Series20 Oct 2014

Work, rest and play – Nick Symmonds


Nick Symmonds | Moscow 2013 | 800m silver

US 800m star Nick Symmonds is the latest athlete to answer our work, rest and play questions.

The world 800m silver medallist talks losing out to Sally Kipyego in training runs, how his music tastes differ with his mood and his passion for fishing.

Symmonds missed the 2014 outdoor season through injury but in the meantime wrote his first book ‘Life Outside the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled’ which was published last week.

Nick at work

What is your favourite training session?

Nick Symmonds: Every session can be fun or terrible depending on the day, but there is nothing that beats a good hour-long run. There is something about an easy run on a beautiful trail which is the sort of run I'd like to do for the rest of my life.

What is your least favourite session?

NS: Either mile or kilometre repeats or tempo runs. The long, gruelling sessions I'm not very good at. I used to run them with Sally Kipyego (Olympic 10,000m silver medallist) and she used to run away from me, which was a bit demoralising. I know I need to run these sessions to be able to run three great rounds of the 800m, but I hate them.

What is the worst thing about being an athlete?

NS: The hardest part is being away from family and friends, and spending large chunks of time away from people I really want to be around. For the whole summer months, because of my athletics commitments, I'm completely booked.

Who is your favourite training partner?

NS: I’d have to say Will Leer (sixth in the men's 1500m at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships). I love having a conversation with the guy because he’s very smart and he's got a lot of different passions. Also we train well together because I have more speed and he has more strength. We match up really well.

What is your all-time favourite training venue?

NS: Narabeen, a beachside suburb of Sydney, Australia. I spent six weeks training down there with Lachie Renshaw (the 2011 World University Games 800m champion). I love training in places where we have everything in the same spot, and we had that down there with the weight room, track and even the beach all close by.

Nick at rest

Where is your favourite place to relax?

NS: Probably my home town of Boise in Idaho. It still feels like home, even though I haven't lived there for 11 years.

Describe your perfect non-training day.

NS: I would wake up have a strong cup of coffee and then go out for a bite of lunch. I'd then spend the afternoon fishing, open deer hunting or boating - something outdoors. I'd then come back to a really nice dinner and a beer, sharing stories with friends and family. 

What is your favourite music to chill to?

NS: I bounce back and forth between indie rock and gangsta rap just depending on the mood. If I’m a little frustrated I listen to gangsta rap.

Describe your perfect meal.

NS: I’m a meat-and-potato guy so I like a nice cut of meat with fresh salad washed down with a gin and tonic or a beer.

What is your all-time favourite movie?

NS: If I had to pick one it would be Forrest Gump because it is such an epic film. I must have watched it a hundred times.

Nick at play

Why the passion for fishing?

NS: I was presented with my first fly rod at the age of four and I've been fishing for as long as I can remember. It has been an important part of the Symmonds family tradition. It is a good way for me to unwind and connect with nature. I also like the fact that when I'm fishing the fish couldn't care less whether I'm number one in the world. I like the game of cat and mouse between me and the fish. I don't think about running once when I'm fishing and fishing is one of the very few things that allows me to shut my mind off like that.     

What is your best ever catch?

NS: My most memorable catch was when I was fishing up around Anchorage in Alaska during the same week as 9/11. I caught a 10lb fish which I was pictured with. When I look back on that image - with the world seemingly falling apart - it is a reminder of how fortunate I really am.

Where is your favourite place to fish?

NS: My family have a cabin in Big Sky Montana. That's probably the most spiritual place to fish because I have so many great memories there.

If you had a dream fishing trip, which four people from the world of track and field would you invite along?

NS: Coach (Mark) Rowland because I know he likes to fish and I never get to hang out with him as much as I’d like. I want to invite David Rudisha because I’d like to outdo him at something! I'd also bring Will Leer and his girlfriend, Aisha Praught, who’s a steeplechaser. She is a great fisherman and I'd have Will come along because he'd bring a cooler full of beers so I know we’d have a great time.

Are there any transferable skills between track and field and fishing?

NS: I'd say the biggest skill needed for both is perseverance. I have been out fishing for five hours thinking this is a waste of time and then I'd run into a monster steelhead, which would be the one moment which would make the whole day worth it. Sometimes in athletics, I wait that that one great moment and that too demands perseverance.

Steve Landells for the IAAF