The 2010 European 10,000m medallist has a new-found level of enthusiasm after a strong autumn on the roads
Chris Thompson says he has a renewed confidence and enthusiasm for running after the injury-plagued athlete came through a strenuous autumn road schedule unscathed.
The 35-year-old has battled back relentlessly from a seemingly perennial struggle against injuries – most significantly from an Achilles operation at the start of 2015 which threatened to put an end to his career.
In early September, AW reported that the 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist was left questioning his future in elite running after a frustrating seventh-placed finish at the Great North Run.
However, over the ensuing weeks, in which he ran in each of the Great Birmingham, Great Scotland and Great South Run events, the 2012 Olympian began to find form and grow in strength, leading to a runner-up finish in Glasgow and a victory over 10 miles in Portsmouth to round off a gruelling six-week period. Following that, Thompson also placed a close third at the Thanksgiving Day Manchester Road Race in the USA, finishing behind Ben True and Leonard Korir and ahead of Rio Olympic medallist Paul Chelimo.
Crucially for Thompson, the way in which his body managed to absorb the intensity of his schedule has convinced him that, even amid the plethora of injuries he has encountered, the Aldershot, Farnham & District runner can still continue to improve even in the twilight of his career.
“The biggest thing was that I needed to see a progression in fitness – I didn’t need to see fireworks,” Thompson said. “To be honest I outperformed what I hoped.
“I wasn’t going to kid myself. I’m not a deluded athlete. If I’m not good enough, I will walk away if my aspirations are bigger than what I feel is obtainable.
“After all that – considering the factors and even before the Great South – I could tell I was starting to find myself again. The Great South was the icing on the cake and a nice victory to get. But it showed I was strong enough to run that quick after all those races and that I’d absorbed a lot of it.”
For the first time in a long time Thompson feels as though his long-term plan for the coming year is one which can be laid down with more certainty and a controlled aggression.
Thompson has for the past few years seen his future in marathon running, but injuries have limited him to competing just twice over the distance – both in London, in 2014 and 2016 – thus curtailing his progress.
“Now I’ve got enough information of how I’m holding up I really believe next year I can have a decent shot at a good marathon. After the Great North I didn’t know whether that would be the case,” said Thompson, who harbours the belief that he can work his way into shape to be an outside medal contender at the World Championships in London, provided his body doesn’t betray him.
“I’ve got one last throw of the dice at it this summer. When I was told I was going to have an operation on my Achilles, I don’t think any one of the doctors thought I’d be in this position. It’s going to mentally be huge for me. Next summer, let’s see what happens. I finally feel at peace though. I can actually relax on my days off. I feel a lot more of top of things which helps recovery.
“I’m genuinely excited and ready to properly train. There’s one thing racing and performing up to a point, but there’s a point you get to where you’ve done enough training and you can properly train. There’s a big difference and now I feel I’m ready to put in some proper training.”