Emily Moss talks to European junior 5000m champion Alex George about his successful year

Having won his first national track title when taking victory in the England Athletics Under-20 Championships 5000m race in June, it wasn’t long before Alex George catapulted himself on to the top of the continental podium when taking a surprise title at the European Junior Championships the following month.

Not even the 19-year-old himself had expected to bring home the gold from Eskilstuna, Sweden, although he was quietly confident he could challenge for medals in the right race.

He says: “After winning at Bedford I had confidence in my ability to kick with anyone over 5000m. This grew after my 1500m PB a week later in Watford.”

The Gloucester athlete had won regional titles in the past, as well as taking Mini London Marathon victory on the roads, but 2015 was arguably a big breakthrough year for the Paul de Camps-coached athlete, as in addition to his European triumph, he had also represented his country at the World Cross Country Championships in China, an experience he feels paid dividends when the chips were down in Sweden. “Running at the World Cross helped my confidence as it made me feel that I can compete with the best in the world,” he says.

“Running at the World Cross helped my confidence as it made me feel that I can compete with the best in the world”

However, Alex is quick to credit his move to train and study Stateside at the University of Arkansas for his success this past year. The criminal justice student says: “I decided to go because of the life experiences that would come with it and I thought it would be the best place for me to develop as a runner. I visited five schools and bought into the training philosophy of the coach at Arkansas.

“We have lots of great places to run and train. For everyday runs there are many dirt roads or soft gravel trails. For cross-country sessions we have our own cross-country course. We also have a 400-600m hill at the golf course, which we will use for hill reps.

“In the winter we have access to a top-quality banked 200m indoor track for sessions, and indoor football or baseball fields for easy runs. Our outdoor track is also top quality for racing and training on later on in the year.”

He also credits his coach and the training philosophy at Arkansas. “In America I’m coached by Chris Bucknam,” he says. “He’s a great coach and he always gets me fired up for sessions and races. Our training group doesn’t have the depth of some teams, but therefore we get more individual attention during our sessions. Arkansas puts emphasis on track and speed work. This was a huge draw for me, as I’m a big believer in speed for middle-distance running.”

Alex also feels a step up in his training during the winter, together with some fine tuning with De Camps when he returned home, contributed to his run of good form.

“Arkansas puts emphasis on track and speed work. This was a huge draw for me, as I’m a big believer in speed for middle-distance running”

He says: “I think a combination of 45-50 miles per week and endurance sessions set me up well for a long outdoor season. When I got back to the UK, Paul really helped my confidence and general race sharpness by the more 1500m-orientated stuff. Without his sessions and advice, I don’t think I would’ve been able to win the Europeans.”

Athletics success is arguably in Alex’s blood. His granddad trained with 1948 Olympic 400m champion Arthur Wint and the first sub-four-minute miler, Roger Bannister, while he was studying dentistry at Guy’s Hospital in London. Meanwhile twin brother, Tom, boasts a 1500m PB of 3:49 and is the perfect training partner for Alex when they are at home.

You can find further performance stats on Alex on Power of 10 here.

» Support young athletes via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk

» Video via EuropeanAthletics on YouTube