m performances will as well – the two are closely linked.”
After placing an encouraging fifth in the Bupa Great Edinburgh cross-country international and winning the northern cross-country championships last month,
Lancashire will next target the national cross-country championships in Staffordshire this weekend before tacking the Inter-Counties championships and World trials in Birmingham in early March:
“Steve Cram (1983 World 1500m champion) won the northern in 1985 so if it’s good enough for him, it shows cross-country is important,” Lancashire explained.
“I hope to run as well as I did in the northern champs and to get in the medals. As a 1500m athlete, running over 12km and medalling would make me happy, it would be a big achievement.”
Seventh and fourth, respectively, in the 2009 events, Lancashire recently bought a house which he shares with Brooks and his partner, former GB 800m runner Laura Finucane and is keen to praise his training environment:
“It’s a good group - we’re all helping each other a lot,” he revealed.
“Norman’s great to have around – I started with him while I was still at university in America. He’s really proactive and it works really well.”
With plans to train in Florida for a fortnight after the cross-country season, the 2010 UK indoor 3,000m silver-medallist will open his outdoor track season in April and is determined to lead an upsurge in British performances this summer:
“Men’s middle-distance running in Britain is crying out for someone to break through and get major medals,” Lancashire explained.
“Mike got closer last year with his European medal and I’d really like to get there soon.
There was a big gap in times from myself and Andy Baddeley (2008 Olympic 1500m finalist) so the depth is missing really, but young people like Niall are coming through and keeping me on my toes.”
In a year where the World outdoor championships in Daegu, South Korea is the key priority, Lancashire is well aware of the pressure to produce the placing, rather than times alone when it matters most:
“I need to get my times down but my goal is to reach the world final,” he revealed.
“It’s been a struggle before and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t – to have more major championship experience is important before Olympic year.
Nerves are good to push yourself and the pressure will drive me on. I’m working on my championship racing – I need to be nearer to the medals. Times are a nice side-product but the aim is to perform.”
With the 2012 Olympics fast-approaching, Britain’s top 1500m man is hoping his going the extra mile, quite literally, will help him reap the rewards on home turf next summer:
“I’m definitely aiming for more than just making the Olympic team,” Lancashire explained.
“There’s definitely pressure but it’s more from myself. To make the world final would reassure myself and others that support me things are going well for 2012.
There’s a lot more to come – my target over the next few years is to break the British 1500m record (3:29.67). I’m hoping I can move on a lot and I think I have a really good chance to get within reach of it.”
By going back to basics in an effort to break through into world-class, Lancashire
may soon become as famous as his namesake region where he hails from.