Twelve questions

Sarah Stuart poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions: Nick Willis

Nick Willis, Beijing Olympics 1500m silver medallist, and wife Sierra are expecting their first child at the end of June - weeks before he competes at the World Championships in Moscow.

Nick Willis says running makes you feel like you have conquered the land and your body. Photo / Getty Images
Nick Willis says running makes you feel like you have conquered the land and your body. Photo / Getty Images

1. So you're about to be a Dad - what kind would you like to be?
Wow, tough question! I was very blessed to have a Dad who always loved his wife, and supported his kids whatever they chose to do. He sacrificed so much of his time and career to raise us, and most importantly gave us a foundation of faith from which I was able to develop my own. If I can be even half the Dad my father was that would be great.

2. What will you teach your child about winning - and failure?
I had a lot of success as a child, but was quite arrogant and boastful about my gifts. I hope to teach that using their talents and gifts to their full ability is important (which eliminates the concern for victory or loss), but also that friendships are just as important gifts as athletic or intellectual talents. In all things we do, doing them to our best ability is important.

3. Can you put into words what running, at its peak, feels like?
It is the most amazing feeling of invincibility, to be able to put on your shoes and head out for a hard run in the hills, and to not feel tired at all makes you feel like you have conquered the land and your body.

Anything feels possible after those rare experiences. The rest of the time it is a grind and struggle to survive the hard grind of daily training!

4. Your Twitter profile describes you as a proud Kiwi first, a Christian second and a husband third: has this always been the order of importance?
Kiwis are my biggest supporters, so I use Twitter primarily to keep connected with them. My identity as a follower of Jesus is the most important aspect of my life however, without which I could never have married such an amazing woman.

5. Have you ever had times of doubt with your faith?
I had doubt for all of my youth, and not until I was 20 did it suddenly click for me. Since then I am challenged on an almost daily basis, as I live in a very academic and liberal town. Ann Arbor [where Nick and Sierra live] has 76 per cent of its adult population with tertiary degrees. This provides a very stimulating environment where you are forced to really explore your views on life, and provide sound reasoning for your beliefs.

6. What was the darkest part of your life?
When I was 14 I was riding my bike on my paper delivery, when I just completely broke down in tears. The death of my mother nine years before had found its way back to my conscience after my efforts of hiding those thoughts away. I was lonely and terribly angry at God for allowing such a fate to have happened to our family. Early teens are hard for a lot of people I have learned.

7. What kind of a toll has running taken on your body?
I have had a number of surgeries and stress fractures over the years, but also been blessed with a great run of health the last 18 months. If I weren't running, I'd probably be a lot more damaged from rugby, skateboarding and snowboarding.

8. And on your relationships?
It can be tough keeping close with my mates when travelling a lot, but my closest friend, my wife, has embraced my running as her passion, and we have shared an amazing six years travelling the world together. There have been many highs and lows, when she has taken on as much emotional stress, if not more, than I have, but these are memories we will have for the rest of our lives.

9. Do you have a gold medal in you still, do you think?
I have decided to free myself of specific targets for now, but rather enjoy what I am doing and get the very most out of this body. I improved my times the past two seasons, so there is every reason for me to assume there are still more improvements to come.

10. What's your daily life like in Michigan?
Now that I am a student again, I spend most of the day in my living room, or at a local coffee shop reading my coursework. When I get sick to death of sitting down for too long, I'll get my dog, Tempo, on his leash and head out for a run in the endless single track wooded trails that surround the meandering Huron River. In the evenings my wife and I like to watch a movie on Netflix (an online streaming service) or catch up with friends in the downtown.

11. What do you miss most about home?
Frujus and the beaches. Can't beat Kiwi summers, hence my reason for coming home every summer.

12. If you could change one thing about New Zealand, what would it be?
To see more youth being ambitious and not afraid of failure. Too often you can ask what teenagers want to do with their life and they shrug their shoulders. Who cares about being cool - care about what gets you excited and go do it.

- NZ Herald

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