Series26 Jan 2015

Personal bests – Nick Willis


New Zealand's Nick Willis at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow (© Getty Images)

Nick Willis set a New Zealand 1500m record of 3:29.91 in Monaco last July to become the fastest non-African in the world for the distance in 2014. The 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medallist speaks about the best things in his athletics career.

My best achievement in athletics

It is a toss-up between my silver medal at the Olympics and running 3:29 for the 1500m. The Olympics is all about showing off on the day and I happened to have one of the greatest races of my career on the day that counted in Beijing. There are two sides to running and the other is to see how you can go against yourself. In Monaco when I ran 3:29 – that is the closest I’ve ever got to reaching my body’s extreme limit.

My best piece of coaching advice

I didn’t receive it from anyone specifically, but more generally from the New Zealand running fraternity and that is to get your long run in every week. That is the ultimate lasting legacy of the Arthur Lydiard concept. People are always trying to challenge that and come up with new ideas but throughout I’ve always felt I needed to stick to the New Zealand tradition. I think it has carried me through even when I have been doubtful about some other training mechanisms I’ve had. The long run has proved the tried and trusted piece of the puzzle.

My biggest rival

I would have to say Craig Mottram of Australia. Over my career, Craig has definitely motivated me the most. I have a lot of respect for Craig. We had the trans-Tasman rivalry and he was such a confident and brash runner who never held back his opinions or thoughts, which was good motivation. I always had a lot of respect for his career as it always brought the best out in me.  

My best friend in athletics

People I’ve trained with most, so in the early part of my career I trained every day with Nate Brannen of Canada. He taught me a lot and I taught him a lot. We learned our way into the professional world together and so we forged a close friendship. More recently I trained with Will Leer (US 1500m runner). Today he bases himself out of Los Angeles but we train together via email and we have the same coach. I say Nate and Will because when you are training with someone every day those are the people you share the highs and lows with the most.

My biggest disappointment

It would have to be the 2012 Olympic final. I came in as one of the favourites, but finished a very disappointing ninth place. I just knew I had lost a great opportunity. It hurt for a long time and probably took a year-and-a-half to get over properly.

The best athlete I’ve ever seen

Ashton Eaton. Coming from New Zealand and knowing there is a guy who I know personally who could train for an event for half a season in the 400m hurdles and set a time faster than the New Zealand record for that distance even though he is a decathlete just blows my mind. He also probably has better PBs than the New Zealand records for the high hurdles, 400m and long jump. 

My greatest regret

I did one of the best workouts of my career seven weeks before the London Olympics and I really regret not seeing that as a warning sign that my timing was off.  Instead of looking at it logically we looked at it and thought maybe I am on a path for something out of this world and we got a bit greedy. Whereas, I should have backed off in training. If I had done that it could have a whole different result in the London final.

My greatest indulgence

It is a pitiful one, but the Detroit Pistons. They have had the most miserable record in the NBA these last five years yet I watch every single game and read internet message boards all about them.  I know every single thing about that team. It is like I’m a glutton for suffering.

Steve Landells for the IAAF