Chris Thompson has been riding a wave of emotion since April - and he is just about to achieve the dream of competing in the marathon for Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But his journey is one of the feel good stories ahead of the Games, following almost a year and a half which has lacked them.
In just over three months, Thompson has put decades of injury problems aside to qualify for the Olympics - days after becoming a dad - and he has turned 40. They say running endurance can improve with age, and he is proving it.
Videos of Thompson’s raw emotion when he finished first at the Olympic marathon trials in Kew Gardens drew attention to a talented runner who has been on the circuit for years, and who competed at London 2012 in the 10,000m - won by Mo Farah.
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“It was one of those moments that I will treasure forever and it’s been prolonged through little things like picking up the kit, doing the interviews, being part of that Olympic excitement adds to that feeling of pride,” Thompson told Eurosport.
“When you start a journey to make an Olympics, it begins the first time you ever go out on a run. Making the team represented an even bigger buzz than normal because of my age, having a child, so this final lap of that journey has just been really good fun.
It’s tough, because you’re training for the Olympics and I’m learning to be a dad. Theo’s been an absolute star - it’s been challenging, but it’s been rewarding. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take myself back there emotionally without welling up inside and feeling happy and proud.
“If I come anywhere near to eclipsing that moment at Kew, it’s because I’ve done something incredible. I don’t know what I would do with myself. Myself, my wife and Theo have been on this journey together - I’ve not sacrificed our family life. The Olympics are highly important for me but I haven’t felt like I’ve missed out on anything, that was the plan and I’m so happy it worked out.”
Thompson feels in decent shape, but admits he is preparing for a race which is difficult to “quantify” because of the extreme heat which is expected in Sapporo for the marathon. That has been helped by soaring temperatures in the UK, which has added an extra boost before flying out to Japan for a race which does not take place until the final day of the Games - Sunday 8 August.
“I’ve been trying to simulate training through wearing layers but over the past week, the temperatures have skyrocketed.
“You’re not going to be getting times which make you happy because that’s not the idea, that doesn’t happen in those conditions.
I did one session at 1 o’clock this week and people were looking at me like, ‘what are you doing?!’. It’s been a brilliant heatwave for me, it’s been an unexpected blessing.
Thompson is aware of the coronavirus situation in Japan, and the positive results which have come from within the Olympic Village, but is trying to remove himself from the situation as best he can. But he knows the restrictions are tough, and he is happy to put up with them.
“You can’t put emotional energy into it - not because I don’t care, but because it’s not useful. Of course it’s a fear, I’ve been testing for the last 10 days. You test positive, you’re not competing. No athlete is immune from that worry.
I’m trying not to consume myself with stuff because that would panic me, I just need to keep safe and look after myself to get on the startline and compete.
“We all have the challenges of getting there, it’s a very unique Games - but that comes with the privilege of being able to do that. If any athlete is shocked by how strict it’s going to be...it was always going to be ruthless.”
Thompson finishes our chat by going back to the start - and reflecting on the enormity of qualifying for the Olympics. At 40, continuing the journey to Paris 2024 would create an even better story. He is captivated by the stories created by the Games, and says it is an event like no other.
“It’s hard to get your head around that you work so hard essentially for one day of work ... win, lose or draw, once it’s finished it’s like pulling a rug from beneath you.
"If you have a bad day, you may never get another chance and if you do, you may have to wait four years. It’s the same for every sport, we’re all in the same boat, we’d all have to wait.
“People are going to be more emotional than normal because of everything we’ve gone through. It’s going to be an insane few weeks and I can’t wait to watch the opening ceremony.”
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