9 Sep 2019

Fifth Avenue Mile win gives Willis "another lease of life"

10:16 am on 9 September 2019

A much-needed confidence boost for Nick Willis ahead of the World Athletics Championships in Doha.

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The two-time Olympic 1500 metre medallist has won the 5th Avenue Mile in New York for a record fifth time, edging Scotland's Chris O'Hare in a photo finish.

"After such a difficult and challenging season for me it was hard to stay motivated. There were several times this year I was like 'is it really worth the sacrificing any more'," Willis said.

"But today absolutely says that it is and so it's going to give me another lease of life through to Tokyo 11 months from now."

And the 36-year-old also has renewed hopes for the world championships, starting at the end of the month.

"It gives me more momentum and confidence than I have had," he said.

"My confidence has been pretty shot lately.

"I've really felt like I've had to shift the goalposts significantly to get some sense of value out of my performances.

"If I'm always comparing it to my lifetime best then it feels like I'm a totally different runner than I was then so it'd be easy to just think 'what's the point of it'.

"But this sort of pushes the goal posts back forward a little bit more, not as far forward as the very peak of my career, but perhaps it gives me a sniff at making the final now, whereas before I was thinking maybe the goal should just be to make it into the semi-finals."

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Nick Willis had thought his chance of winning a fifth 5th Avenue Mile title was over when he stood on a man hole cover and lost momentum.

"I think if I hadn't hit that I might have beaten him by a foot, maybe two feet.

"I lost my stride and had to regather it again.

"I almost gave up after that sort of momentum killer, but fortunately I was just able to get through."

A photo was needed to decide the winner after both Willis and O'Hare stopped the clock at 3:51.7 mins.

"I feel a little bit bad. I'm good friends with Chris O'Hare and he's had a tough season also.

"He deserved the win probably more than me today because he threw caution to the wind with 300 to go and grabbed the bull by the horns.

"I was lucky to get my breast in front of his."

Willis has had more than luck on the streets of New York in adding to his victories from 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

"It actually assists my style of running," he said.

"I like to start of comfortable and work my way into the race, but on a track because you have to run around bends it means you have to run wide and cover a greater distance to get around people and often having to do a sprint surge to get into position.

"Here because everyone is spread out and it's a straight line I can slowly move my way up into position and you never really have to do a kick, it's just a gradual wind up and that seems to suit my style of running better."