Nick Lees was a distance runner in an era that was and still is regarded as the greatest time in British history for endurance running. Derby AC athlete in a very strong team Nick mixed with the worlds best athletes with highlights including two world cross country team medals (took part in four), representing Great Britain and even beating the former world marathon record holder, Steve Jones. Nick was a top class runner over the track, road and cross country and had times including 13.33 over 5,000m and 28.18 over 10,000m.
Still enjoying his running RunnersLife caught up with Nick to get his thoughts on running and what got him to such hights as a distance runner.....
Nick Lees and Steve Jones go head to head
How did you get into running?
Through school, I was lucky to have 2 PE teachers who were running minded and encouraged me from day one.
What was it you liked about the sport?
I liked the individual feel to it plus I enjoyed training even at 12 years old.
What was it like racing in your era
Well, any race you entered was a class field, whether a local 10k or a National Champs. I once ran 28.18.8 for 10,000m on the track in the Northern champs at Stretford and only came 2nd, I was hammered by Geoff Smith who won in 28.03, says it all really!
Can you talk us through a race that stands out in your time
The Coca Cola 5,000m at Crystal Palace 1979. I ran 13.33.6 as a Junior but was only 3rd Junior in the race! Steve Binns ran 13.27 and Malcomn Prince ran 13.29, that was the standard of Junior running then...awesome!
RunnersLife heard you once beat the world famous Steve Jones
That was great. It was a race in France over 10.6k ...I was running very well then. Steve is a great character and I learnt a lot from him.
Thoughts on the 12 stage road relay
I ran 25.11 for a long leg one year and I loved the relays wherever they were. Derby AC had a great team spirit be it win, lose or draw. relays give all club members the chance to do National events with 'B' and 'C' teams.
Do you still run now
Yes every day, I am doing a 10k for charity in April.
Do you watch athletics now
Only on TV. I am a poor spectator at actual races!
Are you still in touch with any of your ‘old enemies' on the race circuit
Yes indeed, both in person and on facebook all over the World.
What advice would you have for any athletes out there now
Simple, you only get out what you put in...Sounds corny but thats the recipe to success.
What do you know now you wished you knew when you were racing
Hmmmm, hard one that.. but to rest up more between seasons so not to go stale.
What do you miss most about competitive running
Running fast and actual head to head racing.
Will you be going to the Olympics next year
Yes, I am hoping to watch the Marathon
How many times a week
Fartlek these days but it was twice a week at my peak.
Examples of important/key sessions
Every 4 weeks I ran 20 x 200m in 28 - 30 seconds all year round to keep the leg speed there.
Did you change surface dependant on time of year
Yes cross country, Road and then track..each complimented the other.
On own or in a group
Both, Derby AC had a good nucleus of runners to mix it up with.
4 x 600m in 87 with 2 minute recovery in the track season after doing 6 miles in the morning...hard !!!
When will be the last hard session before a race
If racing Saturday then the last tough run would be the Monday.
How long do you start to taper for a race
If a major race then eight days before....Minor races I never eased really, many times running 5 miles on the morning of the race.
Could you go through some specific sessions you may have done
1 x 1 mile in 4.16, 1x 1,200 in 3.12, 1 x 800m in 2.06 1 x 400 sub 60.
Can you give a typical week
Sunday: 15miles easy and 5miles easy pm
Monday: 6miles and 8 mile runs..strides in 8 miler
Tuesday: 5miles easy and track session pm
Wednesday: 10miles easy
Thursday: 5miles easy and track session in evening
Friday: 5miles easy and 7miles easy
Saturday: 6miles and fartlek or hills pm
The National Cross Country
I would usually do around100 mile weeks with alot of quality although of course during the winter I would do more, somewhere between 100 and 130 miles a week.
Sundays were of course my long run like most around the country and it would be between 15 - 22 miles, then I would structure my blocks monthly.
I would never do strength work like circuits or weight sessions in the gym. Only when I was injured to help muscles build back I would do specific weights.
Outside of running I would do alot of excercises daily post runs.
A training group is very important in my opinion, for company and a bit of edge! I would run to my plan during training nights 90% of the time but the odd burn up did occur with groups!
I was lucky that I had a very good training group with runners ranging from 1.54 800m all the way up to guys doing marathons in 2.17.
Did you go into races with a plan
Always, make it hurt and to win!
What were your strengths and weakness's when racing
My Strength was front running, my weakness was maybe the mid race concentration, I could sprint though and once did 54 seconds for a last lap over 1,500m.
Did you race as training sessions
No, only the odd time trial
Which race had the best atmosphere
World Cross Country Champs, I went to 4 in total...all brilliant!
Did you ever have superstitions before a race
Rest / Recovery
I would usually do a month easy running but would still race between the cross country season and track. I would usually use the road relays to get fit.