4 degrees is a little chilly to be lining up for an set of 800m reps off a 4 minute cycle* on the track but that’s just what my small but ’expanding’ squad lined up for this morning. The venue was Newcastle Athletic Field which is affectionately known as the ’Blue Track’ by locals and has been the second home for Kurt Fearnley and Christie Dawes for over a decade. We try to avoid their training times as no one wants to mess with Kurt and his lead out man, Andrew Dawes on the scooter when they are pushing 45 second laps!

The chill obviously had an effect on the pace of our session as our first repeat was far too slow. We soon got rolling however and a tidy workout completed with Guy Walters streaking away in the final two reps to take the cheese. It must have been cold as Guy finished the workout with his shirt on. Unusual for him.

Upon reflection, a good workout seemed near impossible after the slow start but in the end the ’young guys’ had the patience to allow themselves to get into the groove which also gave the ’old diesel’ (yours truly) a chance too.

One guy who never gave me a chance to get into a groove when I trained with him was Michael Shelley. It was ’on’ from the first repeat in an interval session or from the 8th step into a 30k long run. There is very little chance to relax and enjoy when Shelley is around, unless of course you are fitter than him.

I was fortunate to train with Shelley during my time in Canberra between ’02-’04. He fitted right in with the Dick Telford squad and just went about his business of putting it all on the line on a daily basis. During one particular 3minute workout, my favourite, we had a tidy little bunch including Commonwealth Games rep Brett Cartwright and dual Olympian Sisay Bezebah going about our work extending the distance of each rep. Shelley was respectfully shadowing us until the environment suddenly changed. An icy squall descended and the rain was coming down in blankets. I was squinting whilst trying to maintain the intensity when Michael Shelley charges past me like I am standing still, “baring his molars to the wind” and bare chested to complete the picture. He proceeded to make a mockery of the more ’senior runners’ for the remainder of the workout.

Many who come across Michael Shelley remark on his apparent lack of confidence before a race. I beg to differ, I believe it stems from the gut wrenching performance he is about to embark on.  A typical Shelley interaction and response along with my interpretations are below;

Runner 1: “hey Shelley how are you feeling”

Shelley: “Orrrr, I’m a bit tired, I dunno”

Interpretation: “I’m going to smash myself in this race and then I will be very tired!”

Runner 1: “How fast are you going to run today mate”

Shelley: “Gee I dunno, I’m a bit tired”

Interpretation: “Again mate, I am going to go out like a cut snake and belt myself for 10k. Does that sound like fun? After that I will be very tired!”

Runner 1: “Well good luck mate. Hope you beat all the rest of them!”

Shelley: “Gee anyone could turn up mate. You never know. I’ll just have to see what happens.”

Interpretation: “Don’t really care about other people because this is going to hurt so much. If someone wants to come along and turn themselves inside out and help out with the pace they can be my guest!”

Hopefully this presents a picture of a humble, genuine guy who puts everything he has into his races. He doesn’t race often because he can’t. There is no such thing as a ’cruisey win’ or ’getting into the groove’ after a slow start. Michael Shelley is one of Australia’s great marathoners and his 16th at London in 2012 and Glasgow Commonwealth Games Gold medal are proof of his quality. it will be an honour for me to wear the green and gold along side Michael Shelley in Rio and to tap into just a little of his intensity when the going gets tough!


*Today’s work out was 10 x 800m reps off 4′ Cycle. A cycle is the time from the start of the first rep to the start of the second. Some of the squad ran 6 or 8 reps and others ran 700m so the total time of their effort was similar. 800s are fun because I can run them faster than the other aerobic training I do.

“Baring his molars to the wind” quote attributed to Australian race caller Maurie Plant. One of his many gems!

Picture of Michael running toward the Commonwealth Games Silver medal in 2010. Image from abc.net.au