Continuing the Qwik-View series of interviews, I’ve touched base with my cousin Eric Speakman for a few words after he ran a sub-4 minute mile last week at the Cook’s Classic Mile won by Nick Willis. Eric finished 3rd in a time of 3:57.30
QK: Congratulations on becoming New Zealand’s most recent sub-4 minute miler. This is a massive achievement. Massive achievements like this don’t just happen over night. How old where you when you first decided you wanted to run a sub-4?
ES: Thanks Ray! I’m not sure I could pin down an exact age, but it’s been on my mind for quite some time. I’ve enjoyed running since I was 7 and amazed by the fast runners. It was probably closer to the age of 16 when I started to take off in the 1500m that I set my sights on the 4 minute mile one day. Finally that day has arrived!
QK: Your current block of training has obviously been building up to this performance. How long have you been building through this block of training and what is next for you?
ES: In November I underwent a coaching change and started working with Steve Willis, so I would say that is when this block started. There was an initial period of learning; trying to merge my previous training with his philosophies and then the training really took off. Prior to that I had been self coaching – just building up milage after a two week break at the end of my US season in June. This recent block has included a lot of longer workouts, with more of a 5km look about them – covering around 10km of effort in a session. The last couple of workouts I have looked to add speed, but the real 1500m workouts are still to come. I will get back to another solid block of training now building towards a few fast hit-outs over 1500m towards the later part of the season.
QK: I saw the video of Nick Willis doing The Michigan session on his Facebook feed, but didn’t realise you were running in that session too. It sounds like a great session. What is your favourite workout?
ES: Yes, that was an amazing workout for me, and the first time I have done The Michigan. I really enjoyed The Michigan as it is well suited to me and the way I like to run, working through a strength phase and finishing off with speed. I don’t particularly have favourite workouts, however I have really been enjoying my recent workouts doing a combination of tempo+repeats or hills+tempo/repeats.
QK: You were running on Scholarship with Stoney Brook University weren’t you? How did the opportunity of the scholarship and your journey to the USA running scene come about?
ES: I was running on scholarship at Stoney Brook for the past 5 years, however I graduated in May, which lead to me returning home to New Zealand. The opportunity arose from my performances during high school in New Zealand. During my last year of high school I began to reach out to coaches in the states expressing my intent to gain a scholarship, my results, and some video footage of races. From there I talked with several coaches and settled on Stoney Brook.
QK: What do you enjoy most about running in the American sports scheme?
ES: Competition and Camaraderie.
The level of regular competition you get racing in the NCAA is unprecedented. Every week you are racing in such a high quality field it really pushes you to new levels. For me, the camaraderie of being on a team was also really enjoyable. I went from Napier where I did a lot of my training by myself, to being on a team of 20 guys who could all cruise around the streets together every day. During cross country the feeling of a collective team performance along with your own individual performance is awesome.
QK: With a large focus on your athletic achievements, what does a typical week look like whilst you are in the States training?
ES: Most schools in the NCAA do a really good job of emphasising the importance of your performance both on and off the field. This is driven by the fact that if you aren’t performing academically you aren’t allowed to race, and also their desire to turn out great people. For me, a typical week had training at 10am which would take until around 12/1pm once I was finished with stretching / core / ice bath. Then I would have class from around 2pm till around 8pm. I would typically have 15hours of class a week. A couple of days a week I would do second runs. Saturdays that we weren’t racing on would be our ‘off’ days where we would get out for a short recovery jog. Our team usually worked to a schedule with two workouts per week – Tuesday/Friday and a long run on Sunday.
QK: What do you miss the most about NZ whilst you are away from home?
ES: I didn’t ever really get too home sick or anything like that, but there were certain times when I really wanted a mince and cheese pie! I also have a pretty sweet tooth so I missed a lot of our lollies and chocolate. So I guess you would say I missed certain food the most. I also missed home cooked meals from mum. When i moved into a house (rather than living in the dorms) I started to make Pavlovas to satisfy my needs.
QK: Finally what is your favourite running distance or event?
ES: Without a doubt the 1500m is my favourite distance. That’s where I feel the most comfortable racing on a consistent basis. I also really enjoy racing the rarely run 1000m. Despite being less proficient at it, I enjoy pushing myself on a nice muddy, hilly cross country course like I ran on growing up in Hawkes Bay and in Gisborne.
My favourite event would be the Queens Birthday Road Race in Napier. I really enjoy the course as it’s flat and fast at the start, then you run up over Napier Hill, then it’s flat and fast again. Two laps of this is 9km and growing up it just seemed built for me as a racer, matching my qualities. It was also an open handicap race, so it was really fun trying to run down the other members of the club.
If you would like to follow Eric, he has a Facebook page that he has recently set up that he updates with his racing and training as he builds towards Rio.