May 21, 2008
With one national championship already to her credit this year in the mile run at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Florida State sophomore Hannah England is a serious contender for one, if not two, during the outdoor season. She has the top time in the country in the 1500m and is second in the 800m. With an eye on the NCAA East Regional meet next week in Tallahassee, she sat down for a Q&A.
What are your thoughts about possibly representing your country in the Olympics?
“We have got Beijing this year in the Olympics and I think I maybe have an outside shot at maybe making the team because distance is very strong in Britain at the moment. I would be very happy to get myself in the mix for this year’s team. I’m looking forward to the Olympics in 2012 which are in London and representing my country. It would be great to represent my country.”
What is it like to win a gold medal in competition?
“It’s wonderful because if you do anything other than win you just sit there and pick apart your race. What have I done wring? What could I have done to win? So when you win it’s just nice to let yourself off the hook with a good performance.”
What is it like to set a school record?
“I wasn’t aware that I set a school record at nationals indoors until about a half an hour after the race when my teammates – Susan Kuijken – who used to hold the record came and told me that I had taken her record. It’s great and I’d like to think that it would be a way for people to remember me but obviously we have got a lot of good runners on our team and it is not going to last very long.”
How do you personally determine success as a runner?
“For me success as a runner is reaching your potential. I feel that I am lucky because my potential takes me to a really high level. As long as I have done myself proud then that is success to me.”
What excites you about being a runner? What draws you do continue running?
“The most exciting thing about running is the satisfaction you get when you know you have pushed yourself to the limit. Through any given season it is exciting to see how much you can improve yourself. During a race it is the exciting thing is to find out how much you can push yourself. I really like the idea of personal satisfaction. I feel my talent runs in trying to push myself as an individual and I enjoying doing that.”
Are you a break away runner or do you win by running a steady race and winning at the end? What are some of the differences between the two types of runners?
“Tactically I have had a lot more success in the 1,500 when I sit back and then go at the end. I feel like I can run a hard race the whole way through and I feel like I can run with the best of them if it is a hard run race or if it is a sit back and then kick to the finish. I admire runners who can take a race out from the gun. I think it’s gutsy and it shows that they have good talent and that they have trained well. Maybe if I was always in good enough shape and if I was always fast enough I would do that. I think perhaps people who run the way I do are a bit more cautious. If you want to get the result you want to get you do what is best for you.”
What is more important to how you run – being in shape to run for a period of time or being a sprinter?
“Personally, I feel that I have a reasonably good level of speed. I try not to work too much on that because I feel that is a waste of time in my training. I feel that I have to work on my endurance. I keep an endurance element in my training all year and increase the speed work during the summer period.”
Which races do you like better – the 800 or the 1,500?
“I enjoy the success I have had in the 1,500 a lot. I still love running the 800 because you feel fast the entire race. It’s not hard to last the 20 seconds or so it takes to run the 800. You can deal with the 800.”
What makes the 1,500 such a difficult race to run? The 800?
“I feel the hardest bit about running a 1,500 is the third lap which is quite a common thing that middle distance runners say. When you come around, 800 is fine, then you have to get your self back around to the bell for the final lap. So many people switch off then and that’s the tough bit because you just have to dig in and finish the race. I’m not quite sure what is hard about the 800; I really enjoy that race. Maybe I like that race because I find the 1,500 is harder. People say that the middle bit is the hardest part to keep your concentration.”
How do you run a “smart” race in the 1,500? In the 800?
“For me, running a smart race in the 1,500 means you have really got to stay aware of the runners you are competing against. If the pace is slow you have to watch out for people making moves and you have to stick at it throughout the race. You can’t take a break in a race like that. This is whether you want to win the race or just run a fast time. You just have to totally commit yourself to the race. For me the most important thing in the 800 is just to keep running as hard as you can for the whole race. You can get so much adrenaline that you just don’t feel the pain. In the 800 you have to remember to keep your head down and keep running for the whole race.”
Is there time to think about anything but running during a 1,500 meter race?
“If my race is going well then I won’t be thinking about anything else in the 1,500. Sometimes when things aren’t going your way or you haven’t prepared yourself properly mentally you can find your mind drifting and that’s bad news. You want to be totally focused. If you are not focused your mind can drift to who might be watching you or little things like that. The worst thing you can think about is how you might finish the race before you have even finished. If you start think that you are going to be disappointed with a race before you have even finished it then you are wasting your time. You have to keep focused.”
What is your training routine? Do you run long distances or do you train for the 1,500 and 800?
