Physiologist and running coach Colin Thomas shares his experience of working with the New Zealand marathoner in Kenya as he trains for the Commonwealth Games
How they train – Chris O’HareFebruary 26, 2014
Last summer saw a big breakthrough for the Scottish middle distance runner, who tells AW how he hopes 2014 will be even better
Chris O’Hare started his running when at primary school and says: “My older brother Ryan is three years older than me and so I wanted to do everything that he did and that meant going to the then City of Edinburgh running club.
“I ran in a few races and my parents recognised that I had some talent and took me to my first coach, Charlie Russell in Peebles, who I was with for around a year before moving on to Dave Campbell in Edinburgh and I was with him until I left for Tulsa University.”
As a youngster O’Hare used to train every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, but as he grew older easy running was introduced on the other days of the week. He now runs twice a day every day apart from a Wednesday, which is his easy day and amounts to just one run, and Sunday when he does his long run.
Since enrolling at Tulsa University in 2010 his training has progressed through an increase in mileage and an increase in volume for his workouts.
“by the time I reach my peak I will be looking to go sub-3:30…”
The 23-year-old, who has been building up his medal collection at national level over the last decade, had a major breakthrough in 2013 when he broke the US collegiate record and the Scottish 1500m and mile indoor records at the Millrose Games in New York (3:37.25 for 1500m and 3:52.98 for the mile). This was just the beginning, though, as he then clocked a fine 3:35.37 in Oordegem and made the World Championship final in Moscow. “It topped off my breakthrough season completely!” he adds.
Although he won Scottish titles as a youngster by the bucket load, his first major title came courtesy of the prestigious NCAA indoor championships in 2012 where he took the mile in 4:01.66 just ahead of Britain’s Richard Peters.
The Edinburgh AC athlete emphasises: “Tulsa is a great place to train and Coach Gulley (Steve Gulley) is a great coach. He understands that British athletes also want to compete in Britain and in Europe and he gears our seasons to compete well in the NCAA without neglecting the European circuit, which is good and pretty rare in the NCAA. The training group at Tulsa is fantastic. – there is a wide variety of athletes from 800m to 10km, so there is always someone to train with no matter what the session is.”
O’Hare thinks the mindset is no different across the pond to the UK. “We just haven’t the facilities in the UK to compete with the NCAA system – unless you are one of the top five in the UK, which I wasn’t when I left for Tulsa,” he says.
His personal mindset is fairly simple, though. “I continue to work as hard as I can wherever I am and take advantage of any opportunities that are presented to me, because they may not come around again.”
O’Hare has no doubt about what his favourite type of workout is. “It has to be short and fast track sessions,” he says. However, when prompted about his least favourite type of session, he adds: “Every form of a tempo run!”
Cross country still plays a big part in his development and he has run the discipline every year since he was in the under-11 age group apart from two years ago when he was injured. O’Hare says: “Cross country is a valuable and vital piece of my training regime. It’s such a good way to get the cardiovascular base and strength you need for the 1500m.”
His immediate target of making the World Indoors saw him finish runner-up at the British trials. He has been selected for the 1500m alongside Lee Emanuel and currently leads the UK rankings for the distance thanks to a 3:38.28 clocking on the way to a 3:54.66 mile at the Millrose Games in New York.
The young Scot points out: “I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have ever tried to peak for an indoor season and I don’t plan to for this season either. Sure, I rest a little the week of races, however my mileage is kept at the same level and my cool-down after races is often fast and somewhat of a tempo effort to reduce the peaking effect of resting prior to the race, having an easy workout on Tuesday for example.”
As for a slightly longer-term goal, he now has the Commonwealth Games on home soil firmly in his sights. He says: “I hope to do something in the final!”
The last question is a somewhat ambiguous one – how fast can he go over the metric mile? His answer is very clear, “Around 3:33 this year and by the time I reach my peak I will be looking to go sub-3:30.” Big goals, for an ambitious and talented athlete – watch this space!
CURRENT WINTER TRAINING WEEK
Monday: (am) 8 miles easy* (pm) 4 miles easy + gym session**
Tuesday: (am) 4 miles easy (pm) track session (tempo work)
Wednesday: (am) Morning off (pm) 5 miles easy + gym session
Thursday: (am) 4 miles easy (pm) track session (shorter, faster work)
Friday: (am) 8 miles easy (pm) 4 miles easy
Saturday: (am) 8 miles then some strides afterwards (pm) 4 miles easy
Sunday: (am) Long run of 90min to 2hr duration
* Easy runs are done at an average of 7min per mile.
** Gym work is mostly bodyweight and manual resistance stuﬀ with basic weighted exercises such as squats and dead lifts. Basic hurdle drills are done on a Saturday. More non-running sessions are next on his progression list as he feels that he wasn’t ready for them previously. He hopes to progress every year in these aspects to make him stronger and faster.
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes