Following up a brief catch with 200m sprinter Leon Reid I managed to catch up with him for a longer interview last week. I got to ask your questions to him and asked him some general questions to get a better insight into the sport and Leon as a person.
How many races do you do a year?
At a junior level it is set but when you move up to senior international level you can pick and choose.
Which ones do you have coming up then?
Commonwealth Games coming up in the summer which is a big one, then the European’s after that.
Who will you be representing in the Commonwealth?
Northern Ireland through my Mum’s side of the family.
Will it be strange competing against some of your colleagues you train with during the Commonwealth Games?
It is but at the end of the day we are all friends. Once you are out there on the track it is business but afterwards you’re still mates with them whatever the outcome.
Does it help living in Bath with the University on your door step?
Yes massively as they are world class facilities and it is where my coach is based; James Hillier. He has been a really big influence on my career to date after he spotted me running as a kid in the Bath and Bristol area.
Do most GB runners stay in Britain to train and compete or do they move abroad to train?
Some do move abroad but most do stay in Britain as the facilities are very good. It’s always a risk to move abroad and leave your family behind as one break and your whole career is over.
For those who don’t know what is a good time for the 200m?
It’s not so much about timing but about experience and running styles on the day. Guys like Dwain Chambers can still compete to a very high standard in the sport and are still getting good times in their late 30s.
Still as a junior you were the best in Europe is quite a tag to have, when did you think ‘yeah I am’?
You don’t really think like that, it’s just more of a fun fact.
A question from Huw Owen on Facebook was what do you do in between races at say a major tournament, as there is a lot of time between races?
That’s a great question, most of the time I get there early and then just sit and chill out. I stick my headphones in and what the other competitions going on; I really like watching the hurdles at the moment. You also have to drink lots and eat little meals building up to your race, nothing heavy mind, like a Nando’s, between the quarters and the semi’s!
So is Nando’s your cheat food then?
Well yes and no, I work there!
Ah well that brings me on to funding, with the Commonwealths just around the corner how will you support yourself financially with the running?
I know from experience that living in the centre of Bath isn’t cheap! Well I get help from the National Lottery but it doesn’t cover everything so I still need my shifts to keep me going.
I understand you are off to Spain next month for some warm weather training, is that covered?
No it’s not; I’m funding that myself which is quite hard.
Do your family and friends help you out during these times?
Yes definitely it’s good to have their support. My Mum is a great help; always pushing me to do better.
Is she always in the front row for all your races cheering you over the line at the end?
No I don’t like her watching or even talking about the races afterwards. Even if I do badly she will say ‘you did well’ because her support is unwavering. Sometimes I want to be left alone though!
So you are actively looking for sponsors for next month’s trip to Spain then? How important is that you find a local sponsor?
It’s very important to be supported by local businesses because I’m proud of where I come from, Bath is a lovely city and I feel very lucky to have grown up in the area.
It’ll be good to have Bath businesses supporting Bath talent as we are all proud to have come from here
Definitely the whole of the South West Athletics club is getting better and more competitive. Here in Bath we are tiny compared to London with its 2 million people but in the South West at the moment there is a real rise in top class athletes. We seem to be more determined to succeed and are growing all the time. So it’s really important that we support each other and show a strong connection to where it all started.
What does a top athlete do in the rest of the season away from the glitz and glamour of the televised races?
When I’m not travelling to and from races in different countries then I’m sleeping mainly. You get back to a routine of eating sleeping working.
When sprinters train, what actually goes into it?
Speed training is important; usually on the track 3 to 4 times a week but we are also in the gym 3 to 4 times a week as well. Sometimes they double up the sessions so it doesn’t take up every day.
How does it fit round your job?
Nando’s are great actually they don’t pressure me to work, they know what I do as a profession, so they give me odd shifts when I can work for them.
Your body is your profession so are you quite careful in your everyday life?
Not as strict as you may think, I’m quite clumsy. I’m always knocking stuff over at home or when I’m out. We have great physio’s up at the University mind you so I’m always in good hands if I do get a knock.
So do the University charge for that or do you get a discount?
No that gets covered by the Lottery funding, thankfully!
In Bath there is already the ‘Bath Bullet’ Jason Gardner, has he given you any tips or advice?
Well he actually used to babysit my when I was little, so he is always there for me. He texts me before races wishing me good luck and giving me advice before and after.
Up at Bath University you have the chance to mingle with top class athletes from all over the world and lots of different sports, have you had any advice from people outside of running?
Yeah you meet loads of new people especially when you go abroad for events. Every makes the effort to speak a bit of English and most are older so can give you decent advice if you ask them.
So you have been running full time since you were 15 but how was that impacting your education?
It fitted in around my school and then college work, plus there was a lot of time to study on the train between Bath and Bristol on the way to training.
Is it hard for young athletes to not go out with mates on night’s outs and to solely devote your life to running?
Well I missed my year 11 prom to attend a meeting on that day for the English Schools competition and in the end I got knocked out early on when the races actually took place. I wouldn’t change it though, made me a stronger runner now.
What is your goal, as Rio is coming up in 2016, is that on your mind?
Well it’s there far off in the back of my mind. I just focus on the here and now really, nothing is promised to me. I just have to life in the now and take every day as it comes as tomorrow I could break me leg and everything would be over.
Are there any other sports you like playing if you could?
I like basketball and football, but I’m not allowed to play for a team or anything. When the weather is better there is nothing better than a kickabout.
That’s surprising as Bath is more a rugby city, unfortunately, have you ever been down to watch a game?
No I need to, never had the opportunity to watch Bath Rugby or to see Bath City play. One sport I have seen a few times is Netball up at Bath Uni, some of their player’s even play for England!
So finally what will you be up to for the next few weeks?
I’ll be training up in Loughborough.
They are about the only University to rival Bath for sports facilities aren’t they?
Yeah but Bath is better!
So there you have it, we’ve found out that Bath is better then Loughborough, the Bath Bullet was a babysitter, there will be a race between Bath Rugby and Bath City to get Leon some tickets, you must keep good people around you, and that you have to be humble and train extremely hard to make it as a sprinter.
Hope you enjoyed reading that article, it was my first interview so as always any comments on how to improve it for next time please leave a message on here or via social media!