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Bernard Lagat: ‘There’s no way on earth I am ever going to run barefoot again!’

So Bernard, what have you been up to lately? I’ve been training hard since I came back from the US trials. I’ve had one race, in Lucerne, last Tuesday which went really well – I ran 7m 42sec [for 3,000m], which was my season’s best, and also it was a World Master’s Record for the over 40s [Lagat turned 40 last December]. Then I kept training, because I know that there are so many other races to come.

What are your plans for the future? Because the season is still kind of new, I want to run faster in the 5,000m. Hopefully, in September I can run under 13m 10sec. I’ve already mapped out the race I’m going to be doing that, in Berlin on 6 September. Then, of course, we have the World Indoor Championships coming up in Portland, Oregon, so I’m looking forward to that as well. That’s a step, maybe, towards Rio. But first I have to qualify for the World Indoors.

What are your top running tips for anyone running the mile? If you handle it well, you are going to run great. Don’t think too much about the race itself. The third of the four laps is the one that makes everyone tired. You are in the middle, you still have two to go. Try not to worry about it, but try to run faster. That’s the lap that will get you a fast time. In the last lap, adrenaline kicks in – that one takes care of itself. But the third, that’s the one you have to attack. Run faster, don’t think about it. If your mind says you are tired already – it’s not a good idea. Run tough. Everything will fall into place on that last lap. Just go all out!

Do you have a favourite place to run? Yes, I do. I really like running in the UK, to be honest. I’ve run in the UK since, maybe, 2000. There are so many races I’ve run here. I had my first breakthrough in the UK when I ran 12’59 to beat Kenenisa Bekele in the 5,000m. So this is my favourite place.

What about away from competition? People always think about altitude training as somewhere to train hard, to focus. But sometimes I go to Flagstaff, Arizona, and I just remove my watch. I’m out there, just running. Sometimes I don’t even care about distance or time, just go with the feeling. Then stretch and go home. For me, that’s a way of refreshing yourself after what you’ve done over the week.

Do you remember your first ever run? Yes, my first one was running with my sister Mary. She was a professional, world class runner. I remember her having these really cool shoes – I don’t even remember what they were – but to seeing someone running in shoes was just unbelievable. I think that was 1981, after she came back from Australia at the World Youth Games. I was still a young boy.

Then in high school, one year before I graduated, I ran at the districts and I ran against the boy who was the best. I was close to him, coming second and challenging him. That set me up for when it all started in my senior year, when I made the nationals.

If people ask for a general training tip, what do you give them? I would say consistency. When you train on Monday you have to make sure you are fresh enough to come back on Tuesday. Rest is really important. If you overdo it you won’t have consistent training. You need a good balance. I train six days a week, and rest one day. That’s important. I rest every Sunday so on Monday I am fresh.

Do you ever struggle with motivation? As a professional, I always try not to show the weakness … sometimes I feel like if I said that, people would look at me differently. But yes, we all have it. So then I will say to myself, OK, you don’t feel motivated to train this week but think about last week, think about that race that you did. I performed well, it felt so good. So you know what? I’m going to do a good week because I want that feeling again. The process of training is not always appealing but I know that, in the end, I’m going to enjoy the outcome, and that’s the motivation.

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Do you ever listen to music when you run? It depends on the mood. Sometimes for an easy six-mile I might put some music on, listen to Michael Jackson. But the majority of time I run without it, not because I don’t love it but I like to listen to my running, my breathing, my gait, the steps. I want to listen to all that when I’m training because that’s part of it.

Do you have a running gadget? Yes, my GPS watch. I can go to any forest, anywhere in the world, night or day, I can start it and I know my mile splits. I can’t do without that, for sure. Yet the best runs sometimes are when you leave it at home. But I’ve come to realise that’s hard for me. So I don’t look at it when I run, and just count the beeps when it’s a mile. Then I look at it afterwards.

What’s the worst thing about running? Injury is the worst. I’ve been really lucky [touches wood] and I’m lucky I can still train this hard at my age without slowing down. I’ve been mostly injury-free and not ill. It scares me sometimes when somehting crops up. In 2008, I didn’t make the Olympics finals in the 1,500m because of injury and that was the first one I’d ever had, I didn’t even know how to take care of it.

What’s the best thing about running? Achieving what you have been working for. As you train, you never know exactly how that training is going to manifest itself at the end of the season. But when you look at the times, the medals, everything you achieve at the end of every season – man, that’s the best part about it.

Do you have a post-race indulgence? Sometimes I’d love a glass of red but not when I am training or going into another race. But when you do, it feels so good. Maybe sometimes ice cream, but mostly I leave that to my kids.

What do you have for breakfast on the morning of a big day? Maybe eggs, maybe bread, coffee, orange juice. Same as a normal day.

So, um, ever run barefoot? [Laughs] Well, since I came to the developed world I’ve never run barefoot and I always say there’s no way on earth I am ever going to run barefoot. I did a good 15 years or so of barefoot running, walking. Now I see the shoes and I’m like, “That’s my best friend for life!” Never since I crossed the big pond! My shoes will always be on my feet for ever.

If you had to chose who to watch, Mo or Usain? Oh! That’s easy. Mo Farah. Hands down. You know why? One thing: in competition, I would like to have that element of surprise. With the 100m, it’s so fast. I know a lot of people are entertained by it but I don’t really get that. With the 5,000 or the 10,000m, I’m thinking, “Wow! Look at the form!” With the 100m, I can’t even see the form in nine seconds. The others, it’s a piece of art, right there. Hey, if I’m paying for a ticket, I want more than nine seconds for my money’s worth!

Who is the greatest runner of all time? To me, Jesse Owens. He did everything, and during the hardest time of his generation. For him to come back from the Berlin Olympics with so many medals. He inspired a generation, in Africa, the US, Europe. The greatest runner, the greatest sprinter of all time.

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Bernard Lagat was talking as part of #NikeMilers – challenging runners of all abilities to run their first, funnest or fastest mile. Visit for full details and to sign up to Nike+ Run Clubs and take on the Find Your Fast Challenges.


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