Nick Willis has been a world class middle distance runner for over a decade. He first broke the New Zealand record of the famed John Walker at 1,500 meters, set 31 years before, in 2005. In 2014, as he prepared for the Commonwealth Games, Nick set personal bests at four distances. He was ready for Glasgow.
Nick Willis, BAA Mile, April 2014, photo by PhotoRun.net
On May 15, 2014, Nick Willis set a PB for the 5,000 meters at the Oxy Performance meeting, running 13:20.33.
On June 11, 2014, in Oslo, Nick took second in the Bislett Games mile in Oslo, Norway, running a PB of 3:49.83. Willis joins John Walker as only the second New Zealander who has run unders 3:50 for the mile.
The record breaking did not stop.
On June 17, 2014, in Ostrava, Nick Willis broke the 3000m national record of John Walker, with his fine 7:36.91, taking .58 off the thirty-one year old record.
And that was not all.
On July 18, 2014, at the Meeting Herculis in Monaco, Nick Willis ran in that crazy fast 1,500 meters won by Silas Kiplagat, breaking the 3:30 barrier for the 1,500 meters. Nick placed sixth with his time of 3:29.91, setting the New Zealand record once again!
The 2006 Commonwealth gold medalist from 2006 and bronze medalist from 2010 in the 1,500 meters prepared to double in Glasgow.
Nicely positioned, Nick Willis went down in the 5,000 meters and could not recover, finishing in tenth place, the third of three Kiwis in the 5,000m final won by Caleb Ndiku.
Nick had to hold off the disappointment and focus on the 1,500 meters. But, that is what you do at this rarified, elite level of athletics.
Nick Willis, NB Indoor GP, 2014, photo by PhotoRun.net
The 1,500 meters at a global championships is a whole different kind of race.
This one was pretty typical. 58.74 for the 400 meters, 2:00.6 for the 800 meters as Ronald Kwemwoi took the lead. The Word Junior record holder at 1,500 meters (3:28.81) was being chased by James Magut.
Nick Willis responded pretty slow, not getting out of a box until 120 meters were left. As James Magut ran down Ronald Kwemwoi for the gold medal, Nick Willis caught Johan Cronje, RSA at the tape, to take the bronze.
For Nick Willis, a perfectionist, it was less than a perfect race.
“I wouldn’t say that I timed it right; I timed it wrongly and that’s why I had a chance at only the bronze medal, not the other two. It was a relief hoping that I actually had salvaged a medal,” was how Nick Willis related his bronze medal to the New Zealand media.
For Willis the accomplishment completed a third Commonwealth Games that he has medaled.
Nick Willis and his brother, Steve, have both broken four minutes in the mile, the only Kiwi brothers to have done that, although Rod Dixon and his brother, John were pretty close.
Nick Willis continues to fight the good fight over the mile. With his four personal bests this season, it is obvious that the New Zealand star, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife, Sierra and their son, Lachlin, has some faster races in those finely honed legs.
Under the watchful eye of coach Ron Warhurst, Nick Willis, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 1,500 meters, has some fast races to contend in for 2015, as he prepares for Beijing.
Nick Willis, 2013 NYRR Road Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net
Larry Eder has had a 50-year involvement in the sport of athletics. Larry has experienced the sport as an athlete, coach, magazine publisher, and now, journalist and blogger. His first article, on Don Bowden, America's first sub-4 minute miler, was published in RW in 1983. Larry has published several magazines on athletics, from American Athletics to the U.S. version of Spikes magazine. He currently manages the content and marketing development of the RunningNetwork, The Shoe Addicts, and RunBlogRun. Of RunBlogRun, his daily pilgrimage with the sport, Larry says: "I have to admit, I love traveling to far away meets, writing about the sport I love, and the athletes I respect, for my readers at runblogrun.com, the most of anything I have ever done, except, maybe running itself."
Theme song: Greg Allman, " I'm no Angel."
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