Meet Niels Laros, The 18-Year-Old Dutch Sensation Who Has Run 1:45.8 for 800m and 13:23 for 5,000mBy Alex Geula
This past weekend in Leiden, Netherlands, 18-year-old Dutch high schooler Neils Laros ran a 1:45.80 PB for 800m.
(Note: When we first wrote this article, Laros’ then 1500m pr (3:38.34) wouldn’t have been the US record, but he lowered it to 3:32.89 2 days later).
Laros comes from a family of runners. His parents, Marcel Laros and Sandra Laros-Hofmans, were both runners at UTEP when they met. Marcel has PBs of 8:21 for the 3000m steeplechase and 3:39 for 1500m. Niels’ mother, Sandra, has PBs of 4:21 for 1500m and 9:15 for 3,000m. If that is not enough, Niels’ older brother, Lars, currently runs for Wingate University, a Division II school in North Carolina and has PBs of 3:48.00 for 1500m and 14:04.88 for 5,000m.
Last May at the age of 17, with the help of his management agency Global Sports Communication, Laros signed a professional contract with Nike. After turning pro, Laros switched coaches from his junior coach to Thomas Lewandowski, brother and coach of famed Polish 800m runner Marcin Lewandowski, and began training with Lewandowski’s group of Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch runners at a camp 75 minutes from his house. Niels is splitting his final year of high school into two, so he has time to go to training camps.
Niels was the guest on the LetsRun.com Track Talk Podcast last week. You can listen to the full Niels Laros podcast in the player below or on your favorite podcast app here. Written highlights below, edited, and rearranged for reader experience.
(Laros joins the podcast at 81:20. Full notes here)
LetsRun.com (LRC): You clearly have a huge range of events in which you are successful. When you think of yourself as a runner, which event would describer you best? 5,000m runner, miler, 800m guy?
Niels: I think I’m an 800 to 5,000 guy. I like all distances and I’m gonna do them all again this season. We’ll see what rolls out of it.
LRC: So at the beginning of the year, did you sit down with your coach or your dad and sort of come up with a goal? What is your goal for 2023?
Niels: At the start of the year, I actually didn’t expect to be racing so fast again. I was behind on training for like two and a half months because I was sick. My coach did some magic and we managed to race again pretty soon. At the start, I didn’t have a goal. I just wanted to be racing again. But now, the goal has been set on European U20s.
LRC: What event will you be running there?
Niels: I do not know yet. Maybe all [800m, 1500m, 5,000m].
On his past and current setup
Niels: First of all, I’m still in high school. I started at the local club in my hometown. My old coach brought me to a pretty good level, 3:44 for 1500m. Then last year I switched to Thomas Lewandowski, coach of his brother [Marcin Lewandowski, 800m runner] who had many international medals. So he’s the Mastermind I would say.
Of course, I’ve been guided by Global Sports Management. I train with, with quite a big group with Danish, Norweigan, and Dutch guys. It’s a pretty international group based in the Netherlands. So a very good environment. We also go on camps. We went to Flagstaff this winter. So I would say pretty happy with the setup I have here.
LRC: How do the guys on the team treat you? What’s the dynamic of the team?
We’ve got some other young guys, but I’m the youngest. The other young guys are 19 and 20 years old. The oldest is 26. So we have quite a big spectrum. We can learn a lot from each other.
On his training
LRC: I’m not a big Strava stalker but it looks like you only runs about 50 kilometers per week. Not many hard sessions. Is that still the case? Are you still running that low volume or what’s your volume at and what does a typical training week look like for you?
Niels: When I’m at home, I do like 60-70km/week [37-43 miles/week]. I have one rest day a week. I do threshold training and some track stuff in the summer. When I’m away at camps, obviously the volume is higher. Almost double sometimes. Not a lot of volume, but still pretty okay. We build it up gradually. I’m in good hands with my coach.
LRC: What’s the most you’ve ever run in a week?
Niels: 130 kilometers. The long run was a bit too long that week.
On considering the collegiate system
Niels: I’ve thought about it. I’ve talked to some coaches as well. But last year the opportunity came to to move here to PNO and to train under Thomas, and I really liked this opportunity. It’s close to home and nice as well. I believe this setup is going to work out for me.
On his idols in running growing up
Niels: I watch a lot of athletics. Centrowitz, of course, is a big inspiration and now Eliud Kipchoge. I really like the sport. So in general, I watch all the races and follow along like any other fan of the sport.
On his comparisons to Jakob Ingebrigtsen
Niels: It’s good to be compared to someone who is that good now. Of course, I will follow my own path and keep doing that. It’s just been a gradual buildup, training a bit more, and having a bit more experience.
On if he pays attention to other young runners
LRC: Do you pay attention to other teenagers? Leo and Lex Young in America? Everybody at Newbury Park High School has got quite a following here. Do you pay attention to the other teenagers? Do you know who they are, the Sahlman brothers and the Young brothers?
Niels: Yeah, of course. I’m a fan of the sport, so I’ve obviously seen that. It would be great to maybe train with them in Flagstaff. They should come to Europe and race me. That would be fun.
On his experience in Flagstaff
LRC: Who did you run into there? Did you get to see any other people from other teams?
Niels: I saw Centro, of course, he was pretty cool to see. I some of the other guys from Mike Smith’ group, too. It’s a really great place to train with a lot of good athletes. So that inspires me as well.
LRC: So when you meet someone like Centrowitz does someone introduce you and say your credentials or does he think you are some random 17-year-old off the street? Do they tell him that you’re a good runner?
Niels: No. No, they did not. I was just a fan for him.
LRC: Have you ever trained at altitude before going to Flagstaff and was there a big difference? Did it take a while to get adjusted?
Niels: Yeah, I’ve been to Font Romeu. It’s about like 1800 meters [5,900 feet]. So not as high as Flagstaff, but we had to do easy stuff the first week and a half. After that we still had to be careful, but it was a good camp.
Niels: I haven’t had any serious injuries luckily. But, as I said this winter, I couldn’t do European Cross or World Cross or indoors, because I had a virus. So yeah, I was out for two and a half months. I could barely train. So that’s why it’s even more surprising I could race this early and race this well.
LRC: I used to tell my guys I think a little injury and a little setback is good because it may make you appreciate the sport a little bit more?
Niels: Yeah, of course. When you’re out and not running, you appreciate every run a lot more and it makes you hungrier for more. Watching the other guys race makes you want to race as well.
Niels: I love cross country. When I was young, I used to do it every year. Now, this year I only could do one race, which was the qualification for European Cross. After that race I got sick, so I unfortunately couldn’t do any more races.
On Dutch sensation Sifan Hassan
Niels: I think she’s quite popular. I actually saw her in Hengelo this past weekend. There were a lot of people coming out for her and cheering her on. She’s very good for Dutch sport.
On the future
LRC: So Budapest 2023 isn’t a big goal, but what about Paris 2024?
Niels: That’s hard to say now, but we aim high, so we might wanna go for it.
LRC: What event do you think you would be most likely to run?
Niels: Probably the 1500m.