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Behind the scenes interview with Chris Thompson

We sat with Chris Thompson to go deeper into the story that unfolds through the new Cloudflash video: a film about years of hard work and those few moments that can matter most.


For the most important seconds in life.

 

The new On film by British director Thomas Bryant contrasts the hard work that goes in to being a professional athlete with those few seconds of glory in the limelight. At the center of it is UK running champion Chris Thompson being filmed training at Crystal Palace in London - a track that holds a lot of great memories for the athlete. We sat with Chris to deep-dive in to the video and meaning behind the film’s imagery.

 

 

I think its bang on that it all starts at the gym – just like with training. And the fact there's no one in the gym there, just me, well...it’s quite representative of the amount of times you have to self-motivate and just push your body alone. I'm usually on a bike like that when I have an injury of sorts, so I think you see that pain and the anguish and then pushing through it.

 

It’s funny that from that, we head back to the younger me. When you're younger, you just don't have those injuries and forget what it was like. That’s my Dad’s voice you hear cheering on the young me. It takes me back because at that age, it's all just raw emotion of wanting to be a runner - be the best you. You're doing it for the love. You're doing it free. You're just trying. You're competing against kids your own age. Your dad's driving you halfway across the country in a weekend. My mum was driving me to training on a Tuesday or Thursday night: 20 minutes there, 20 minutes coming home - and then doing it again to pick me up and bring me back. One hour and 20 minutes a night total. 

They put a lot into me to help me do what I do. 

That race there - I'm running at the English schools, and I've got my county vest on. And as my dad said, I've got “30 yards to play with” which, you know, brings back a lot of emotions of why I got into the sport and why I love it. It's not complicated when you're that age. You haven't got the baggage... You don't have as much fear. You don't worry about "Oh, if I don't win, I don't earn money. I don't pay the bills. I don't get the publicity," or whatever. You are literally running to then go home, and your parents treat you to a McDonald's or something on the way home. It's a lot more free. And you're not worrying about three, four years down the road - you're just thinking about home that night or school the next day.

 

 

That next clip there I'm representing England in the qualifying race for the European Championships in Margate. You can see in the clip you've got Mo (Farah) – and next to him was a Manchester lad, Rob Maycock. All three of us qualified to represent Great Britain at the European Cross. But again, you're there all competing for places, sure - but you're still all friends. All three of us ended up winning gold European Team medals after having qualified through this race.

 

So this next clip is the European Under 23 in Bydgoszcz, in Poland, when I won my first big medal. I'd have been 21 or 22 and I distinctly remember in that race feeling like this may be my only opportunity to win a major title outside of nationals. I remember thinking that if I don't take my opportunity here, I may never get another one like this. I still at this point wasn't fully appreciating maybe I could be an Olympian one day. I just wanted to make the most of the talent I had in the different age groups and, luckily for me, I ended up winning this race. And after the win, I ended up getting my first proper contract and funding. And a lot of things came of this race. I think it was a year after this race or within a year, I actually went full-time athlete and professional as a result of it all. And so, this kind of represented a moment in my career and life...a turning point if you will of, "Hang on. This could be a big thing for me."

 

And so from that we kind of jump now to when I spent a year out of it. I found out I had an injury, which put me out for a year, and I spent a good period of time just… frustrated that I couldn't quite access my potential that was just beyond me through the injury. You reminisce and wonder a lot when you’re sidelined like this, and that’s what the images are showing - reminiscing back to those races before of when I was succeeding. It’s funny because that track is Crystal Palace where the footage of today and me with the Cloudflash is shot. It kind of pays homage in a way to those times before and now after I was injured.

When you are injured you wonder, you know, “Am I ever gonna return from this?" and for me, that’s what I was saying in 2012 when I broke my back.

 

I was in the best shape of my life but then, for about four weeks, we couldn't figure out what was suddenly wrong with me. And with the Olympics not far away, I was getting stressed. You get worried. And then I was out for a run one day, and I came to a halt, couldn't walk, couldn't breath... I just was just in so much pain. I had three scans, and the doctors couldn't see anything. And then they thought maybe a neural problem, but before I was to have an epidural injection for that – not a fun one – the main doctor said, "Let's do one more CT spec scan," which is where you have an injection to stain certain things in your body to make it highlight more clearly your bones. 
 

I was waiting for the results and I remember it got to about 10:00 at night and… I'll never ever forget hearing the guy's voice when he rang me, and he just... And his name was Rob. And he said, "Hey, Chris." And his voice was just down. You know when you...you can tell something's not right. And he said, "Hey, Chris. I've got some bad news." And I couldn't understand what bad news could be possibly coming. And he said, "I'm really sorry, but you've broken your back. You've broken your sacrum." And I can still hear the voice. And I just was in complete shock, contacted my coach, and just... I was just numb, completely numb, to think one minute you're in the best shape of your life and you're on your way, and you qualified for the Olympics, you've just got eight weeks to go - and suddenly not only can you not walk, but those Olympics have become something where you can only put in your best performance with a body that's not functioning fully.

 

 

Even then, there's nothing worse than giving up on yourself and having to take it on the chin. So that’s what I think the “now” images really show with the shoe. The rebuild, the resilience, the "bounce-backability." You know, no one’s going to turn those legs over for you. The tests, the science, the drills, the work – you’ve got to put it all in yourself - to fight to come out the other end that define you as an athlete. That’s why the video is right on saying those seconds saved in a race or running are made of a lifetime.

Filming at Crystal Palace, you know, I’ve had some good memories on that track, which I guess tie in to that hard work you just have to do as an athlete - even when no one's watching - for those times they are.

Chris’s shoe: the Cloudflash
Made for the most important seconds in life.
See it here