Natasha Hastings in the Bahamas: Speaking with a serial relay medalist, by J. Stuart Weir


C9-aj-MWAAEBQKR.jpgNatasha Hastings and LeShawn Merritt, photo by Stuart Weir

RunBlogRun intro: In between the sun tan lotion, iced beers and seafood cocktails, Stuart Weir has managed to stalk a few athletes, and write several articles. We just fed exed him a couple more bottles of sun tan lotion. We hope you enjoy this piece on relay goddess, Natasha Hastings.

Stuart Weir's Intro: Natasha Hastings is a serial relay medallist. Her collection of senior relay medals on the world stage goes into double figures. She is co-captain of the US team in the Bahamas alongside LeShawn Merritt. Stuart Weir managed to tear himself off the Bahamian beach long enough to find out the secrets of relay running.

When I see Natasha, I always try to convince her that she should be running for GB as her mom is from London. Again she dismissed me with: "I am not switching allegiance!" but then gave me some hope when she added: "my mom is trying to get me a British passport and because we have a new president". Natasha, the GB Trials are 1-2 July in Birmingham. See you there - bring the passport.

I then asked her what the secret was of winning 2 Olympic golds, 3 World Championship golds and 2 silvers, 2 World Relay golds and 4 World Indoor relay medals. She told me that she was surprised it was that many, adding: "I don't keep track (of medals) because I am always thinking about the next event. I have accrued a collection of relay medals that I did not plan on but I am grateful for. If there is something I am to be remembered for then it is being part of such a legacy as Team USA has been dominant for such a long time for as long as I can remember. I don't want to say by accident but it was not planned for. It just happened but now I am going to embrace it and celebrate the success that I have had over the years with the relay".

Like so many athletes who find the bread and butter individual competition a lonely life, she enjoys the camaraderie of being in a relay team. "Running relay is fun and of course I have had success. Athletes spend so much of our time focused on the individual races and relays - I don't want to call it an after thought - but relays come second to the individual event. But it is always refreshing to come together with team mates and share that moment with five other ladies. What is a memory without people to share the moment with?".

I asked if she had a favorite relay leg and after she said she did not she proceeded to tell me that she had clear preferences: "For sure, the first leg is definitely my least favourite. I like second or third. The fourth leg is the glamor leg but also the pressure leg. Each leg has its ups and downs. Each leg has a job to do. You have to be up for whatever the task is. Fitness and chemistry with the rest of the team all play a part".

671205486.jpgThe U.S. 4x400m team practicing their entrance, courtesy of Getty Images/IAAF

She is a fan of the World Relays: "It's a great event. Bahamas is a great place to have it. It comes at a good time of the year because it's a time when most of us are fine tuning ourselves for Diamond League and US trials. We get to come out here and have fun but also compete at a very high level. That will help us fine tune our training and our events for the summer to come. It is the best of all worlds because, who wouldn't want to come out and have a good time and run in front of an enthusiastic crowd and a crowd that knows and loves the sport, and have a good time doing it?

I asked her if she thought the mixed relay was a good thing - telling her that Tianna Bartoletta called it "Nascar"! She would not tell me if she would be running in the mixed but was clearly a fan of the new format: "It's going to be exciting. Also because there's no rules about how are you line your team up [meaning that men will be in direct competition with women]. It's going to be the interesting part to see who is going to line up against who. I would also say if there is any race that is made for the event it's the mixed race. There's just no predicting".

Even if she is ignoring my advice to run for GB, she is looking forward to being in London for the 2017 World Championships for athletics and family reasons. "I was hoping the 2012 would be the year that I would bring my mom back to London but I didn't make the team. My mom has already bought her plane ticket. We are making it happen this year".

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