Mile News

Advice to my younger self: Nick Willis

December 04, 2019

You will learn that you can only explore your absolute limits after two years of uninterrupted training.

By Nick Willis for World Athletics

Two-time Olympic 1500m medalist Nick Willis has learned a lot during his 17-year international career. If the middle-distance runner from New Zealand could send a letter of advice to his younger self, this is what it would say.


I can see, Nick, that you are not always 100% focused on running. You skip the odd training session, preferring to hang out with your mates playing basketball, touch rugby and cricket. You do feel guilt when not training but listen very carefully to what I am about to say: please DON’T feel so guilty. In the bigger picture, the fact that you’re not always fully focused on athletics at your age is irrelevant. You are a late developer and will experience a big growth spurt at the age of 16 and 17, so training hard in your younger years – when the body is most prone to injury – would have potentially damaging consequences.

In fact, by playing a variety of other sports, you are developing a good all-round athleticism which will serve you well in the future.

Based as you are in Wellington, you are surrounded by hills and the city is home to several world mountain running champions – so why then are you so terrified of running hills? You may currently prefer to run in the valley on flat terrain by the river, but as you will later discover under your U.S. college coach, Ron Warhurst, hill running can be hugely beneficial. Hill sprints, fast hill runs and long hill runs all will make you stronger. There is honestly no need to be afraid. Hill training will later form an important component of your training.

Nick, I know that you can become very anxious about the next big race. You will very much have short-term focus during your time at university in the USA when each year you will want to produce your best during the cross country, indoor and outdoor seasons.

But please, don’t worry about every competition. There is always another race; another season. You will still be racing well into your thirties; you have many years ahead of you.

It will take you until probably after the London 2012 Olympic Games to realize the importance of patience. You will discover that cramming three months of training together is not reflective of what you can fully achieve. And you will learn that you can only explore your absolute limits after two years of uninterrupted training.

So please be patient, focus on two years of healthy and consistent work, and you will learn that this is the priority rather than the next immediate race.


Tags: nick willis (109)

Facebook Comments

Return the Mile to prominence on the American & worldwide sports and cultural landscape by elevating and celebrating the Mile to create a movement.

Bring Back the Mile as the premier event in the sport, and increase interest in and media coverage of the Mile for both those who love the distance as well as the general public.

Bring Back the Mile to celebrate the storied distance and to recognize the people who made and make the Mile great and to promote Mile events and the next generation of U.S. Milers.

Bring Back the Mile to create a national movement for the Mile as America’s Distance,
to inspire Americans to run the Mile as part of their fitness program and to replace the 1600 meters at High School State Track & Field Meets across the country.

Become a Mile Maniac member or a BBTM sponsor today! Join us, and go Mile!

Join Us

Thanks for joining the movement and being a Mile Maniac. We'll keep you up to-date with our Mile wires as well as exclusive contests and opportunities. Help us spread the word by sharing our site and joining us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!