“We all train as a team here at Florida State. The cross country and distance runners train under Coach (Karen) Harvey. We meet generally every day and probably twice a week I run on my own. We cover many workouts from weights to circuit training to track workouts and steady runs. I don’t really alter my training for the 1,500 or the 800 because my main focus is the 1,500. All of my training is geared toward the 1,500 and the 800 kind of comes along the way. I will do speed workout for a full 1,500 and that will benefit my 800 but I don’t do just 800 work.”
Which race do you like training for more – the 800 or the 1,500? What are the differences in training for those two races?
“The 800 race is a bit more of a speed race. You don’t really have to cope with things like pace change. It’s pretty much going flat out for the whole race. You have to learn how to gauge your energy so you don’t run out before the end. The 1,500 is a more tactical race so you have to know how to change pace of the leaders go out ahead.”
How many miles do you run each week in training for a race?
“A normal training week for me would be 45-50 miles and on a race week I might go down to 35 miles a week.”
What are the differences in a qualifying race and a finals race? Do you approach them differently?
“I find running qualifying races a bit more stressful than finals races. It’s hard to think about your weekend ending if you don’t get through to finals. I prepare for the finals and the qualifying races the same way. You never know what might happen in a qualifying race. You might fall over, you might get boxed in you might have to put just the same, or more, effort in a qualifying race as you do into a final.”
During a race, do you know that you at running fast without looking at a clock?
“Yes, I feel that I do so much training at an 800 meter or a 1,500 meter pace that you just know how fast you are going. You just click into that zone so you can know if you are running fast. You can also know if you are running too fast when you are hurting too much and too early in a race. Clocks are useful and they help keep you focused but I don’t say that you need them to know you are running fast. I tend to look a clock if I am trying to run a personal record. If the aim of the race is to run a pr than I will look at the clock. If the aim of the race is to win then I won’t look at a clock. You need to have a light awareness because if the race is really slow then it is going to be a more tactical race and you need to watch for the break. Generally I don’t care about the time if it is a championship race.”
What do you do on a race day to get ready to compete?
“On a race day we are generally at a hotel as a team. Usually I hang out with the other girls on the team and try to say active rather then spending your say sleeping. But, at the same time, you don’t want to be worn out for your race. We try to walk out and get lunch together and then spend the last few hours before your race focusing on what you have to accomplish.”
Have you always been a runner? What other sports have you participated in during your life?
“I started running when I was 13. Before that I generally did sports at school but I only really got picked because I could run around a lot. I did a lot of dance which I think helped my running but I began to focus in on running by itself when I was 17.”
What is your favorite sport other than your own?
“Track and field is definitely my favorite sport. I love watching all of the different events on television. I like English soccer because I have been exposed to it. I feel that my favorite sports in America are soccer and rugby.”
Who are your favorite sports heroes?
“Athletically, my sporting heroes would be Kelly Haines or Paula Radcliffe because they are both great British athletes. They have both really overcome injury and adversity and achieved a lot.”
Do you like to listen to music while you run? What’s your favorite music to listen to while you are running?
“I don’t usually do many of my runs on my own so I’m usually with other girls on the team so we chat with each other and that’s fun. I run with music sometimes but not often. I like any sort of music – general radio music. I’m not into a specific sort of music.”
What is the best piece of coaching advice you have ever received?
“The best piece of coaching advice that I have every received came from my coach at home in England; he has coached me since I was 14. He always stressed that no matter what training you have done, how good a shape you are in that if you took yourself out of a race in the last hour before a race there is no point in running the race. He has always taught me that when you go to warm up that you shouldn’t take yourself out of that race by being negative. I was always taught to believe in my training.”
What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
“I have been very lucky in my career. I haven’t had any major injuries, yet. I believe that is because I look after myself and I really pay attention to my body. I guess the biggest challenge so far has been moving to Florida. I really enjoy it here but is a quite a culture change and an environment change and I feel like I’ve taken to it well even though it’s been a challenge. The biggest changes are actually only little things. When you are an athlete it is so important to eat right and sleep right. Uprooting yourself and going to a totally different country when you don’t know what the supermarkets are like, getting used to getting around town – things like that are just so much different for me.”
Why did you choose to attend Florida State?
“I close to attend Florida State University because it has a good link with England and many other countries in the rest of the world. The university thrives on bringing foreign students in. That’s what attracted me at first. I like the idea of experiencing the NCAA system and Florida State seemed like the right place because it is very welcoming to foreign students.”