Athletics News

Iwan Thomas: my greatest race

Iwan Thomas: my greatest race

Former 400m runner looks back at the AAA Champs and British trials in Birmingham in 1998 where he clocked 44.50 to win

It was my first year as a full-time athlete in 1996. I got an Olympic silver from the relay in Atlanta and was fifth in the individual 400m. In 1997, I got the British record. I was in the shape of my life but I totally messed up the World Championships final, coming sixth, and all I came away with was a relay medal, which was then promoted to gold years later.

For the 1998 season, it was all about how I had to win an individual medal. I just said to my coach, Mike Smith: “I have to win something this year.”

I was training with regular guys – 46-47-second runners. A guy called Tim Odell was my best training partner and his PB was 46.3. Lee Fairclough’s best was 47.8 but go out on the sand dunes in Southampton on a Sunday and he was an animal. I would use my training partners to my advantage. 

I would train in lane three and I’d make sure Odell was in seven so I had someone to run down. Their ability wasn’t as important as their personalities and their understanding of my needs, as well. It was a brotherhood, it was different and I never questioned my coach’s training. He was a master at getting me to peak at the right time.

But the season hadn’t gone so well because I’d had a few injuries and, on the grand prix circuit, Mark Richardson had beaten me five times out of five. Going to the AAAs, the trials for the European Championships, I spoke to my coach about how Mark was beating me. Mike said: “He hasn’t got the beating of you when it comes to three rounds in three days. That’s what your training is all about. Your strength is your strength. You can do it.”

That was the beauty of it at that time – if you were Britain’s best over 400m, you knew damn well you were going to be top five in the world. To beat Jamie Baulch wasn’t an easy thing. To beat Mark was difficult and it was the same with Roger Black. Then throw Du’aine Ladejo and Solomon Wariso into the mix. It was really good.

I was really proud to be around a golden generation and a time when to be the British champion really meant something. 

In 1996 I came third in the trials in 44.7 in the year Roger broke the British record and I remember thinking: “It’s my first year training, I’m getting close to these guys. I reckon I can be better than them.”

It happened the year afterwards. I was proud to be able to run with them because, of…

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