Hits from the Archives: Lachlan Renshaw Interview

This interview was initially published on Runner’s Tribe in mid-2008. Long since lost in cyberspace, we restore this piece for more to enjoy.

At this year’s World Athletics Tour meet in Melbourne a bomb was dropped by twenty-year-old Sydney-sider, Lachlan Renshaw. Renshaw won the 800m race in emphatic fashion, in a time of 1:45.79. The time was a huge personal best and more importantly, an Olympic A qualifier. Renshaw thus catapulted himself into the spotlight as Australia’s most promising 800m talent since the likes of Grant Cremer and Kris McCarthy. Lachlan then backed up this breakthrough shortly after, by winning the 2008 Australian 800m title.

Renshaw brings to the track true 400m speed (having clocked a 45:84 split in a 4 x 400m relay). The Runner’s Tribe catches up with Lachlan to discuss his breakthrough and build up to his first Olympic games.

RT: You have been one of the top 800m runners in Australia for a few years now, but this year you rose to another level. Why this year?

LR: Well I hadn’t recorded a PB for a year and a half prior to this season, but at the same time it was easy for me and my coach to see that my training was improving steadily. I was getting stronger and fitter but 2007 was not the best year for me as I was carrying a few little injuries and the fast times just didn’t happen with the races I was dealt. So the run in Melbourne was coming for a while, I just had to get in the right race.

RT: You are coached by John Atterton, how important has his role been in your breakthroughs?

LR: Johnny is the big cheese of 800m coaching. Without him there’s no way I could have run as fast as I have. He leaves nothing to chance in the training program, every base has to be covered. The old boy knows exactly how to get the best out of his athletes; you only have to look at his past success to see that. 

RT: John Atterton has been the coach of many leading 800m runners. There was a period in which he coached both yourself as well as Nick Bromley. How did you find training with and being around one of your fiercest rivals so much?

LR: When I finished school I didn’t have a coach because I’d always just trained with the school coaches during the athletics season. Johnny called me up and invited me to come and train with the National Champion and I jumped at the opportunity. Training with Bromley was a great opportunity for me to see what it took to be at that elite level. Having Bromers to aspire to every session meant I improved rapidly in that first year of training. That season we were more of a team than rivals, we just tried to smash each other every session, and we ended up taking out Gold and Bronze at the Nationals so it was good times.


RT: On the flip side, currently your main training partner is Werner Botha (another top Aussie 800m runner). How important is having such a talented training partner to work with week in week out?

LR: Werner and I train great together. With Nick we were such different athletes. Nick is from a 3k background and me from a 400m background. Wern and I are very similar as we’re both 400/800m runners, which makes every rep in training a race to the finish.

It’s so important to have good runners to train with because they push you to that next level in the hard sessions whereas if you were doing it by yourself it is much harder to push past the pain barriers.

RT: I know people never shut up about Ralph Doubell and you are probably sick of hearing it. Are your sights set on the Australian record? What sort of areas in training do you feel that you need to work on in order to break his 40-year-old national 800m record of 1:44.40?

LR: The Australian record is definitely in my sights! At the moment 1:44.40 would place you in about the top 10 in the world. It may be a while off, but the goal is to be the best in the world at what I do, so if that happens, the Australian record should fall somewhere along the way. The great thing is that there are still so many places that I can improve. My 400m speed is getting there, but to run 1:44 I’ll have to improve my strength over the 1k and 1500, and there is lots of improvement to be had. Other areas to improve are technique and general strength which are things that can be worked on endlessly.

RT: So do you plan on ever doing any 1500m races?

LR: Ha ha, ever? Probably. Soon? Probably not… I’ve done three 1500’s in my life and hated them all! Johnny reckons anything over 801m is a meter too far for me, and I won’t argue with him. My PB as it stands is 4:11 so I should probably try to improve that some day.


RT: Can you give us a brief description of your training during both the summer season period as well as the winter base period.

LR: The number of sessions I do stays pretty constant, but the quality verse quantity of the sessions is obviously more focused towards the faster stuff in the summer domestic season. An average week for me would be:

Mon – Weights (am) + track or hills (pm)

Tues – Cross training (am) + Hills (pm)

Weds – Easy run + Weights

Thurs – Usually just track session

Friday – Easy run + Weights

Sat – Quality session or race

Sun – Recovery run

RT: So you do a fair few weight sessions?

LR: I do weights 2 or 3 times a week with the NSWIS strength and conditioning coach Rudolph Sopko. He’s a guru in the weights room and can make you hurt in places you didn’t know you had. I’m a big believer in needing to have a high power to weight ratio in order to run fast.

RT: Do you have any track sessions which stand out as being your favourite or most worthwhile?

LR: My favourite session is definitely 3 sets of 2×200’s. We usually do that towards the end of a competition block to really get some speed lactic tolerance happening.

Most worthwhile for me would probably be 4x1k. It’s just not fun.

RT: Your time of 1:45.79 is getting down into the arena of world-class times. The 2000 Sydney Olympics was won in 1:45 by German Nils Shumman, off a slow first lap. I presume you are not traveling to Beijing for the scenery and that you are ambitious and positive about your chances of getting past the first round and challenging for a berth in the final?

LR: Definitely, you can’t go in half hearted. I’ve put my life on hold this year to go to Beijing and done everything possible to make sure a good result comes of it. What you don’t want is to look back and have regrets about the preparation.

Just to be going to the Olympics is amazing, and to toe the line wearing the Green and Gold on the world’s biggest sporting stage is a dream come true. But without a doubt the competition is going to be fierce. The top 2 go through to the semis from each heat, so one mistake and you’re gone. But the semis are definitely an achievable goal, and if you’re in the semis, anything can happen! You just have to look at Tamsyn in the World Indoors this year, in the right place at the right time.


RT: What do you have planned pre-Olympics?

LR: At the moment I’m at our training base in Cologne in Germany. Over here you can just focus on the training 100% and not have the distractions of normal life getting in the way. My first race will just be a low key meet in Jerez in Spain on the 24th of June, then Milan in Italy on the 2nd of July. I’ll have 2 or 3 races towards the end of July depending on how I’m running, but the full focus is the heats in Beijing on the 20th of August, so that’s when I’ll be peaked and ready to open a can.

RT: Do you have any financial backers or sponsors at this stage?

LR: I’m sponsored by Adidas. They have an amazing athlete support system in place. I’m very lucky that I was picked up by them, because they make life as an athlete so much easier. I’m also supported by the NSWIS and Sydney University who both provide great training facilities and athlete environments.

RT: Lachlan, all the best with your Olympic build-up and the Olympics themselves. We hope to see you line up in that final.


Some pictures thanks to Getty Images of Lachlan Renshaw competing at the 2008 Olympic Games 800m in Beijing where he finished 6th in his heat with 1:49.19.