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Kelly Holmes on the perfect 800m
Kelly Holmes and her two gold medals

The 800m is a serious test of strength, power, determination and most importantly, speed.

Just ask Dame Kelly Holmes. She may soon be hanging up her spikes but she's got some top advice for you.

Britain's Olympic champion has come up against the very best runners in the toughest competitions around.

She talks about her preparations, tactics and the dedication which have taken her to the very top of middle distance running.


You need plenty of endurance for an 800m race - it's almost like an elongated sprint.

You'll also need a lot of strength and power too. But most of all, you need speed, especially going into a championship race.

You have to be very, very focused before a big race, especially in middle distance running because it's so tactical.

A range of vegetables
Plenty of veggies during the build-up to race

You may have the talent to win a race, but if you haven't thought it through properly, you won't win.

Your mental attitude and psychological preparations for the race are incredibly important.

Diet's another important factor. But my diet stays pretty much the same.

I eat a lot of chicken, fish, vegetables and rice - it's important you have the right fuel in your body.

I'll eat more carbohydrates leading up to a big race for a bit more fuel.


I have one very strict pre-race superstition - I always lay my kit out the night before a race.

Every single thing has to be laid out!

I have to have my shoes under my chair, my shorts, vest, everything has to be how I have it.

Kelly Holmes factfile

Born: 19 April 1970, Pembury, Kent
Height: 1.64m
Weight: 55kg
Event: Middle distance
Club: Ealing, Southall and Middlesex AC
Coach: Margo Jennings
Personal bests: 800m: 1:56.21 1500m: 3:58.07

No matter where I go in the world, I do the same and it never changes.

Sometimes, if I have the opportunity, I'll go down to the track to get an idea about the wind direction and the feel of the surface.

Each track is different - some are hard and fast, while others are slower.

It's not a definite must, but I do it more for indoor tracks because it's a very different style of running.

Indoor tracks are different because you're running on a 200m circuit, rather than a normal 400m outdoor track.

But if it's a new track and environment, I'll go and check it out.


Myself and my coach always study my opponents. We look at their past and current form and what they're capable of.

Kelly Holmes concentrates before the start of a race
Every race gives you the opportunity to improve

You basically know how the top runners are going to approach the race.

But you have to try and find your own strength and adjust them to how you think the race is going to go.

The big race nerves start to build when I'm warming up. And they get even worse just before I pull up to the starting line.

Sometimes when I walk out onto the track I think: "What am I doing here? Why do I put myself through this?"

But that's when you really get into your focus - you think about all the things that are pre-set in your mind and focus on the race you're going to run.


Depending on what type of race it is, I normally like to be in third position at the bell (after 400m).

In the last 200m I try to be in second or third, ready to strike with my "kick" - the extra gear distance runners find at the finishing line.

Kelly Holmes runs in the 800m final in Athens
Choosing your moment to strike is crucial

But sometimes I like to hang back from the pace if it's too fast and gradually build myself up around the last 400m.

You can make all these plans, but they can go right out of the window when you're actually running the race.

If your race strategy goes wrong, then you have to check back and adjust. It's easier to re-organise yourself while you're running the race.

But you never know what's going to happen - every race is totally different.

It's all about getting lots of race experience.


Although I don't like watching myself race, it's actually good to see what I've done on TV or video.

Kelly Holmes in action

You can analyse your opposition and your own tactical awareness and look at things which maybe you shouldn't have done.

It's good to see where you went wrong, or if you've run a really good race, to see whether you could've run even better.

When I've run a really good race and won, I'm really happy and think: "Great, I've run the perfect race".

But I'm very critical of my own performances - I often think I could've done something to run even better.

But if I wasn't so overly critical, I wouldn't be an athlete.

You have to work very, very hard in middle distance running because you have to have so many skills - strength, speed, endurance, power, tactical awareness and self belief.

You need to train hard and be dedicated in what you're trying to achieve. But remember to enjoy what you do.


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