Saturday, May 8, 2010

mzungo special: Lee Merrien

Hailing from the beautiful canal island of Guernsey, 31 year old Lee Merrien ran his debut marathon in a blasting 02:16:48 in this years London marathon. caught up with him after a well deserved recovery break with his family! British Runners finished Place 10, 11, 12 and were just divided by a couple of seconds at this years London Marathon. Is British Marathon running back?

Lee Merrien: Might be a bit early to say that but I think with the incentive of Europeans/European Marathon Cup & the Commonwealth Games this year more people have targeted the marathon, and the standard compared with the last few years does seem to have improved. I was actually looking to run faster at London and I know one or two others were too, so hopefully this is just the start of better performances to come. What was your race plan? Could you stick to it?

Lee Merrien: There was a pacemaker for 2.15 pace and my plan was to go with this, which I pretty much did. The pacemaker was a bit slower to half way than planned however but being my first marathon I decided to stick with it and keep things as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.  This was your debut marathon. A 02:16:48 is pretty impressive. Do you see your future on the 42k?

Lee Merrien: Yes definitely, the plan was to run a marathon year as part of long term target of making the London Olympics for the distance. Although like anything I will race over distances from time to time, I still feel I have yet to run what I’m capable of my 5k and 10k so I would like to step back down between marathons if the opportunity is there. I am officially a marathon runner now though so I will only race those distances if it fits with my marathon plans. Which workout helped you the most to run such a solid marathon?

Lee Merrien: I don’t think any one session on its own was the reason and like I was I actually think the time could have been better. That said, the main changes in my training was an increase in my long run, slightly increased mileage and long tempo runs such as 15k at race pace, 10k hard. I actually ran one of these session within a 10k race back home a few weeks back, running 10k at race pace immediately before a 10k race. I just had time to change my top and take in some drink before starting the race. What was the crucial point in the race for you?

Lee Merrien: I guess the obvious answer would be from 20miles, although I think it was a bit sooner for me this time out… around 17miles the pace was pushed on by Ben Moreau and I decided not to go with it. I was feeling ok within myself but I didn’t want to take any risks so I stayed as I was. It meant I finished faster than both Andy (Jones) and Ben (Moreau) over the last 5km although I didn’t quite catch them. I feel there is much more to come in my next marathon. What are you planing to do to close that 11:29 gap to Tsegaye next year ;- )?

Lee Merrien: In terms of the training I feel I have only just started to scratch the surface with what I need to do for the event so plenty to work on... I have only just taken my mileage over 100 per week for the first time (approx 6 weeks of the last 12 were between 105-120, it would have been more if not for injury) plus I have only done a small number of longer runs and a small number of long tempo runs so I feel there is plenty improvement to be done in those areas. Also, now that I have a London under my belt I have race experience to learn from and build on future races. Whilst I may not run 2.05 something around 2.10 is not out of the question. Which runners inspired or inspire you?

Lee Merrien: I’m not sure really, I often find inspiration from non-runners, I’m a bit of Lance Armstrong fan. I love reading and watching the Prefontaine story’s, too. Specific performances tend to stick in my mind more though. I remember watching things like Paula’s 2.15 Marathon and more recently Usain Bolt’s 100 & 200 runs, to do what he did on the Olympic stage and then come out next year and move it on further was just jaw dropping. I don’t think I will ever forget those races. Not really about marathon running but brilliant for athletics though. Please give our readers some background on your career, how it all started etc.

Lee Merrien: Through a schools event, I did well for my school in a cross country race as an 11 year old and the athletics club on the island (there’s only one) invited me to train with them. Whilst I stayed with it, I never really took it too seriously until I was about 18/19 though as I always enjoyed playing football until then. I quit football at 18 and then started to do a bit more training, although I didn’t start to train twice a day until I was 22. That season though I ran 3.46 for 1500 which was a bit of break through for me and I ran for Guernsey in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Following this, I quit my job and left Guernsey and started at the University of Bath on 2 year course. Whilst I had lowered my 1500 time to 3.44, it wasn’t until the year after I left University and came back to Guernsey that I ran 3.40.79. I probably should have moved up to 5k around then but I stuck at the distance for another year running in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games for the distance, but not really doing myself justice. I did eventually move up in 2007, running 13.57 for 5k. However, I followed this with two stagnant seasons, for various reasons but mainly illness and doing possibly too much at the wrong time. At the end of 2008 things changed again, in more ways than one. I became a dad in August and around then also parted company with my long term coach. That winter I made my first GB team (for Europeans) also raced World Cross in Jordan. After the 2009 track season I starting looking at the marathon as the event to target to try and make the 2012 Olympics team, with London being the first of more to come. You are training in Guernsey, a 78 km² big canal island. How is training there? Any specialities, bored from all the looping?

Lee Merrien: Guernsey is fantastic for training, we have quite a rugged shore line which much of it having a cinder path or cliff path overlook the islands beachs. I do most of my running on the coast, I never get bored of it. There's also a good venue where our all-weather track is, which has good grass running and options for hill workouts. What's the plan for the rest of the year?

Lee Merrien: Well, the Europeans in Barcelona is the next big race but there is also the Commonwealth Games, too, although I will look to run a track event there as I think three marathons in six months in my first year of the event is a bit much. Have you ever gone crazy on mileage just to see what happens?

Lee Merrien: Depends on what you class as crazy I guess, but I probably no is the answer. I ran approx 115-120 in the build up to London but before my marathon training started, my mileage had never gone above 100. I guess that’s one of few reasons I feel there is still plenty of scope to develop my marathon performance. What shoes are you training and racing in?

Lee Merrien: I am with Asics. I actually used the DS Training shoe rather a racing shoe for London just to give myself a bit of extra protection this time around. What's your favorite training session?

Lee Merrien: Not sure I have one particular favourite, although I enjoy my long runs more these days. I do like any interval workouts though that I can do as part of a group as I don’t get the chance to do this very often back home. wishes Lee a healthy and fast 2010 season and hope to see him under the 2:15 soon enough!