By John Henwood
John Henwood is a 2004 Athens Olympian, in the 10,000m Men’s race, on behalf of New Zealand. Today, he is coaching up-and-coming professional runners to reach the same impressive level of the sport, and also coaching running classes at Mile High Run Club. We asked John about his Olympic experience, and what it means to Go for Gold.
What is it really like to compete in the Olympics? Anyone at Olympic level has been competing for most of their life, but is there a different, heightened sense of reverence in competing at such a historic event?
It’s a surreal feeling on the track with 40 to 60,000 people wrapped around you in the crowd. You are just focusing on staying relaxed and following the race game plan.
How do you get out of your head when you are competing on such a large stage, and just focus on the goal?
You already have a game plan in your mind, and you're just trying to focus on the process rather than the results.
How do you deal with disappointment when you don’t perform how you may have wanted to?
You reason with yourself why you didn't perform, and sleep on it. The next day you already have your next goal. They say that you shouldn't make excuses. I think you need to make excuses with yourself so you can learn from it and move on. You can't just say to yourself, "I suck." That will get you nowhere mentally.
What is your best memory/moment from the Olympics?
The opening ceremony, and walking out only 5 athletes back from our Flag Bearer was awesome.
A behind-the-scenes/ little known fact about the Olympics a regular viewer may not know?
I'm 6 foot 5 in height, which is very tall. But the world record for the high jump in just over 8 feet! (Way over me.)
How do you use what you learned at the Olympics in competing/training/training others today?
I use everything from what I've learned in training and competing for New Zealand over a 15-year period. Education can't get you that kind of knowledge, and I think it's a distinct advantage over other coaches who haven't run at my level.
Any advice for someone looking to take their athleticism to the next level?
Don't look for a coach who just has you come to the workouts, but has no idea what your other training days look like. Look for a coach who knows your daily structure and can tell you when and when not to come to workouts.
Any final words?
If you want to stay healthy and get faster, don't forget about the strength training and stretching. A stronger runner makes a faster runner.
As an athlete, John Henwood competed for New Zealand in the 2004 Olympic Games at Athens in the 10,000m's. He has also finished 13th place in the New York City Marathon (2005) with a time of 2:05:05. In addition to being a sub 4-minute miler, John has won 21 NYRR races in Central Park since arriving to New York in 2005. His best time in the 10,000m is 27:45. As a coach, John has worked with a wide range of runners - from professional athletes to any runner trying to complete a certain distance or run a personal best. Coaching highlights include his work with world-renowned coach/runner Alberto Salazar and teen track sensation Mary Cain, as well as his runners’ participation in the 2012 Olympic trials.