WILLIS READY FOR RETURN IN FALMOUTH
**New Training Group Led By Warhurst to Start in Michigan**
By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(13-Aug) -- Nick Willis, the 2008 Olympic silver medallist in the 1500m, is ready to begin a new chapter in his career.
After battling two years of bothersome hip and knee injuries, the 27 year-old New Zealander is ready to race for the first time since having knee surgery last March. He'll compete at the CIGNA Falmouth Mile tomorrow in Falmouth, Mass.
"I'm feeling great," Willis told Race Results Weekly in a telephone interview. "I'm excited to be back at it again after sort of a troubling time for the second spring in a row."
Willis, who had knee surgery after doctors discovered a cyst in his knee due to a torn meniscus, has been working to get back to his Beijing form ever since getting the go-ahead to run. Meeting regularly with a strength and conditioning specialist and massage therapist, Willis has been working to strengthen his knee and all of the surrounding muscles, something he used to be "slack" on, he said.
"It's the first time I have been able to run over 40 minutes pain free for the last three years," he explained. "It's been really exciting."
Having only started track workouts four days ago (on Monday), Willis will use Falmouth as a race to prepare for his trek towards defending his 1500m title at the Commonwealth Games, which will take place in Delhi, India, in October.
"We are about a month ahead of where we would have hoped normally, based on how the workout went," said Willis.
Describing Falmouth as sort of a "pre-season" meet, like the games going on in the National Football League right now, Willis will use the mile to bust any rust off and get back into the swing of racing.
But being healthy for the first time in three years is not the only thing Willis has to be happy about these days. Willis's long-time coach, former University of Michigan head coach Ron Warhurst, is starting up the Very Nice Track Club, a professional training group which will be based out of Ann Arbor, Mich.
The club (the name of which comes from a phrase coined by Warhurst and worn on the back of Michigan's racing singlets in the past) hopes to join the ranks of America's best training groups, like the Mammoth Track Club in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Joining Willis there will be two-time NCAA national champion in the 1500m Lee Emmanuel of Great Britain, former University of Minnesota star Brandon Bethke, and Willis's former Michigan teammate Nate Brannen of Canada.
"It's exciting for me," laughed Willis. "For now I get a lot more of his attention rather than having to carry the bags for twenty college kids." He continued: "A lot of athletes, when they get to my stage in their career --four or five years into their professional careers-- they seem to have a question mark, wondering do they need to change coaches or change environments just so they don't get stale, stuck around the same college stuff. But this is a great new opportunity for me, I get to stay with my coach I have worked so well with, and I don't have to make a radical change in my living situation [living in Ann Arbor]."
The group will work with new state-of-the-art facilities, complete with underwater treadmills, and will have the help of physical therapists and medical personnel.
Also joining the group will be Willis's new puppy, Tempo. Always wanting a dog that could run with him in both the winter and summer, Willis's new companion will be the unofficial mascot of the team, he said.