U.S. 1500m Champion Robby Andrews Heads To London, After Final Weeks of Hard Workouts

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U.S. 1500m Champion Robby Andrews Heads To London, After Final Weeks of Hard Workouts

By Sabrina Yohannes

Sabrina Yohannes caught up with Robbie Andrews, the 2016 USATF 1,500 meter champion from this past June, just before he left for London and the World Championships. The men's 1,500 meters should be one of the most dramatic events of the World Championships, and Robbie Andrews could play a huge part in that drama.

IMG_7492.jpgRobbie Andews after his 1,500m win in Sacramento, phoot by Mike Deering for the Shoe Addicts

U.S. 1500m Champion Robby Andrews Heads To London, After Final Weeks of Hard Workouts

By Sabrina Yohannes

After taking the lead mid-race at the U.S. national 1500m final in June, the 2016 Olympian Robby Andrews, typically known for his fierce kick and come-from-far-behind victories, won the title in 3:43.29 ahead of Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz and Johnny Gregorek.

Andrews ran 3:35.25 in New York on July 6 to meet the 3:36.00 entry standard for the IAAF world championships in London, where the preliminary rounds in his event begin Thursday August 10. The semi-final is a day later and the final two days after that on Sunday August 13.

The 2015 national 1000m indoor champion Andrews was surrounded by family members and friends - many in "Team Robby" shirts - when he sealed his worlds berth at the TrackTown Summer Series meet at Randall's Island in NYC, over the state line from where he lives in New Jersey and trains under coach Jason Vigilante ("Vig").

Andrews, who has a 1500m personal best of 3:34.78 and is a former world junior 800m medalist, spoke to RunBlogRun on Saturday about those recent events, and his work and mindset going into the world championships.

RunBlogRun: How's the preparation for London going?

Robby Andrews: It's been tough; my coach has given me some of the hardest workouts I've had in my life the last few weeks. But everything's been going to plan, so I'm looking forward to finally resting and tapering, going into the championships.

RBR: You ran an 800m time trial last night. How was that?

RA: It was pretty hard. As I was saying, the workouts the last few weeks have been pretty tough. We've basically been trying to emulate the last 800 of a final in London: so, running on pretty tired legs and practicing running hard when you're tired, so we got that accomplished, for sure. It was fun; we had a great turnout. A lot of people came out for it and it was really cool to feel so connected to the community.

RBR: You had a lot of people supporting you at Randall's Island, too. That must have been pretty special.

RA: Yeah, it's really cool to have so many friends and family really close. ... It's really special getting to run in front of everybody. ... As soon as they announced TrackTown was going to be held at Randall's Island, I was really excited about that and I immediately told everybody to make sure they came out to support it, and then once there was an added incentive to run well at TrackTown at Randall's Island, it made it a lot more fun, a lot more dramatic, which you need in sport.

RBR: About the world championships standard, did you have any doubts, because a lot of people felt that [even after you didn't get it in the Portland TrackTown race July 2] of course you would get it, it's just a matter of when. Is that the way you felt?

RA: To some degree. ... Sometimes, the right race isn't always in front of you. ... It's definitely not a given. So of course I was a little nervous after the Portland race. It's like, 'Oh man, am I going to have to wait and try and find a race over in Europe?' So I was really fortunate to have such a great meet at TrackTown [in NYC] and have great pacing, great competition.

... For me, the difference between championship racing and time trial racing is a little different. I'm not a time trailer - as evidenced last night as well! - but we're working on that transition.

RBR: You had an awesome race at the U.S. nationals. You'd told me previously that you were working on moving closer to the front earlier in a race, when necessary. That was evident in a few of your races, but particularly at the nationals. Tell me about your having moved to the front mid-race.

RA: That was definitely kind of a breakthrough mindset, a breakthrough experience for me. It wasn't necessarily premeditated. You know, my coach and my dad, we were just [talking about] trying to run free, run hard, run to win. I turned my brain off and let instinct take over, and after 500m or so, I was like, 'I'm just going to go for it and try and make the other guys as uncomfortable as possible' and I'm sure they weren't expecting to see me go to the front -- and if that threw them off their game even a little bit, then mission accomplished.

But it's just a mixture of confidence and experience and just trusting yourself to try something new like that and hopefully I can continue to trust myself and have a positive experience.

RBR: How did it feel being in the front with over two laps to go? It's an unusual place for you. Did it feel strange, strangely comfortable, ...?

RA: That's exactly how I would describe it: It felt strangely comfortable. You know, going back to high school, I generally ran towards the front for the most part, and it just kind of felt like what it felt like when I was running when I was younger, and it felt like I belonged up there. And thinking forward, it's like, 'Wow, I'm going to be a lot closer when whoever decides to make a move,' and that's exactly how it happened.

RBR: After [missing the final in] Rio reinforced the lesson about passing on the inside, you stayed away from that here.

RA: [He laughs.] Yeah, exactly! Go wide and run all the way through the line.

RBR: At the bell, when Ben Blankenship and Matthew Centrowitz were in the lead and you didn't chase them, what was going through your mind at that point?

RA: At that point, I was just going for third place, trying to make the team. I had Clayton Murphy and Craig Engels in front of me and Ben and Matthew had gotten away a good bit and I thought it was a little too early to make that strong of a move, so I laid back and was comfortable enough to be racing for third. And I think on the backstraight, I could sense that they stopped pulling away as much, and then even more so with 150 to go, I found myself right on their shoulders and just stayed as patient as I could until the last 75m or so.

RBR: Tell me about the moment you ultimately passed Engels and Centrowitz on the homestraight.

RA: It's been a while since I won a race, let alone a U.S. championship, and again, I was just running on instincts and turned my brain off: I wasn't thinking about who I was passing, who was in front of me, who was behind me, I was just running to get to that line. And Vig made sure to tell me, 'Make sure you have the best last 50m, make sure you have something for the last 50m,' and I just stayed as patient as I could on the last turn. So coming on the homestraight, I just gunned it and ran as hard as I could through the line.

RBR: When you crossed the line, you had a look of -- maybe disbelief? What was on your mind when you crossed the line and you're number one?

RA: It was just pure elation. I wasn't having a great year beforehand and it felt really good to go in with a goal and a mindset of just going for it and not really thinking much about it and have that reinforced that yeah, you know, you're not a bad runner! Keep trusting yourself. It was just pure elation.

RBR: So going into London, what are your thoughts and expectations?

RA: I'm just going to try and carry that same mindset of you've got to get through each round obviously and we'll take each round to the final and hopefully we'll get to the final and then anything can happen. But I've got a lot of confidence, my fitness is as good as ever, and I'm really looking forward to testing myself.

RBR: Who from your family is going to London?

RA: My dad's going, my sister's going, and my coach and his kids are going.

RBR: So you'll have some of that same support you had here in New York.

RA: Yes, Team Robby will be there in full force!

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