Manx Marathon Man
There’s so many highs and lows in running” says Keith Gerrard. For this 28-year-old Isle of Man long distance runner and St. Mary’s Sports Science graduate there have been plenty of highs in an exceptional career to date. He won back-to-back England Cross Country Championships in the 2011-2012 season and was selected for his first major championships, the European in Helsinki in the same season.
Even after one of his lowest points in March-April 2013 when he was struggling with an injury he came back with a silver medal at the UK championships in July that year. This proved to be another remarkable achievement in a closely fought race with Andrew Lemoncello and Scott Overall. In the last race of the 2013 season a notable highlight for Keith, (coming in 20th position overall), was helping team GB win a bronze in the European Cross Country Championships in December 2013.
Asked if he could pinpoint the moment he decided to take running seriously; he replied, “ I did a local road race on the Isle of Man, about a week after my 16th Birthday and I really surprised myself in that race, I beat loads of senior athletics, had a really good run and it was after that day that I dedicated myself to this sport”.
That dedication is needed for the testing training schedule required in the lead up to major championships. Keith has been running between 90-100miles per week, an amount that he considers to be manageable. “There is however a rather fine balance between overtraining and being underprepared. Any more I’m overtraining, any less I may not reach my full fitness.”
In his view a strict dietary regime is not as essential, there is no necessarily bad food really it is all energy but within reason at the same time, not too much of the same thing and avoiding takeaways.
Sport at the highest level is now decided by fine margins and all-important hundredths of a second differences. Gaining that vital extra edge over the competition has increased the importance of psychological factors in the sport. Keith explains, “The psychological demands are over looked a lot of the time. There’s more stress than you think in trying to make it to the top of your sport.”
When London hosted the 2012 Olympics it was only logical that Athletics’ stock would rise and the athletes themselves would become more recognisable to the public generally. Keith comments, “It was hard for anyone not to get sucked into the Olympics it was so exciting. So I would say it’s definitely raised awareness to some extent. In terms of public awareness people are far more clued into who our leading athletes are and the value and passion of sport.”
In his view however we will not see the fruits of this Olympics inspired interest transformed into improving participation numbers until a few years time when the younger children inspired to join local athletic clubs mature and encourage another generation in the sport.
Keith plans to embark on new challenges in the ultimate test of being a distance runner, the marathon. “I’ve been concentrating on the 10,000m and cross country for the last few years now but I think marathon is on the horizon shortly after the Commonwealth Games”. (He plans to represent the Isle of Man at the Games). “I like to think the best chapter in my career is going to be the longer events. It’s kind of exciting to know that’s still ahead of me yet.”