1500m Champion Charlie

OCTOBER 2014: Brighton & Hove has churned out some great athletes over the years, but not many to the standard of Charlie Grice. Every result he has produced so far would suggest we are witnessing the city’s best athletic product since Olympic Gold Medallist, Steve Ovett. Ironically, Charlie represents Brighton Phoenix, which was co-founded (originally known as Phoenix Athletics Club) by Steve back in 1981.

In June, Charlie was titled British 1500m Champion, having won the championship race at Birmingham Arena in a time of 3:46:97. His victory earned him a place at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he went on to get through his heat and reach the final, finishing 7th.

In Zurich in August he made it to the final of the European Championships. Confident in his ability, and a strong contender for a medal, the outcome was not one of celebration. In the final lap he was tripped and taken out of the race.

Distraught, but not deterred, he has now put this behind him. With a strong belief that he is still very much on the up and capable of running yet faster, it’s time to move on!

As an aspiring athlete who hasn’t achieved very much, I am always intrigued to know what it is that gets you to be one of the best. Charlie agreed to share with me some of the components of his race preparation, as well as telling me a bit about himself and what he does when he’s not running.

Charlie, firstly, many congratulations on not just becoming British 1500m Champion but on making it through to the finals of both the Commonwealth Games and the European Champs. These are awesome achievements! Now that you’ve had a few weeks to reflect, how would you summarise the whole experience?

Thank you! This season was always going to be a tough one having two major championships. I had to run the CWG qualifying time by the end of May, which I did in L.A, where I surprised myself running a 2 second PB so it all got off to a fantastic start.

I am happy to have made two major finals this year. I feel I qualified comfortably in both championships. I tend to run well off pressure and I put a lot of pressure on myself to make the finals. The thought of not being in the finals just kills me!

I imagine that when you reach the level you have, it must be difficult to find suitable training partners with a similar ability to yourself? Who do you train with and what does a typical training week look like?

I am studying at St Marys University in Twickenham and I am training with Craig Winrow’s group. Jon Bigg my coach liaises with Craig often to set my training. I wanted to move away from home as I think it is important to go and develop as an individual. To get a degree at the same time as training in one of the best groups in the country, it all seemed like the right thing to do. There are so many athletes based around Teddington and that is why many international elite groups base themselves there over the summer racing season.

A typical training week in the winter I will be covering around 60-70 miles a week including; threshold runs, 1km + mile reps, gym work, and a longer run on a Sunday. The volumes are decreased in the summer.

This summer there have been the Australian group and also the ‘Brooks Beasts’ group. I live round the corner from St Mary’s University and we have two amazing parks for running. Bushy Park is only 1 mile away and I will do most of my running here, a big lap is around 8 miles long. Richmond Park is 2 miles away and this is where we will go if we are running longer than an hour. We try to get a big group out on a Sunday as this is the most social run of the week and it is good camaraderie for BUCS Cross Country Championships which are held in Stanmer Park this year! Most weeks we will have around 15-20 athletes out on the long runs!

When you’re not training on the track, do you have a favourite route for your runs in Brighton? Do you like to get up on the Downs?

I live near Preston Park so I do quite a lot of running around there. The velodrome is perfect for doing tempo sessions on the grass although it can get quite boring! For my longer runs I will head over to the Downs, I really like running up there and getting away from the city life.

What about immediately prior to a race? Relaxation and mental preparation are no doubt key components of success. What do you do specifically, to focus the mind and take away the stress of the big occasions?

In the lead-up to competition it is hard not to think about it, especially when you train so hard for it. But it is important to relax so you don’t waste energy before you are on the start line. I will picture the race in my mind and how I want it to turn out. I like to listen to music before my races as I find it gets me pumped up and in the zone.

I guess every athlete needs some downtime every now and then? After the events of the summer, have you allowed yourself a holiday? Are you able to switch off from running altogether, or do you tend to continue to tick over with some light training?

It’s very important to take a rest at the end of the season to prepare for the hard winter ahead. I got pretty tired both physically and mentally after all the ups and downs. And yes, I treated myself to a holiday in Ibiza with some of my friends which was really good fun and now I am back in London ready to start my final year of University.

I started my winter training last week, with an easy week’s running before starting some light threshold work and joining in with the group.

And what do you do when you’re not training and racing? Do you have other hobbies to take your mind off running? Any favourite hang-outs in Brighton?

When you are an elite athlete a lot of your time you are chilling out before your second training session of the day! I like to go out to eat with my friends a few times a week. I like to play video games with my friends too; we all play Xbox and can play each other online which is fun. Another hobby I recently got into is Dj’ing. I like my music and plan on DJ’ing at my mates’ house party in the near future!

Athletics obviously takes up a major part of your life now, and I guess it has for some time, but what would you be doing if you hadn’t made it as an athlete?

I love sport and I am a born competitor. I would definitely be a footballer if I wasn’t a track athlete. I played at a high standard but I picked up a few injuries playing football whilst competing at National level at athletics so decided to stop the football and concentrate on the one sport and thankfully it is paying off.

I know that, over the years, you’ve been involved with Grounded Events, organisers of the Brighton Marathon – in fact you were the winner of the very first Brighton Marathon Mini Mile at the age of 16.

1500m to 26.2 miles is a huge step-up in endurance. Do you aspire to running a marathon one day? Maybe Brighton? How might that feel to compete, and maybe even win, in your home city?

Ha ha, I would like to run one, but just for fun! Not anytime soon though. I always enjoy coming back to Brighton, the city supports me well. I have been voted Sports Personality of the Year for the last 3 years and it’s always nice to catch up with friends & family.

So what’s next for Charlie Grice?

Now that my summer season has finished and I’ve had a few weeks off, I’m now looking forward to the hard winter grind and cross country!

Charlie, it’s been an honour to interview such a great athlete, born and bred in Brighton. I wish you every success in the major competitions which lie ahead, and I hope your achievements will be an inspiration to younger, up-and-coming runners in the city. Good luck!

By Mike Bannister

photo by Mark Shearman