Series03 Feb 2014

Work, rest and play – Bernard Lagat


Bernard Lagat celebrates as he crosses the line to win gold ahead of Mo Farah and Edwin Sol in the men’s 3000m in Istanbul (© Getty Images)

We take a peek into the life of the three-time world indoor 3000m champion Bernard Lagat of the USA as he answers our work, rest and play questions.

Now 39, Lagat will aim to defend his title at this year’s edition of the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, on 7-9 March.


What is your favourite training session?

Bernard Lagat: I have two. I love coming back down from altitude training and doing 300m repeats with 45 seconds rest. The session tells me exactly how I’m feeling. I also love the five or six mile tempo runs. It is a hard session, but it is good pain. Running those miles under five minutes a mile always gives me a sense of accomplishment and I always feel good afterwards at home.

What is your least favourite training session?

BL: I don’t enjoy the longer sessions on the track like the mile repeats. I always tell my coach, ‘don’t tell me I’m going to do these sessions.’ I can’t stand it. I then tell myself that I’m a distance runner and I just have to enjoy them, but I can’t. I dread these sessions.

What is the worst thing about being an athlete?

BL: It is hard for me to find anything that irritates me in athletics, but if there is one thing it would be having no control over what happens. For instance, just three weeks before the 2008 Beijing Olympics I picked up an achilles problem to the point where I couldn’t even train. I would rank injuries as the worst thing.

Do you have a favourite training venue?

BL: I like training at the university track in Tubingen in Germany, which is my European base for the summer. The track is surrounded by steep hills and dense forest. It is super quiet and a stream runs down by the side of the track. It is a seven-lane track and it is one of my favourite spots to train at. I also love running in the forest there for my tempo runs.

What is your favourite type of music to train to?

BL: I’m not a music person, but there are some days, if I’m feeling like I don’t want to run, when I put my iPod on, go out for a five-mile jog and listen to a few Michael Jackson tracks.


Do you have a favourite way to relax?

BL: I like relaxing with my family. My son is a soccer player and my daughter a gymnast. I love the fact being an athlete is not a nine-to-five job and I love being a part of my kids’ lives during the day. I also really like my date nights. Once a week – every Tuesday – I have a date night with my wife. I’m not really a movie person, I get bored, so sometimes we go shopping and then grab something to eat.

Do you have a favourite TV show?

BL: I like the home shows – either the home improvement shows or home relocation shows like House Hunters International. That is my favourite. I’m also a news guy and I enjoy watching CNN and the other news channels.

Do you have a favourite meal?

BL: I love sushi, so I love going to sushi restaurants. I also enjoy Italian and for a special occasion going out for a really good steak.

What is your favourite drink?

BL: I enjoy a little bit of Italian red in the afternoon. My wife and I like Cabernet.

If you could pick one track and field athlete in the world to relax for a day with, who would it be and why?

BL: I like friendly people who can tell me a good story. I grew up in Kenya and I remember so many good stories. I find David Rudisha can tell some amazing stories about the Maasai people.  I’m a Nandi Kalenjin and the stories he tells are similar to the experiences I had when I grew up. I can listen to David all day. I would love to relax with him.


When and how did you develop a passion for golf?

BL: A few years back I decided I wanted to play the game and ordered some clubs. I used to hit the ball really bad. The golf ball went left and right, but that made me determined to rectify the problem and improve my game. Slowly after a lot of work on the driving range my game improved and I got better.  I became hooked on the game.

Have any qualities you have picked up from the sport of athletics been transferable to golf?

BL: Yes, intensity. Running has a lot of intensity and so does golf. I love to be competitive and when I’m addressing the ball lots of people tell me I look so serious. I have asked myself why that is the case. Maybe, that is the nature of athletics and I feel I need to bring my game face to the golf course.

What is the best element to golf?

BL: Not my driving or putting. The part in between! When I use my driver, it doesn’t go that far but when I pull out my hybrid clubs I feel I can control the swing much better.  I struggle on the putting green. Sometimes I take three or four putts a hole, which is terrible. I think that tells you the putting is where I have some trouble.

Who is your all-time favourite golfer?

BL: I admire how Tiger Woods plays the game. I’m a big fan. One time I went with my family to San Francisco and I asked the Nike CEO for tickets to a golf tournament there. I ended up following Tiger’s group around the course. It was awesome.

If you could pick one athlete to be your partner for a round of golf, who would it be and why?

BL: It would be Dwight Phillips. He is the funniest track and field athlete I’ve ever met. Dwight can walk into a room, be quiet for the first ten minutes, but slowly he’ll start cracking people up until the whole room starts laughing. He is so funny. To play a round of golf with him would be good fun.

Steve Landells for the IAAF