After an injury-plagued season in 2015, Michael Rimmer is looking for a return to form in an attempt to make his third Olympic Games. Eilish McColgan catches up with him
In March last year I had a fracture in one of my lumbar spine facets. I carried on training throughout the 2014 season although I was often running in a lot of pain. I made the decision to try and make the most of the season, deal with the pain and then allow the fracture to heal during my off-season. Unfortunately, the fracture didn’t heal whatsoever after months of rest and I had to undergo surgery to repair the damage in December 2014. In total it was around eight-and-a-half months out from the sport. If anything I learnt that I should have stopped straight away.
Sport has taught me that, generally, life isn’t fair. From drug cheats to injuries and plain bad luck, you’ve got to take the good and the bad days and become pretty resilient. If you want something then you’ve got to go out there and get it yourself.
Michael Johnson was my inspiration as a kid. Watching him decimate the world record at the Atlanta Olympics was the moment I decided I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Today, I draw inspiration from some of my British peers like Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah. I grew up with these guys and although our careers have gone in slightly different directions, I still believe I can make it to the same level.
Olympic years have delivered my biggest disappointments and regrets. In Beijing in 2008 I was arguably in the best shape of my life, but I got food poisoning. In London, 2012, I felt I did well to make the team after undergoing a double hernia operation at the start of the year, but I didn’t make the most of the experience.
My favourite stadium is the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. Although I’ve not had a great time there racing, it’s the only stadium that gave me goose bumps the first time I saw it. Bright red, all lit up at night it looked like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I’m planning at least two altitude camps before next season. The main bulk will be done in Africa but I will then turn my attention to Europe or America from the spring onwards. I seem to be a good responder to altitude.
Kenya is one of my top places for training. It has made me realise why the Kenyans run so fast. With the effects of high altitude, great weather and hilly terrain it can’t help but make you an incredibly strong athlete.
Summer sessions are my favourite. I don’t like doing mile repeats in the middle of winter.
I like to do a 200-400m repetition at race-pace around 25 minutes before competing. It’s become a pre-race routine. That, and wearing my lucky T-shirt.
My European silver medal is my biggest achievement to date. It was an incredibly close race and the athletes just in front and behind me – Marcin Lewandowski and Adam Kszczot – were of a very high standard.
Wilson Kipketer gave me the best piece of advice. He said that on every bend, I should make sure I hugged the curb as closely as possible. Move out on the straights if needs be, but the biggest sin was to run wide around the bends.
When I stop competing I’d like to stay involved in the sport. I plan to go into coaching, but there’s a fair bit of running to do yet as I’m not aiming to retire until 2020.
I really hope to stay injury-free next summer. The weaknesses have been identified, so 2016 should mark a return to form and hopefully PBs to boot. I draw confidence from 2015 and the times I was able to produce after such a long lay-off.
TYPICAL WEEK’S TRAINING
The following represents a typical winter week’s training for Michael Rimmer when he is healthy.
Saturday – AM: 35min run. PM: 25min run Sunday – 10-12 miles
Monday – AM: 35min run. PM: 25min run
Tuesday – AM: Grass or track session totaling 5 miles volume. This might be 2x (1 mile, 1200m, 800m, 400m) with a recovery jog of 200m. PM: 30min spin bike session and weights
Wednesday – AM: 35min run. PM: 30min run
Thursday – AM: 35min run. PM: 25min run
Friday – AM: Trail session such as 10x2min efforts with 1min jog recovery or, once every two weeks, a hill session which would be 10x1min hill sprints with a jog back recovery. PM: 30min spin bike session and weights
Spin bike sessions are just purely recovery and the aim is to get a bit more of an aerobic workout while topping up my training – but without any added impact.
» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes