Athletics News

Ask the athlete: Roger Black

Ask the athlete: Roger Black

One-lap legend on the training that led to the Olympic podium and why the sport should tap into the experience of former internationals

You came very close to breaking the European 400m record. Why do you think it is still standing after so long? 

The European 400m record of 44.33 was set in 1987 by a great rival of mine called Thomas Schönlebe from East Germany. He never beat me and I only ran against him three or four times. In 1987 he became world champion. I’m surprised the record has stood so long. A few people have had a nibble at it, including myself, Iwan Thomas, Derek Redmond and most recently Matthew Hudson-Smith. 

I thought Matthew would break it this year and I think he eventually will if he stays fit. I guess it’s stood so long because it’s a good record but I think it’s time for Europeans to go under 44 seconds. With just the evolution of spikes technology it’s time that the record went. I would predict that it will go within the next year. 

What were your longest and preferred training sessions? 

The longest sessions were in the winter. We were quite old school back in the day. Myself, Kriss Akabusi, Todd Bennett and a whole host of athletes were down in Southampton in the early days. We would have long two-hour Sunday sessions across sand dunes and beaches, under the guidance of Mike Smith, in all sorts of weather. You’d get in the car, drive back and hope for a Sunday roast at home. That’s where we put the real hard work in. 

My preferred sessions were the ones that I knew mattered. You can train loads and loads but there were some key sessions we did for the 400m and you knew when they were coming up. You were always nervous in the morning lead-up to it. They would be two or three runs over 500m and I never enjoyed that, for example, but I knew it was important. 

The big one that Kriss and I used to mark where we were [in terms of fitness] would be when we did 4x300m runs. Invariably, we’d be out in California for warm weather training and getting ready for the season.

You had 10 minutes recovery but it was honest running and we would lead each other on every other run. The first one felt great, the second one was pretty good and you’re running at 95 per cent. That 10-minute recovery suddenly feels shorter.

The third one was key and you had a choice, knowing if you went to the line and were honest you’d be in trouble. We’d always go to the line and try not to collapse. This was the session that made us as…

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