Little Lachlan keeping Nick Willis on the run

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:01 12/12/2013
Nick Willis
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

Nick Willis with partner Sierra and baby Lachlan.

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Instead of winding down, Nick Willis is winding up.

Asked yesterday if retirement had entered his 30-year-old mind, Willis responded by saying he hoped to run till 2018.

One motivating factor is the arrival five months ago of his first child, Lachlan.

It appeals to Willis that Lachlan have a memory of his father running on the world stage rather than from reading newspaper clippings.

"I would love for my son to have some memory of me running so that means I have to keep running for three or four more years.

"He is a bit of a motivator for the remaining years of my career. Rio [2016 Olympics] is the primary goal but the Commonwealth Games in 2018 are going to be in Australia (Gold Coast) so ...

"Everything creeps up. Rio is only just around the corner. I'll run till my legs won't let me, that is my feeling at the moment."

Willis seems back in a good mental space following the disappointment of his ninth placing in the 1500m final at the 2012 London Olympics.

Willis says the turning point came months after the race when his manager, Wellington based lawyer Tim Castle, recommended he face the music about his Olympic performance in an interview with TV3 reporter Mike McRoberts.

"Tim felt if he had this [failure] question, then the general public would as well.

"I didn't want to go there because it brought back so much pain, but it was a healing process."

The upshot of it was a concession from Willis that he hit his peak three weeks too early, when he ran a career best 3mins 30.35sec in Monaco. By the time he got to London he was over the top, but he got away with two races (heat and semi) but not a third (final).

"I ran out of steam. I felt good in those first two (Olympic) races but I couldn't muster anything after that."

The next time we saw him on the big stage was the world championships in Moscow, when a hamstring injury was behind his semi-final exit.

But a couple of subsequent road wins in the United States have pricked our attention.

Willis always come home at this time of year. In the past he has been accompanied by some United States middle distance runners, but this time he and wife Sierra only have Lachlan to fuss over.

The Willis family arrived in Wellington last Friday and after a couple of days rest Nick has been back running at his old haunts, notably the Hutt Recreation Ground and up to the ridge tops on the east and west sides of the Hutt Valley hills.

His racing schedule comprises the 5000m at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on January 8, "possibly" a mile at the Cooks Garden Classic in Whanganui on January 21 and the 800m in the Capital Classic in Wellington on January 24.

Willis said he will also "most probably" show his face locally by running as a pacemaker in the 3000m Wellington champs at Newtown Park on Saturday.

Trainspotters will notice a switch of gear sponsor from Reebok to adidas.

"I was with Reebok for eight years, but they chose not to renew any of their athletes from what I observed."

Looking ahead, Willis intends running both the 1500m and 5000m at next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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- The Dominion Post

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