Athlete Focus: British Champion Hurdler David King
Our athlete focus includes people from all walks of life and this week athlete we are talking to a champion!
David King is current British outdoor Champion for 60m Hurdles, and also held that title in 2019 for indoor. He ranks second in the UK for the 110m Hurdles, following a performance this summer in Hungary and is 10th UK All Time. David has recently returned from the US, where he has been training with a specialist hurdles group, and is looking forward to racing at the British Championships in Manchester.
It has been our pleasure to be able to talk to David and he shares his thoughts with you here.
How did you get into hurdling?
I joined the local athletics club, City of Plymouth AC, aged 10 years old and immersed myself into every event possible. I sprinted, jumped, hurdled and even threw. As the years went by I gradually eliminated events that I was either not enjoying or struggling to find success at; for me those two factors are usually linked! When I was 16 I had decided that my favourite events were the sprint hurdles and triple jump. Since there were no jumps coaches at my club at the time, I naturally progressed much more at hurdles and over the next few years had some great success. Maybe if things were different I could have been a triple jumper?!
What were the biggest influences in your early training and competing? What helped you?
My club coach, Stephen Endacott, was my biggest influence in my early career. Steve had created a great environment to train and there was a huge amount of talent coming through the age groups in Plymouth. Steve’s energy was so positive and he ensured that I was enjoying my training. This got me hooked on athletics and I was lucky enough that my best friend, Dan Kelland, got hooked too. We would train religiously every day and both became obsessed with the sport. The commitment and passion that Steve helped me to find set me up perfectly to join an elite setup in 2012, when I started at the University of Bath. Steve still helps me out to this day when I am back in Plymouth.
What challenges did you have to overcome?
As a young athlete I had very few challenges apart from the small injuries that all athletes will encounter as they grow and mature. However my first ‘proper’ injury was in 2013 while I was preparing for my first GB international at the European Junior Championships in Italy. I was in incredible shape and was one of the favourites to medal. Unfortunately I pulled my hamstring about 4 weeks before the championship. I fought as hard as I could to recover before the championship, supported by great medical team in Bath. However the time frame was just too short and I was not able to recover. I actually ran the first round of the Euros and somehow managed to qualify for the semi-final, despite worsening the hamstring tear during the first stride of the race! On reflection it was probably a bad idea to race and perhaps should have withdrawn – but when you are an athlete at a championship you feel like there is nothing else in the world bigger and more important! I have learned that there is always a bigger picture!
If you could do anything differently, what would it be? What advice would you give your 15yr old self?
As a 15 year old lad I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I think as a young athlete it is important to be in a traditional club setup, as opposed to an elite setup. Early specialisation is something that, in my opinion, can be very detrimental to the longevity of an athlete’s career. My advice to other 15 year old athletes reading this is do as many events as you can, for as long as you can! You will have plenty of time from 18 onwards to specialise and make that transition from club athletics to elite athletics.
Why did you choose to train in the US?
When I moved to Bath I joined my first elite training group, coached by James Hillier. I had huge success with James and had an incredible journey together, but I felt that after 7 years it was my time to move on. I needed a change that would excite me and I really wanted to challenge myself. It’s very well known that Americans lead the way in the hurdle events, and I happened to be very friendly with a couple of USA hurdlers, Devon Allen and Freddie Crittenden. I spoke with them both and they suggested that I should join their training group in Phoenix, Arizona. It was an opportunity that I could not miss, so I soon got in contact with Coach Tim O’Neil and we made it happen! Now I’m a proud member of Phoenix Track Club and have loved every second.
How have you managed training during lockdown? What are your training priorities and focus?
I spent most of lockdown in Phoenix and have been able to train relatively well. We were not able to access the track or gym but we found a new home for Phoenix Track Club at a football pitch. Since it is so dry and hot in Arizona it was not too difficult to find a good quality field, and it meant that we were able to train in spikes and even hurdle on the grass. The uncertainty of how long lockdown would last gave us a great opportunity to work on hurdle technique, rhythm and endurance. We did of course miss out on other aspects of training, but we definitely made the most of a bad situation and came out of lockdown feeling confident that we had made significant progress. After lockdown the challenge was to get race-ready, which I have been doing at home in Plymouth (currently training at Tavistock since Plymouth’s track is being re-laid). It has been tough, but I’m very pleased with how well it has gone! I feel very lucky just to be able to race this year.
Any tips for awesome sessions? What are your favourite training drills?
I think the key to having awesome sessions is surrounding yourself with likeminded people who you can bounce off of. Get some good music playing and be competitive with your training partners! There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competitiveness to get you pumped for your session – and this works for any session!
My favourite training drills are simple hurdle isolation drills (sorry if that’s a boring answer!). Run down the side of the hurdles with your lead leg or trail leg, focus on hitting the perfect positions you will need to hit in a race. I feel like there are far too many ‘fancy’ training drills that may look interesting, but have little purpose or training benefits. Sometimes it’s better to keep it simple and think about basic positions over the hurdles.
What are your goals and ambitions?
My biggest goal is to make it to Tokyo 2020+1. It was the goal that fuelled the move to Phoenix and that my entire career has worked towards. I believe that I am currently in the perfect position to reach my goal and I am doing everything I possibly can to make it happen!
My short term goal for this reduced 2020 athletics season is to enjoy racing and work on all the technical changes that I have made while in Phoenix. Any other success achieved this year would be a bonus.