No paralysis by analysis as O’Hare ponders Prague with a clear mind

CHRIS O’HARE topped the British 1500m rankings indoors and out last year.

Not since Bellahouston’s Frank Clement, in 1975, had a Scot been UK No.1 at the distance. O’Hare, from West Linton but based in Boston, has signed a shoe contract which permits him the luxury of training full time, but he left yesterday for the European Indoor Championships in Prague ranked only third fastest in Britain. 

He is not one for paralysis by analysis, neither looking for confirmation of improvement by comparing training year-on-year, nor seeking comfort by contemplating past success.

There was a reassuring confidence in his demeanour when we spoke before the GB team left. It lacked any trace of arrogance – just an absolute commitment to make the most of his talents and get the best possible results from his career.

Last weekend’s appearance in Birmingham, bringing up the rear in the 1500m, was not calculated to send him to the Czech Republic brimming with confidence. Seven days earlier he had finished sixth (3.55.35) in the Wanamaker Mile at the Milrose Games in New York.

“The winter as a whole has gone really well,” he says, “though I have not been entirely happy with my racing so far. Last weekend in Birmingham was just one of those bad days that everybody has. I was just over-tired from travelling. Two races and trans-Atlantic travel in one week is an awful lot. It was a bit of a bad race, but I’m confident going into the championships that I can get through the heats without too much trouble.

“I would be unhappy with myself if I come away without a medal, but so will everyone else. There are a lot of guys who want the same thing. Hopefully I can bring one home, but if not I will deal with the disappointment, get on with it, and hopefully have a good summer season, get to Beijing [World Championships] and run well there.”

Having graduated from the University of Tulsa and become engaged, he has moved with his fiancee to Boston where he has a new coach: Terence Mahon, who also looks after Lynsey Sharp.

“It’s gone well. My whole career, leading up to this winter, I have always had little niggles, sprained my ankle here and there – little stuff that has taken me out for no more than four or five days at a time, but two or three of those every year add up, and you’ve missed a couple of weeks’ training. This year, touch wood, I haven’t been bothered by anything like that.

“With the extra time, to stretch and everything like that, it’s made me stronger, and I’ve spent more time in the weights room, to minimise injury risk. Not having those little niggles has helped me maintain consistency.”

Being full time, contracted to adidas, means no academic pressures, but it would not suit everyone, as he concedes. “Either way, I’d be happy. I’m being paid not to do anything. That’s the idea of sponsorship. They pay me so I can train full time, and not to do anything else. It’s nice to have the extra recovery time and not have the stress of school work or exams looming. Sometimes it can get a bit boring, but it’s part of the deal. I get on with it and spend the extra time stretching or doing research into training.

“I’m fortunate to have a good enough contract not to need another job, but it is definitely handy having the sports science background, to understand the training principles and why we are doing what and at specific times.”

He gets married to Meredith in October, and ultimately wants to coach. “Meredith and I have been together for a long time, and she is part of the family. She will be officially part of the family come October, but she is my family. Since the start of my career I have drawn my motivation to compete at the highest level from family – whether to make them proud or inspire my younger siblings and eventually help them financially. That’s always been my end game. Adding Meredith to the family has not been any additional stress. Being in a serious relationship is a hell of a lot easier than being in the dating scene. I am pretty happy and content with where my life is at at the moment. Obviously I will always be striving for more, athletically and financially, but emotionally I have everything I need.”

Looking back on last year – indoor victory for Britain at the Emirates, World Indoor Championship debut, sixth in the Commonwealth Games, and bronze at the European Championships – must have fairly inspiring, whetting the appetite for more?

“Looking back isn’t something I tend to do. It’s not necessarily beneficial to look back and be content with what I have achieved when I always want to achieve more. To an extent it whetted my appetite, but it did not increase or decrease it. The appetite to be successful was always there, and grows every day with my ambition to be the best, I guess.”

The same applies to his training. He does not use benchmark sessions to compare with previous years. “I don’t look for that, to be honest. Looking what I have done in the past isn’t beneficial. Some people need to know they were better than last year, but I’ll let my racing be the judge.”

He ranks third indoors in Britain at 1500m this year, behind Lee Emanuel and Charlie Grice. Emanuel has opted for the 3000m in Prague. Indoors O’Hare acknowledges, is very different from the outdoor track. O’Hare tends to hang back and challenge late outdoors. “Tactics indoors are slightly different,” he says. “You have to be on your A game at any point of the race. If someone breaks away, you can get stuck, with double the number of turns and straights that don’t have the length – it’s difficult to make passes. You can’t go from last to first, like you can outdoors. Indoors your moves have to be more premeditated, and more decisive. You have to be closer to the front and be more aware.

“Outdoors it’s not so difficult to come from the back. There is not the same need to be more in touch. Depending on how Saturday’s heats go, that will write up my blueprint for Sunday’s final.”

O’Hare’s sister, Olivia is on the thrid year of an athletics scholarship at Tulsa. Elder brother Ryan works in an investment bank in Manhattan, and younger brother Dominic, about to go to Edinburgh University, hopes to run well enough this year to win a US scholarship.