James Sullivan has been talking to Australian 800m runner, Kelly Hetherington, who competed at last year’s World Championships in Moscow.
Kelly Hetherington is a middle distance runner from Queensland, Australia, based in Melbourne, who specialises in the 800m. She represented Australia at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, and was selected for this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, before being ruled out due to injury. She won the 2013 Australian 800m title, setting her current PB of 2:01.22 in the process.
James: Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Running Review. So to begin, how did you first get involved in athletics?
Kelly: I started with Little Athletics in Queensland when I was in Under 8s. I was a real sport obsessed kid who tried and played most sports. I also started because my older sister Kylie wanted to and I was a typical younger copy cat sister.
James: Did you have a particular athletics idol growing up?
Kelly: I grew up in such a spectacular era of Australian athletics. I loved Cathy Freeman and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor. I remember lining up for over an hour for their autograph at a Queensland Grand Prix meet.
James: What do you believe to be your strongest attribute with regards athletics, and what area do you feel you could improve on the most?
Kelly: I think my strongest attribute would be my determination and willingness to always give 100% in all aspects of my training . Like most athletes, I feel there is a lot I can continue to work and improve on. My major goal going forward is to improve my overall fitness.
James: Would you describe yourself as a speed based or endurance based 800m runner?
Kelly: If you asked me 6 months ago I would have said a big mixture of speed and endurance with a bit more speed than endurance. I think over the last few months I am still a bit of a mixture of speed and endurance however leaning more towards the endurance side now.
James: You raced on the European circuit last year. Can you talk us through your experiences of this time, both positive and negative? What were the biggest differences you noticed between athletics in Europe and back home?
Kelly: Racing the European circuit was such an eye opener and a real whirlwind experience. I learnt so much about race tactics, professionalism and commitment whilst I was over there. I went over very naive and thought that sub 2 minutes would come just from racing in Europe. Unfortunately I learnt very quickly that this was not the case. There is a huge difference between athletics in Australia compared to Europe. In Australia it is all very friendly and the girls know each other very well . The girls chat in the call room, warm down together and wish each other luck. In Europe the majority of girls were not as open and accommodating as back home. It was a lot different and a great experience for me.
James: You competed at the World Championships in Moscow last year. Can you put that experience into words? Were you satisfied with your performance?
Kelly: To compete in the green and gold at the World Championships is the highlight of my career thus far. My aim going into the meet was to make the semi finals, however on race day I was knocked out in the heats, so with that aspect of it I was extremely disappointed. The lessons and experiences I gained from the Championships however were invaluable. I got to race and compete against the best girls in the world and came 5th in my heat. It was overall a very positive experience for me.
James: What do you believe to be the most important things you have learnt from your experience in Moscow which you can take forward into future major championships?
Kelly: I have learnt a lot about my preparation, what works for me and what doesn’t. I think the most important lessons I learnt were from the senior Australian team members about professionalism.
James: What other particular moments from your career to date stick in the memory?
Kelly: The race I cherish most would be the 2013 national title in Sydney where I managed to run my PB, win the race and gain selection for the World Championships. It is a really rare day where things just go to plan like that.
James: What would you describe as the most disappointing moment in your athletics career so far? What positives have you taken from it?
Kelly. My most disappointing moment would have to be my sickness in 2012 that stopped my season completely. Although frustrating at the time the time off has taught me patience, a thing athletes really have very little of. It has also taught me to listen to and respect my body. I now don’t feel guilty taking a day off if I need it.
James: How would you assess your 2014 Australian season?
Kelly: My season had its ups and downs. My major success of the season was finding my coach, Craig Mottram and beginning to work with him, in February. I also ran the B qualifier for the Commonwealth Games a week before nationals which was good. I was disappointed with my race at the National Championships and selection trials when I did not race how I wanted to or needed.
James: You were recently selected to represent Australia at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but soon after had to withdraw. Can you explain what happened?
