Hello Dai, thanks for talking to us on behalf of Red Bull. So, other than having a drink, what are you up to at the moment? It’s my off-season; I pretty much have all of September off. I’m just chilling, doing things I haven’t time to do usually, home improvements. We moved house in February, but with training and competing we haven’t really got round to doing anything.
How are you feeling about the Moscow world championships now? [Dai was defending 400 metres hurdles champion but was knocked out in the semi-finals] Championships are what you train for, that’s your main focus, and when it doesn’t go your way for whatever reason, like illness and injury for me this year, it can be frustrating but there’s always another championships next year. You’ve just got to try and forget about the disappointments because you can never be on top every year in athletics. Next year we’ve got the European championships and the Commonwealth Games, both in the middle of summer, it should be really good.
Are you going to beat Kriss Akabusi’s British record? I’d love to, I’ve been very close [47.84 compared with Akabusi’s 47.82]. Obviously I didn’t have a vintage summer, I’d like to run a lot faster than I have done this year. I’d like to put in some good performances to make up for this year and maybe get a British record as well.
Why hurdling? I was introduced to it at school and found I was quite good technically at the sprint hurdles. I was also good at the 800 and I liked doing cross-country and playing football, so I was very fit. And then when you’re an under-17 you can start doing the 400m hurdles, so I sort of got drafted into doing it for the team and found myself really enjoying it.
I was good at the hurdling partly because I could play football with both feet, so I could use both legs for hurdling, which is quite rare and gives you a bit more variety with stride patterns and things like that. Being fit and having good pace, it just seemed to fit to all my strengths.
You were a promising footballer as well – how would you compare the two sports? I had the ability as a footballer but I don’t think I was mentally ready at the time. I don’t know if I’d have made it in football because it’s tough and so many people fall by the wayside. I was quite a late bloomer in athletics, but it’s very different. I love athletics because it’s all about the effort you put in. You don’t rely on anyone else. It’s all about yourself, you get the glory but also it’s your responsibility of things don’t go well. Whereas in team sports it can be frustrating because you can play fantastic and still not come out on top because the team wasn’t pulling their weight.
Do you enjoy running for the sake of it? I do enjoy running. I enjoy training, I love racing. I’ll probably try playing a lot of other sports as well when I finish, just because I enjoy physical activity – football, tennis, rugby, all sorts.
What’s the furthest you’ve run? I’ve done an hour – I do a fair bit of running in my winter training. It’s not uncommon for me to do long distances – in an hour I don’t know how far I go, I just go for the time more than anything. I’d love to try and do a marathon at some point. I’m not built for the longer distances but at the same time I like the challenge. My girlfriend’s done the marathon so I’d have to try and beat her time – I think she did about three hours 45 minutes, but I think she can go a bit faster as well.
When people ask you for training tips what do you say? If people ask me about hurdles – every week when we do a hurdle session we run to hurdle 10, which is pretty much a full race in essence: it’s a race environment and it’s really hard! Most 400m hurdlers won’t do that but that’s my favourite session.
Do you have any pre-race rituals? Well, I used to get a lot more nervous when I was a youngster but when I got into the senior ranks and became full-time I found it easier to be calmer. The way I see it is you try and do the best you can for that particular moment. What’s fortunate for me is that at this stage in my career if I put in a good performance then it could end in a medal. So the way I look at it is I’m not there just to try to beat these other guys, but I’ve trained as hard as I can and there’s nothing else I could possibly do to be in a better position. And that gives me a calmness or composure, because as long as I do the best I can I don’t really give a tuppence what anyone else has to say.
I think that’s why you get involved in running really – you enjoy it, you enjoy trying get the best out of yourself. Even if you’ve been injured, you can still put in the best performance possible at that point.
Do you ever run to music? Before you won the world championships in 2011, Iwan Thomas said on the BBC commentary, you were listening to The Only Way Is Up by Yazz. (Laughs) Yeah, the night before some of the guys I was sharing accommodation with in Daegu had Spice Girls and stuff on and all sorts; they were born in the 90s so they hadn’t heard of some songs, they hadn’t heard of the band Texas and things like that, so I was showing them all sorts of music from the 90s. But before a race it’s a bit different, I’d listen to music to psych me up – faster music, dubstep, anything you hear in clubs really.
Do you have a favourite place to run? Not really – where I train in Bath we train at the top of a hill in the university; if you go off-campus you go down a massive hill, so I have one option and that’s round the campus, there’s no other choice as far as winter training runs go. When it comes to competing I like racing in Birmingham where we have the UK trials every year, and abroad I really like racing in Brussels; you get a crazy crowd there, it’s always full and they’re really close.
What’s your greatest running achievement? You’ve won a lot, but you’ve also had to contend with Osgood-Schlatter disease and epilepsy. It would have to be the world championship gold I think, by far the greatest thing I’ve achieved in sport. I’ve had the epilepsy and a few operations over the years, but I don’t think about those things, even though I’ve seen other people in that situation fall apart. I had a hernia operation a few months ago and I was back on the track doing six x 300s after 12 days. I was really pushing the limit in terms of the fastest recovery from a hernia operation that anyone in British athletics has had. I don’t find it difficult to push in that scenario but I don’t see it as an achievement – you have to do that, you have to get on with it, and I guess the real achievement is what you get at the end of the season then.
Who would you rather watch, Mo Farah or Usain Bolt? I’m a sprinter, so Usain Bolt. That’s very much a question of whether people prefer sprints or long distance isn’t it? It has to be Bolt for me – his world records, he’s done everything 10 times over. He’s fantastic. Being a sprinter I can’t really comprehend what Mo’s done!
Who’s the greatest runner ever? Ooh. I don’t know, I’m not very good on my history of athletics. Er …
Ed Moses? Yeah, he was pretty incredible in the hurdles, but I never got to see him apart from on YouTube so that makes it a bit difficult. Of people at the moment – I love David Rudisha, I love watching him run; he’s going to be one of the greatest athletes ever, like Bolt, I think. They are amazing.
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