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Interview: Richard Allen
Posted by: Annie Emmerson
Posted on: Friday 28th August 2009


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It was just like old times at the London Triathlon this year, with two very fimiliar faces of old racing in the men's elite race. Richard Allen was one of them (Marc Jenkins the other), back racing following a decision to retire from the sport in 2006. Richard's career as a duathlete and triathlete spanned over 15-years. It was a career full of highs and lows as sporting careers inevitably are, but Richard definitely enjoyed more highs than lows. Amongst many sporting accolades, Richard won nine national titles covering every triathlon distance and duathlon. As a junior he won the European Championships and was twice second at the World Championships. He was also part of the Sydney Olympic Games Squad and the Manchester Commonwealth Games Squad as first reserve.

A bout of glandular fever meant Richard wasn't at his best at this year's London Triathlon, but he certainly didn't look out of place in the elite field as he finished in 13th place just behind his old team mate Marc Jenkins. In our interview Richard cautiously told me that his only regret is that he hasn't yet experienced his 'perfect race' and that perhaps it's yet to come! With a more philosophical outlook on life, and a very much more relaxed approach, this just might not be out of the question for one of Great Britain's former leading triathletes.


AE Richard, you retired in 2006 after a 15-year long career, what was behind your decision to return to the sport three years later?

RA A young girl I knew died of cancer last year. It made me think how lucky I was to be able to do triathlon at a professional level and that I should use this talent to help the cause for battling cancer. I had had enough of triathlon racing for myself and it was time to give something back.

AE Having raced competitively for so many years though there must be a part of you that is still very competitive and wants to win races?

RA Sure I want to win. This year has been a transition to get back in shape on 15-hours a week. Next year I will up it again and should be back in contention in non-drafting events. I would like to go on for another four years or so as I am enjoying it again.

AE So how have the last three years been for you since you've been away from the sport and what have you been doing with your time?

RA I started a coaching and consultancy company doing online coaching, one-on-one coaching, training camps and work for sponsors. I only coach a few people myself but manage the business and other coaches who work for me. The consultancy has largely been for nice2tri.com which will be a new triathlon store. They are going to be big so watch this space. The camps have been through Adidas Eyewear and are now very successful. I have been lucky that my sponsors have stuck by me and I still do a lot of stuff for Gatorade amongst others.

AE Did you train at all in the time you had off?

RA I totally stopped training for nearly two years, only doing a bit of running.

AE How’s your body responding to training full-time again?

RA Being an 'old' pro athlete it's tough. When I was young I could train hard in the morning and then again in a few hours. Now I need to take a day off and can't walk down stairs! It's tough but I just do as much as I can and no more.

AE Your first race back in the UK was the London Triathlon - which you won in 2003 - what was it like to be back racing again in England at such a big event?

RA I really enjoyed it. It's fantastic to be back in the mix and to still be fairly competitive. It's a little frustrating though as I only train 15-hours a week and the other pro's train 25-30. I had glandular fever for five weeks before London and had literally done no training. Amazingly I felt pretty good, made the main swim/bike pack and ran ok. I was over the moon with this as I thought I was going to be last out of the swim!

AE Since you’ve been back you’ve stuck to the non-drafting races, what was it like to race a drafting race again?

RA I just did it for a bit of fun, I don't feel many of the drafting races are a true triathlon. The swim was fast and the run fast, but the bike was up and down and pretty slow depending on the tactics of the race. To me that's not a true triathlon. I enjoyed it but only because London is a fantastic event and I wasn't expecting anything.

AE Most athletes regret something, is there anything you’ve regretted doing or not doing as an athlete?

RA I don't think you can look back and have regrets. I always like to look forward. Sure there are things I could have done better but I didn't. I do think however that I never had my perfect race and who knows, maybe if I can get in shape it's yet to come... unlikely but possible.

AE Full-time athletes don’t always have the time (or energy) to appreciate how lucky they are to be doing what they’re doing; during your two year break from the sport did you have time to reflect on this, and if so what thoughts did you have?

RA I certainly have reflected on what I did for a living and was very grateful and thankful for it. I appreciate the travelling, meeting new friends and the lifestyle I had. My life is not too different now so I am very lucky. I am still thankful everyday for an amazing life. Many are not so lucky. Maybe the death of Ellis who I knew made me look at how lucky I am.

AE How much do you think the sport has changed since 2006 in terms of how the guys race over the Olympic distance?

RA It's not very different, just slightly faster. On the run they are getting super quick. The tactics still seem the same and you still get the crap beaten out of you at the first swim buoy!

AE What do you think of Al Brownlee’s complete domination of the World Championship series?

RA It's fantastic to see! Such an amazing talent and a very humble guy along with it. He is just about as talented as you get and along with this he is mentally very strong from training in the cold Yorkshire weather. I know because we are from the same area originally. I just hope the pressure of 2012 doesn't get to him as he will certainly be a favourite.

AE In the UK we still seem to be lacking real depth at the elite level how do you think this could be improved?

RA Better facilities. Better weather. Become a sporting nation. I just don't know it will ever happen as we can't change the second two things.

AE If you could go back to one race in your career and relive the whole experience again which race would it be and why?

RA Tough question... World Junior Champs when I was second and European Senior Champs when I was eighth both stick in my mind as I certainly gave it my best shot. Winning London and Windsor was great fun too.

AE So what are your racing plans for 2009 and beyond?

RA I have missed the main part of 2009 with glandular fever so will hopefully be doing some 70.3's later in the year. Augusta 70.3 in September, Austin 70.3 in October and if I qualify, the World 70.3 Champs in November. Beyond 2009 I will do Blenheim, London and UK 70.3 again and then a fair few 70.3's in the US. I am marrying my fiancé next year who is an American so will spend a fair bit of time at our home in North Carolina. My place in Bath will still be my UK base.

AE And lastly, what's your motto for the day?

RA Live every day to the full and appreciate what you have.


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