This column is part 2 on Laura Weightman, two time European medalist at 1,500m (bronzes in 2014, 2018). At Commonwealth Games, Laura took the silver in 2014 in 1,500m and bronze at 5000m. In 2019, Laura Weightman took seventh in the Doha 2019 5000m in 14:44.57 PB. In 2019, Laura Weightman set PBs in the mile in 4:17.60 and 3000m in 8:26.07!
This is an interview with emphasis on the athlete dealing with the pandemic.
Laura Weightman Part 2
In part two of the feature on Laura Weightman, she shares her experiences of lockdown.
1. Have you been abroad this year?
Laura Weightman: I went in January with the British Athletics camp in Potchefstroom, South Africa but then we decided to do a secondary trip mid-February to mid-March and I went with a group from Leeds – my boyfriend came with me and a group of athletes from Leeds like Alex Botterill, a very good young 800m runner, and my coach Steve came out for a week as well and Tom Lancashire was there. It was a really good group of us from Leeds with people I train with quite a lot year-round.
2. How have you managed lockdown?
Laura Weightman: I have been in Leeds all of lockdown. I got back to Leeds pretty much a week before the lockdown. I spent a month in. We thought let’s just get home, we’ve had a good training camp. I have actually really enjoyed having a block of time at home, it has been quite refreshing to make the most of the opportunity and slow down life a little bit. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to get a really good training block in. I think being a distance runner I was in a very lucky position in that I have been able to train at home fairly well. It has been actually refreshing to have a bit of a forced mental break, I suppose.
3. Is there any new skill you have learned during lockdown?
Laura Weightman: I don’t think I have. That’s bad isn’t it? I spent a lot of time reading books. Sadly nothing exciting.
4. Did you struggle with the restrictions on once a day training? What training have you been focusing on?
Laura Weightman: I think initially, that first six weeks of lockdown, was really challenging. Probably very much like everyone across the country probably felt when your life became so restricted. For me, being used to being so physically active, to be told that you could only go out of the house once in the day was really challenging in the sense of being a full-time athlete, you live to train and that is your job. To only go out once a day was hard but we adapted the training, just getting out once a day, making the most of that opportunity, and trying to maintain a bit of a winter base. With Doha World Championships last year being so late, that’s kind of what we were doing last year anyway, until April and May.
We just set ourselves mini lockdown goals and targets. We did some time trials on the roads, I was exploring runs. I just really used the opportunity to enjoy my running, spending a lot of time going off-road and on the trails. The weather was fantastic so for all runners across the country, a lot of the trails were really great running. I used that time to really enjoy my running and have a bit of a refresh time, while still hitting some good quality mileage and sessions as well.
5. Where does that leave your Olympic ambition? Is it just the same but put off for a year?
Laura Weightman: Absolutely. You’ve got to take the positives from this year. We’ve been given a down-year if you want to call it that, something which, as British athletes, we rarely get, because we have got back to back championships every single year. So being given this year, it’s a time to take a step back, mentally switch off a bit and work on other areas of your training. You’re not not-training. I’m training very hard but it’s giving yourself that opportunity to work on other areas without having that pressure of racing. And you’re going to go into next year with even more fire in your belly. You’ll want to go out there and perform and have the opportunity to race because it’s been taken away from you this year. So it’s taking those positives forward but the goal remains the same. Hopefully the world will be in a healthier place and we will be able to get out there and race.
6. Are you expecting to have races in 2020?
Laura Weightman: I hope so. As athletes, we train to race and that’s what keeps you motivated year round. So having the target of the British Championships in September is brilliant. It’s not a trial because we’re not qualifying for anything but with the quality and strength in depth of athletes that we have in GB, it should still be a great race to be part of. And if that’s the only race I do this year, that’s OK. It’s a race. But I hope to get a few more races. It depends on travel restrictions and how safe it is moving around. But during lockdown, I’ve had different time trials in training and that just gives you little targets to break up the weeks of work. It almost gives you a focus as if you’re doing a normal racing programme.
7. What are your thoughts on virtual events etc
Laura Weightman: I think it’s fun and it’s keeping people engaged. We’ve seen a lot in this country. There have been a lot of virtual time-trial road races. Anything that gives an athlete motivation and a target and something for people to tune into and watch, it gives a bit of profile to the sport. It gets people engaged and gets other people out and about. When you can’t have standard racing like we would expect, it’s great to have innovative ways of getting people out and exercising. Especially in this country with all the virtual time-trials, it’s great to get people involved in doing things that give them a little bit of focus in training. Otherwise you’re training for nothing and that can be mentally very challenging. I know for myself that having some time-trials is really helpful to keep me motivated and give myself little targets and keep me in check.
8. How did you feel about racing was no crowd at the British championships?
Laura Weightman: I think that’ll be very strange and something I’ve not got my head around yet. I don’t think it will feel like a British Championship in the true sense of it. I think it will feel very, very different but at the same time I will be appreciative of being able to have a race, putting the hard work I’ve put in during lockdown to the test. But it definitely won’t have the feel of a British Championship but after not being able to train fully during lockdown just having some small sense of normality by having the opportunity to race, I think a lot of athletes will be grateful for the opportunity.