In February of this year, Warwick University’s Alex Brecker travelled to the BUCS Cross Country Championships in Gloucestershire, aiming only to put in a solid performance. One fourth place finish and little more than a month later, Brecker was competing for Great Britain at the World University Cross Country Championships in Cassino, Italy. His performance under the gaze of Monte Cair was just as impressive; Brecker was the highest placed GB athlete in the men’s race, finishing 28th. Here, he chats about how he got into the sport, his journey so far and his goals for the future.
When did you start running cross country and what attracted you to the sport?
I started when I was 11, at the time I just really enjoyed it and it went from there.
What are the challenges of balancing your studies and competing at such a high level?
It hasn’t been too difficult for me this year! I don’t have many contact hours and my assessments are all long essays, I can fit researching for essays around my training without too much trouble as long as I manage my time efficiently.
Even finishing a race is a remarkable achievement, what are the moments just after crossing the line like?
It depends on the race and the result, but generally if it’s been a good race then it’s a great feeling – a mix between exhaustion and exhilaration.
If it’s been a good race then finishing is a great feeling – a mix between exhaustion and exhilaration.
What goes through your mind when competing in such a long, endurance sport?
Luckily my races only last for about 30 minutes a majority of time, but during a race I mostly think about how I feel, what I’m going to do next, and what the opposition are doing.
When competing in the BUCS Championships did you think you had a chance of winning a place on Team GB?
Before the race I didn’t really think I was in with much of a chance. My aim was top 12 and I would have been very pleased with that. It was a shock finishing where I did.
Did you feel more motivated to perform knowing you were competing for your country, or do you try to approach each race in the same way?
I try to approach all races the same way – if it works, there’s no point in changing things around.
My aim was top 12 and I would have been very pleased with that. It was a shock finishing where I did.
How were the conditions in Italy different to those you are used to in England? Were they difficult to adjust to?
The course was very different to a typical English Cross-Country race. Here, they are normally muddy, three maybe four laps, with long drags. The race in Italy was seven laps, with hairpin turns and very short steep hills.
What was the best moment of the Championship for you?
Have you set any new targets for yourself as a result of your performance in Italy?
Getting selected was a big step forward – but I just want to stay consistent and improve.