Samuel Tanner enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2022. The former University of Washington student, who now runs professionally for Puma, narrowly missed the world 1500m final in Oregon and finished sixth in the Commonwealth Games 1500m final in Birmingham, clocking a huge personal best of 3:31.34. In the below Q&A, he talks about the year it was and what he hopes to achieve in 2023.
So, with the track season finished, are you taking some time off?
I took about six days off, then I had an easy week last week getting back into it and this week, I’m getting my mileage up, but still keeping it pretty easy.
Going into 2022, what were your goals?
I had some really big goals. I wanted to make the world final and the Commonwealth Games final. I was one spot off the world final and came sixth at Commies so, overall, I’m pretty stoked with how things turned out. My goal in racing tactics was to race more aggressively, put myself in there and show the world that I’m here, I mean business and I’m here to race with the best in the world, throw some arms. It’s been really fun and I’ve really enjoyed it.
What did you learn from the Tokyo experience last year?
So much. Racing the best in the world in Tokyo was such eye-opening experience. You have to want it. You can’t just be in the race. You have to race like you want to win, like you’re going to win. Those are the guys who make it through the rounds and to the final. That’s how I approached every race this season. I may not be the favourite in these races, but I went into them thinking, ‘I can win this race if I play my cards right.’
Going into Worlds, you never know what’s going to happen. I knew I wasn’t in 3:29 shape and if it came down to it, needing to run 3:29, I wasn’t going to win on that day, but it could be a day where I could PB. But yeah, just laying the cards out aggressively and being more aggressive than Tokyo, where I was a little bit passive, accepting I was there and I was an Olympian, which I was pretty stoked with.
How was the World Championships in Oregon? Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently in that 1500m semi-final?
In retrospect, what I learned from Worlds and what I put into practice at Commies was that I’m quite a reactive runner and if I can stay relaxed, then I’m going to have my kick at the end. You watch my 1500m at Comm Games and it’s like, ‘there it is, my kick.’ That’s the kick I sometimes use too early, reacting to a move mid-race, and in that world semi-final where Stewy (McSweyn) hit the front and there was that trip right in front of me, I probably reacted a little bit quickly and maybe staying relaxed is what I learned and what I would change if I ran that race again.
Running 3:31 to finish sixth in that Commonwealth final. Did that exceed your expectations?
Definitely. I thought I was ready to run 3:32 on a really good day (but) to run 3:31.3, you can see in the photos after I was jumping around like a little kid. I was so stoked to see that time up on the screen, I was like, ‘What just happened?’ It was a pretty special moment, for sure.
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What’s your current setup like and your typical approach in training?
I train so low most of the year. I have a training partner who’s an absolute legend, Hayden Wilde. He’s a triathlete and he got silver at Comm Games this year and bronze in Tokyo last year. He’s an incredible triathlete and a really, really good runner. When I’m home, he does all my strength work with me and some of the speed work as well. He’ll take off a second or two before me in 200m rep and I’ll chase him down which is always fun. So it’s mostly just us two, and my coach, Craig Kirkwood. He’s the connection with (manager) Tom (Ratcliffe), and I’ve really enjoyed working with Tom this year.
In terms of training, the load hasn’t been crazy. I think next year I’m going to step up in volume by a little bit and that’ll probably get me that bit closer to 3:30, and maybe sub-3:30. This year I was probably doing 100K a week, 60-70 miles a week in the winter or base phase. During the season it’d dip under that, and hopefully this year will be a bit higher.
Is there any particular area you can target for improvement in the years ahead?
I think just strength. Obviously, strength and speed, but I think my speed is pretty natural. If I can complement my speed with more and more strength then I’ll be able to use my speed more and more. Watching athletes like Jake Wightman this year: obviously, he’s a speed guy, but this year he’s got so strong and you just watch the way he races. To be able to use your speed off a fast pace, or off any pace, is really important, so that’s the direction we’re hoping to go in.
As you look to 2023, have you laid out what the year will look like?
Not yet. I know the worlds is in Hungary so that’ll definitely be the peak target but in the next few days or weeks I’ll sit down with Craig and Tom and discuss what’s on the schedule and then we’ll see which ones I want to hit hard and which ones I want to take as a training race.
Leaving that NCAA bubble and transitioning to the pro ranks last year, how much of a shock to the system was it?
It was good, but I think Tokyo helped make it easier. I had experienced a huge shock, racing Tokyo, but then I had a whole winter to prepare myself for the pro season. I realised these guys are really, really good and then went, ‘I gotta rally for next year.’ So we prepped through the winter time, got ready, then raced aggressively and it’s been really fun.
Are you juggling anything on the side at the moment or is it a full-time focus on running?
It’s full-time training. I’m in the gym three times a week as well so that adds a couple more hours to the training load, but I’ll go for a surf as well.
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So you’re one of those who’s very comfortable living the full-time life?
I’m a big-time musician and fun dude so I always have stuff to do. My wife and I live on the basement storey of my parents’ house so there’s always stuff to help them with. I always find time to do stuff. I’ve only been doing this for two weeks fully so we’ll see how bored I get, but at the moment I’m pretty happy.
What are your goals for 2023?
I want to break John Walker’s New Zealand record in the mile, the 3:49. That was something I wanted to do this year but I didn’t get the chance. I didn’t run a mile at all except for running 3:55 when pacing the Monaco 3K. Maybe if I get in the right race, obviously 3:29 (for 1500m) is the next record I’d like to get, but probably that and make a world final and, if I’m looking fit throughout the season, gunning for a medal.