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Interview with Tom Anderson

by editor
Thursday 27th October 2016
Tom Anderson is a British athlete creating a name for himself over in the States. We spoke to him about his recent success at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the US athletics scene and his marathon running heritage. 

1. I understand that you live in the US, having gone over there on a college scholarship. Why did you decide to head to the US and how does a young athlete go about getting a scholarship?
That's correct, I came to the US on a college scholarship to Butler University in Indianapolis. I have since settled in Indianapolis and have been working full-time at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) headquarters since graduating in 2014. I decided to come to the US because during the final year of my degree at the University of Southampton, my running career started to take off and I began to get recruiting calls form US institutions. I wanted to pursue a graduate degree anyway, so the decision to continue studying and competing in the US was an easy one, especially when I was offered a full scholarship versus potentially having to pay in the UK. To young athletes looking to get recruited, there's no harm in contacting US institutions you might want to attend on your own. Make sure the institution has what you are looking for academically, and then inquire to see if they are interested in offering a scholarship. I really believe the NCAA system is the best collegiate athletics system in the world in terms of level of competition and preparing young people for life after college sports.   
2. How does the athletics scene differ in the US and the UK, at college level and generally?
It is hugely different, no doubt. Collegiately, the structure the US system provides cannot be matched in the UK, there simply isn't the funding, resources or facilities, unfortunately. The level of competition, especially in track, means athletes travel to the US from around to world to try to hit their Olympic and World qualifying standards. That being said, I think the club system in the UK is brilliant. There is a race every weekend for those who want to run and it does a fantastic job helping to keep runners of all ages engaged and competitive. I do miss that, being based in the US. Post-collegiate races of real quality are fewer and further between over here. 
3. You recently had a great run in the Chicago Marathon, finishing in 2.19. Can you tell us a little about that race?
Sure! Chicago was fun, a great experience! I love the energy of those big-city races - the crowds are so loud! I would recommend Chicago to anyone looking to experience a big marathon outside of the UK. I learned a lot about the marathon and myself in that time, which was the aim. I was initially disappointed in how quickly I had run, but I committed to the race and set myself up to run somewhere between 2:14 and 2:15, which was what I was really hoping for. But, as debut, I'm really happy with 16th place and it actually gives me a lot of confidence for a successful future in the marathon. It was nice to have my friends and coach (Butler's Matt Roe) there to support, and of course my parents watching on TV!  

Tom Anderson

4. Chicago is obviously where Steve Jones set the British record. As a Brit in the US is Steve an inspiration to you? 
I actually saw him just before the race in the athlete tent! I was thinking "oh my word, that's Steve Jones", while also trying to keep my mind on getting ready for the race! He's a huge inspiration, to run a world record in your debut marathon and go on to win several of the world majors is incredible. I'm a big fan of his approach, too, he was a hard-as-nails competitor. I know he's based in Boulder, Colorado, where some of my former teammates live, I've been lucky enough to visit a couple of times, its stunning and great for training! I'm hoping to head up there again for some training in the New Year. 
5. Now that you’ve stepped up to the marathon do you think that’s where you think your future lies? 
I do. I think the marathon is where I can be successful; although, I would still like to work on lowering my 10k and half-marathon personal bests. I feel like my strength is my strength, so marathon training is manageable for me. After going through one training cycle, I'm excited to take more time, make some changes, get back out there again and see a big improvement on my time. My Dad had a pretty successful marathon career, he ran his personal best at the Boston Marathon before representing England at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Watching him compete while I was growing up made the marathon a dream for me, I always wanted to run one to be like him. Now, I'm just focusing on earning family bragging rights!   
6. British marathon running is obviously going through a difficult patch at the moment. Do you think there’s a new generation of marathon runners coming through? 
I'm excited for the future of British marathon running, there are definitely some top-class runners emerging in the marathon. Callum Hawkins has had a really impressive 2016, I was so happy to see him finish 9th in the Olympics and then break the Scottish half-marathon record a few weeks later. His brother Derek also had a fantastic run in London before heading to Rio. I agree British marathon running has struggled over the past few years in terms of depth; however, looking at the potential entries for London next year, it could be a deep and competitive domestic field.    
7. What’s next for you in terms of racing? Are there any British races on your radar at the moment?
My goal is the London Marathon next year, I want to be competitive there and see what happens. England Athletics just released the 2018 Commonwealth Games standard at 2:14, which is a challenge, but doable, I believe. It would be huge to emulate my Dad's achievements 20 years later, so that's definitely a motivating factor! I hope to be able to race in the UK more often, but it is difficult with my full-time job, so I'm limited to once per year. I would love to race the British 10,000m Championships at Parliament Hill, that looks like a lot of fun! Between now and London, I'll race in the US at the Houston half-marathon in January and hopefully at the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race in Washington D.C.. Recovery from the marathon has gone well so far, so maybe I'll race before Christmas.  

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