Kelly: Unfortunately due to injury I have had to withdraw my spot from the Aussie team to Glasgow. Although I am so extremely disappointed, I do understand it is all part of our job and part of the sport unfortunately. I will give my body the respect and time it needs to heal, then I will begin rehab and rebuilding so I come away from this injury stronger and smarter. My focus is now set firmly on the 2015 season and the Beijing World Championships.
James: What would an average week of training be like at this time of the year, specifically in terms of key sessions?
Kelly: For the past few months our major goal has been to improve my fitness. Weekly I generally do a fartlek, threshold, hills session and a long run. We want to build on fitness whilst still maintaining speed. It is such a fine balance.
James: With regards speed work, what do you consider to be the key sessions for an 800m runner?
Kelly: I don’t do any pure speed sessions. Instead I do a lot of speed endurance sessions. I love a 300, float 100, 300 session or 400 reps.
James: How important is core strength work for an 800 m runner and how much emphasis do you put on it? What specific core strength exercises do you incorporate into you’re training? Do you lift weights, and if so, what type of exercises?
Kelly: Core is so very important for all runners especially an 800m runner. I do a core set daily which goes for about 30 mins. I do a lot of planking (single leg), side planking, single leg bridging, supermans and weighted sit ups. I try to work not only the front of the body but also the back. This is a new routine I have incorporated post nationals after my coach and I recognised my lack of core strength. I do weights two times a week during the athletics season. This involves again a lot of single leg work, push press, squats and RDLs.
James: You have competed in the AV Shield, Victoria’s primary inter-club competition, which caters for every athlete regardless of age or standard. How important has this competition been with regards broadening the appeal of track and field and getting more of the average Joe’s involved in the sport? Going forward, how can this appeal be increased?
Kelly: The AV competition really is the backbone of athletics. Athletics Victoria and the officials do such an incredible job with promotion and organisation of the AV Track and Cross Country. They have such a high participation catering for all ages and abilities, it is truly incredible. It is not just about winning, it is about getting out there, trying to beat your PB, competing for your club and as a team. I think the sport would be lost without Interclub. I think as the fun run epidemic continues it will encourage and appeal to more people to join a local running club.
James: Athletics remains a minority sport in Australia with low spectator attendances and almost non-existent TV coverage. Where do believe the sport is at right now in Australia? What needs to be done to raise the profile of the sport in a market dominated by AFL, NRL and cricket?
Kelly: It is a tough one as AFL, especially where I live, is such a popular sport that is it very hard to compete with. I think to increase the interest in athletics the general public need to get to know our athletes more. You are more likely to follow someone when you know a bit about them. We need to make athletics more exciting. I think the street games in the UK is such a great way to increase the public interest.
James: Many Australian athletes have struggled with the track season in Europe and the major championships being at a different time to the Australian track season and can often peak three or four months too early. Has this been a concern for you and how do you manage this challenge?
Kelly: Yes it is definitely a difficult thing to peak in April then again in July/August but this is the way it has been for a very long time and so many Australian athletes time after time have proven it to be possible. I think last year I definitely peaked in April at the nationals and found it hard to get back to form for the World Championships but that was my first year doing it and like all things it will take some time getting use to.
James: What are your views on drug taking in athletics? Have you ever suspected a competitor? How do you deal with the frustration that some opponents may not be playing by the rules?
Kelly: I think in Australia we are very clean so I have never suspected an Australian athlete to be taking anything illegal. I definitely think overseas there are some athletes who are not playing by the rules and it is disappointing and frustrating but I think focusing on that aspect of the sport doesn’t solve the problem so its best to stay positive and control what you can.
James: If you were president of the IAAF for a day, what drastic changes would you make?
Kelly: Oh gosh that is a hard one. I think the major thing I would implement would be an increased amount of testing, in and out of competition, for all countries.
James: That’s great Kelly. Thank you for your time and the very best of luck with the recovery and for 2015.
Kelly: Thank you for very much!