Josh Kerr’s reflections of a world champion

The day after winning the 1500m world championship, Josh Kerr shared his thoughts with the British media.  These are some of the things he said:

Watching his friend Jake Wightman win the 2022 World Championship helped motivate Josh in 2023.

Jake Wightman didn’t have the Olympics that he wanted in 2021. And I know at that point he went back to the drawing board and found ways to get better and kind of used that performance to get ready for the World Championships in 2022. So for me, it was a very similar approach where I felt like I underachieved, but I felt like there were definitely places to go. I was amazingly happy for Jake at the time. But again, I’m not here to be a cheerleader for someone else, regardless if it’s a really good friend of mine. I planned for a long time, and as you saw, it was a reasonably similar race plan and the same outcome. 

Jake Wightman battles for the WC 1,500m with Jakob Ingebrigtsen, photo by World Athletics

Edinburgh Athletic Club

Edinburgh AC has helped produce the 2022 and 2023 World 1500m champions Lynsey Sharp and Chris O’Hare.  Josh acknowledged the lessons we learned and the effort they put in as a team and as a club, the effort that those volunteers and the coaching staff made. That’s the reason that we’re in these positions and that we continue to have the success that we have. I think as a club they should be so proud because they have such a massive hand in what we have achieved.

Josh Kerr, Jake Wightman, a few years ago, photo from Scottish Athletics

Sacrifices

Running is a passion of mine, and then I was able to find a career in it. I think the best athletes are making sacrifices on a daily basis. I don’t live in Scotland anymore. I live over in the US, away from my parents, away from my brother, and my nephews. I currently live in a different state to my fiancée as well. So it’s sacrifices on a day-to-day basis. It’s like I’m not with the people I love. And I’m not in the place I grew up, and it’s hard, but on the start line in Budapest, I knew the sacrifice I made to be there. I was very meticulous in my preparation, and I was able to find the winning strategy. 

The grind, Josh Kerr and Brooks Beasts TC teammates working out, photo courtesy of Brooks Running/Josh Kerr FB site

Brooks

After the Olympics, Brooks made a massive decision to invest a lot of money into their spike development, and as everyone knows, brands don’t make a lot of money off their spikes. And so it was a huge investment into the Brooks base and into our program and a lot of belief in the athletes as well. And some of the Spike team was there in Budapest in the crowd. And it was nice to give back to them, as they created a spike that I could test throughout the whole process and test a spike that I’m very proud of. And I do believe is the best spike that I’ve ever been in. And it’s a world championship spike and a world champion spike.

Brooks Hyperion Elite LD (shoe worn by Josh Kerr)

Standard of GB middle-distance running

 I think making the GB 1500 team right now is insanely difficult. We have two world champions in the last two years, and we’ve only got 3 spots for the Olympics next year, so who is excited about the GB Olympics trials? Not me! And it’s just the caliber of athlete now. I don’t think it has to do with other people running badly. We’re running some of the fastest times that that anyone ran in the 1500. The Europeans are just taking back a distance and being dominant.

Josh Kerr takes 2021 British Champs Title at 1,500 meters over Jake Wightman, June 26, 2021, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics.

Whereabouts

After the final, obviously, I did a lot of interviews and then had drug testing to go through, and then it was about trying to find where my family and the Brooks people were. And yeah, we enjoyed the night. Then it was back to the hotel as I realized I had a whereabouts slot between 6:00 and 7:00 AM. So taxi back to make sure that we were there for that time. The testers didn’t come, but I was going to be available for my test. I’m not looking to miss my first test.

Going to the USA at age 17

Albuquerque International Airport is slightly different than Edinburgh Airport! My parents had to come over to me to sign my release forms because I was too young. So yeah, it was probably the least cool someone’s ever rocked up to university. But that’s my story. I was 16 when I got recruited, and I actually only ran 3:52. It was before I won European Juniors and ended up around 3:44 that season. But I had committed, and they’d given me a full scholarship. It was a big leap of faith, to be honest. I hadn’t even taken a visit, but I was ready for a new challenge, and I think if you’re not pushing your boundaries a little bit in the sport, you’re just going to stay a bit stale.

Coach Danny Mackey

The coach said, “We want you. We’ve seen you win lots of races, and I think that’s a skill, and let’s do it”.  I had never trained at altitude, but I knew the coach had success with Brits, and I knew he had success over the 1500.  They also said they had 300 and something days of sun!.

Coach Danny Mackey with Josh Kerr and Brooks Beasts TC teammates, photo by Paul Merca /@paulmerca70601

I’ve now been coached by Danny for the last five years. His prioritizing coaching is the reason I’m standing in front of you today as a world champion. How can I not go out and perform and deliver goods if I’ve got those people continually sacrificing and making sure that I’m ready to go? I couldn’t be more proud to be coached by him.

What’s the guilty first guilty pleasure you’re going give yourself?

I had a slice of pizza yesterday after maybe having a champagne or two, and it’s not sitting well already. So I might be going back to the chicken and rice today.

Mo Farah’s British record is 3:28.81 – is that a  target.

 I’ve watched that record for a very long time. I think I’m reasonably vocal about it because the issue is that there are probably three or four guys that can probably go after it over the next couple of years. 

Mo Farah winning his last 5,000m, Zurich, August 2017, photo by Diamond League AG

“Putting everything you’d learned in 16 years into the last 200 meters”. 

I think in this sport, we’re defining some of our best performances. I’ve been running since I was eight.  That is 16 years’ worth of experience, and all of that had built up in my head, and I knew that the world final would define my career if I could get it right.

Josh Kerr takes the WC 1,500 meters at the 2023 World Championships, Budapest, Hungary, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

There was a lot of emotion and digging deep, and I felt like I wanted it more than Jakob in that last kind of 100 meters. He was lagging a bit, and I was like, ‘I think I can break him here,’ and I did, and then it was just pumping through the line.  It was just the early mornings, the late nights, the diet, and the sacrifices – everything.  You might have seen that on my face a little after the race.

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