Eleven months on from his last outing, Tom Lancashire spoke to AW about his problems and his career thus far
Tom Lancashire was always a decent runner in his school days but, as he says: “I started training properly when Jack Caldwell, a coach from Bolton Harriers, had watched me race in a small, local cross-country race and he asked me to join his group. I was only aged 11 or so, but he introduced me to proper training and eventually the concept of morning runs, which I still despise to this day!”
It wasn’t totally middle-distance running right from the start and Lancashire is keen to point out: “The best part of being a kid in the young athletes’ league is dabbling in a bit of everything. I usually did 800m or 1500m and sometimes 3000m. I was also decent at things like the triple jump too. My favourite part was deﬁ nitely doing the 4x400m relay.
“When I was bottom of the junior age group we had a really strong relay team. We called ourselves “the dream team”. Sadly, as a young newbie I was put into the B team – affectionately known as the “dream on team”. I think we once ran the “dream team” close, but silver was as good as it ever got!”
Lancashire’s injury woes started with problems to his Achilles in early 2012. He explains: “I’d missed the entire 2011 season due to a zinc toxicity and I think the deconditioning I suffered as a result of that just put a bit of extra strain on my body and caused it to break down.
“The hard thing, however, was that it was a home Olympics year and I was understandably desperate to make the team and was pushing pretty hard in training. It’s possible that I didn’t give the Achilles enough time to heal properly at any stage, but I have no regrets about it now. I literally did everything in my power to make that team, but it didn’t work out. I told myself when the problems started that if I did that, I could still walk away proud of what I’d done.”
Getting treatment aplenty from physios and doctors, the problem frustratingly persisted, which ultimately left only one option, which was surgery. Speaking to AW at the end of 2013, Lancashire added: “I had the operation in April this year and I’m now starting to get close to full training once again. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the use of an Alter-G treadmill, which has been a massive help in getting me back into running. I currently do most of my faster running sessions on it.
“Rehab has been pretty full-on, especially over the last three months or so as I’ve been able to do more and more on my feet. I’m in the gym every day, doing calf and Achilles strengthening work in addition to my normal strength and conditioning stuff. Also, recently I’ve been able to bring in many more drills and functional work to make sure I’m as strong as possible for when I take on heavier running loads.”
The Bolton man’s first major success was in 2001 when as an under-17 he finished runner-up in the intermediate boys race at the English Schools. Lancashire recalls: “Chris Reynolds, who won, and I were selected to run for England in the Home Countries International in Tullamore. It felt like a huge breakthrough to get my first England vest and I went on to win that race too. It’s still one of my proudest moments because it was all very new to me and I felt under huge pressure.”
However, the race that sticks out in his mind is the Bislett Games in 2008. The 28-year-old says: “Again I was under a bit of extra pressure as I was desperate to run the qualifying time for the Beijing Olympics later that summer. Everything seemed to go perfectly that day and I hit the front with about 150m to go and held on to win in 3:35.33 and gain the qualifying time.”
From 2004 to 2007 Lancashire was studying and running for Florida State University and he thinks that it was the ideal stepping stone for him. He says: “I’d had some decent performances as a junior, but I wasn’t quite ready to step up to senior level. The NCAA provided the perfect mid-point – the level of competition was immense with so much depth. In any one race I entered there would be 10 other guys who had run similar or quicker times. It’s also a good link between being an amateur and a professional athlete – you are treated much like a professional out there and you quickly learn how important it is to look after your own body.”
So what is Lancashire’s favourite session? “It’s probably one of my coach’s (Norman Poole) staple sessions – 1000m, 600m, 400m. It’s more of an 800m session, but I love it because you get faster as it goes on and if I’m running it with my training partner, Mike Rimmer, I get loads of recovery time!”
He has no doubt what his least favourite session is though. “Through the winter we do a session every week in and around the car parks at Sport City in Manchester – by Christmas it feels like the worst place on earth. It’s a pretty grim and bleak place at the best of times, but on a cold and wet Monday evening it’s horrible. We usually pray for snow so that we have to go train on the indoor track!”
The Bolton Harrier is full of credit for his coach. “Having Norman (Poole) as my coach is a huge part of my career and I owe a lot to him,” he said. “We have a great relationship and he’s always keen to meet up and discuss plans and training, which I think is hugely important. Ultimately it’s me that’s responsible for my performance so it’s crucial that I have an understanding of what training I’m doing and why. He’s always there after sessions or races to put things in perspective – whether it’s been good or bad. His support has been amazing over the last three years, which have been the toughest of my career.”
Lancashire is focused in the immediate future purely on getting back into full training again. He says: “It’s been a really long road to get to where I am now, and I want to make sure I do everything right in the final stages of my recovery. If things go to plan I’d like to run the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow after competing in Delhi in 2010, which was an amazing experience.
“Multi-sport games like the Commonwealth and Olympic Games are really unique and it’s great to be part of them. Looking further ahead I’d really like to carry on until at least Rio 2016, but I’ll have to see how my body holds up. One thing the past few years have taught me is not to take anything for granted and I’m not getting too far ahead of myself at the moment.”
What does Lancashire foresee once he eventually hangs up his spikes? He says: “I’d like to think my body will allow me to carry on doing the occasional trot well into later life, but I definitely don’t see myself competing as a vet. As part of my rehab over the past few months I’ve done a lot of swimming and cycling and I’d love to try a triathlon when I have the chance. In terms of coaching, it’s something I have definitely considered – I did some coaching during my time in the States and I really enjoyed it. However, I know that if I did turn to coaching I would want to do it properly and also commit a lot of time to it which may not be possible depending on where life takes me.”
TYPICAL SUMMER TRAINING WEEK
Monday: (am) 25min easy run followed by gym session. (pm) 800m paced session such as: 2x600mx200m (30sec recovery between 600m and 200m – 15min set recovery).
Tuesday: (am) 6-7miles steady. (pm) 25min easy plus drills then circuit training.
Wednesday: (am) 25min easy run. (pm) 10-12x400m with 60sec recovery.
Thursday: (am) 6-7miles steady. (pm) 25min easy.
Friday: (am) 4-5 miles easy then gym session. (pm) Rest.
Saturday: (am) 1500m paced session such as 2x2x800m (3min/10min recovery). (pm) 2-3miles easy plus speed drills.
Sunday: (am) Long run of 75-80min. (pm) Rest.
Weekly mileage: 55-65 miles.
TYPICAL WINTER TRAINING WEEK
Monday: (am) 35min easy run followed by gym session. (pm) 5km paced session such as 5x1200m (2min rec) on road.
Tuesday: (am) 7-8 miles steady. (pm) 25min easy run plus drills then circuit training.
Wednesday: (am) 35min easy run. (pm) 6-7mile tempo run.
Thursday: (am) 7-8miles steady. (pm) 35min easy.
Friday: (am) 5-6 miles easy then gym session. (pm) Rest.
Saturday: (am) 10km paced session such as 3x10min efforts (2min rec). (pm) Rest.
Sunday: (am) Long run 85-95min. (pm) Rest.
Weekly mileage: 75-85 miles.
Lancashire adds: “The above is what I’ve done in the past, however currently my training is very different and to be honest it will probably continue to be once I get back into full training again.”
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes