Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Athletics: Taking baby steps towards worlds

Nick Willis is in a race to be fit for the world champs. Photo / Chris Skelton
Nick Willis is in a race to be fit for the world champs. Photo / Chris Skelton

A nagging calf injury and the birth of his first child, a son, mean veteran 1500m runner Nick Willis will miss a meet this morning that has become a staple in his calendar.

The International Association of Athletics Federations' Paris meet, first as a Golden League and now as a Diamond League fixture, has brought Willis a couple of his fondest track memories. He broke Sir John Walker's 30-year-old New Zealand 1500m record there in 2005, setting a time of 3m 32.38s. He chopped that to 3m 32.17s the following year.

This time he and wife Sierra have been on baby watch at home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The birth pool has been tested in the living room and the arrival's room has been painted.

As a keen cricket fan, he has also followed New Zealand's progress closely on the England tour. A YouTube video even shows him rolling a couple of useful off spinners down his driveway while an enthusiastic family pooch does the fielding.

In a piece to camera, a lonely Willis says: "Sun's out. There's no one in America to play cricket with, so you've got to improvise."

He's also mastering his golf game after entering October's speed golf world championships in Oregon with friend and former 1500m world champion Bernard Lagat.

Importantly, Willis has also found time to return to training as he prepares for the world championships in Moscow, starting August 10. His injury has been disruptive but his early season form was promising with a number of race wins and a competitive performance in May's Diamond League 1500m at Shanghai, until he fell. He could barely walk the following day in what "wasn't a very fun 14-hour flight to get back to the States".

Willis added: "I'm on the comeback trail, but it has been a tedious little injury. I am no longer inhibited by the volume I can run, but am yet to fully open my stride, so I'm limited to running hill intervals to substitute for track training. So long as improvements to my injury progress the way things have been going, I have a good shot at being in decent shape for the world championships."

- Herald on Sunday

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