October 26, 2023
"For me, it’s just getting B+ training in and hopefully getting A+ results because I’m not burning out. I’m able to be consistent & get brilliant training blocks throughout the year without burnout."
Calli Thackery just ran the second-fastest marathon by a British woman in her marathon debut at the McKirdy Micro Marathon in New York. She crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 22 min and 11 seconds. Only Paula Radcliffe is ahead of her on the all-time list. She’s also now No. 3 on the all-time European list behind Radcliffe and Sifan Hassan.
With this performance, Calli puts herself in a strong position as a contender for British Athletics’ Olympic marathon selection but there are still about eight months to go until things are set in stone.
This has been a breakout fall for her since she won The Big Half in London in September and then took seventh at the World Road Running Championships in Latvia earlier this month.
In this episode, you’ll hear why she decided to bet on herself by pursuing professional running after working a full-time job, why working with her coach and fiancé Nick Hauger has worked so well and her hopes for the Olympic year ahead. She’ll also share some stories about growing up in a running family since her father Carl was a professional runner for Nike and Team GB and medaled at the 1993 World Half Marathon Championships.
Host: Chris Chavez | @chris_j_chavez on Instagram
The McKirdy Micro Marathon is this low key race that takes place at Rockland State Park in New York where it’s set up to be a fast race for people to get OTQs. How did you end up making your debut there?
“I like that the concept of it is a little bit different. I train on a three mile loop at a lake back at home. I do all my tempos on this lake and it was honestly like being at home… My first one was all about getting my feet wet with the distance kind of thing. It wasn't overwhelming for my first one.”
What has been clicking so well in training that ultimately led you to hit a home run in your first marathon?
“It was a slow start to the year because I had an illness so as we went on I was playing catch up a lot. As the months went on, I finally got a glimpse of what I'm capable of. It was just consistency, honestly. After my illness, I think I recovered from that in January or February, from then on I was consistent. There were no real illnesses or injuries. I had a good training stint in Switzerland in St. Moritz and that went really well. I was there for six weeks, came off that and then did a few track races but didn't find my feet there that well–but I think ultimately that was because I was training towards the marathon, and the half marathon even, and I was just seeing a lot more strength endurance than I was with that fire and speed. And that showed later on in the year.”
When we go back to your New Mexico days, were there early signs or conversations that you were going to be a good marathoner someday?
“Every coach and all my family were like, ‘you’re a marathon runner’... For so long I just saw myself as a 1500m or 5k runner so I was like, ‘maybe one day’. I was always open to it, but I just wasn't ready for so long. I just really enjoyed the atmosphere. But now that I've done the marathon I'm like, ‘oh my god, why didn’t I do this sooner? It's actually so good!’. It's such a fun event and it's just different. It offers way more than the track. But yeah, every coach has looked at my biomechanics and has been like, ‘you’re 100% a marathon runner.’”
You're in the top two of the active British marathoners. How are you approaching this Olympic year? It's really going to ramp up now that the pressure's on.
“Yeah, I kind of love it though. Looking at it I was a little bit daunted by it. But when I was actually doing the marathon, I was like, ‘come on, bring it. I'm feeling good’... I was like, ‘what does Charlotte [Purdue] have?’ [Nick] was like, ‘low 2:22’ and I was like, ‘okay, we’re setting the world alight today, I'm going’. I just felt so good as the miles went on. But I think it's because we did it in such a subtle way over the miles that the first few miles I didn't really feel like I was working honestly. And then as we ramped up the pace in the later stages, I was able to just really bring it home.”
What happened after that race in terms of garnering attention? These last couple of months have been this progression that’s led you to signing a pro contract with Nike and all these good things culminating at once.
“Like you said, it's all coming together now… It was just great timing with me signing the contracts and me being able to actually perform well for them. I’m at the ripe age of 30 now and I finally got this contract and it feels good to have support. I've never had support; I've been chasing race paychecks. It was only last year that I put everything into my running and it was a risk because I was still betting on the chance that I would get a sponsor. They're not easy to get–it's like gold dust these days. So having that support now is just a game changer. I feel like I now have the same level playing field as my competitors. It's a nice feeling.”
To be 30 and signing a pro contract at this point–what do you think made you stand out? Along the way there must have been bumps in the road.
“It’s a tough world. The sporting world is always going to be harsh. It took a lot of just proving myself… Last year I had ten races that were all around 15 low [for the 5000m] and I thought surely I've shown consistency, I've shown that I’m only getting better each race… Luckily the right time finally came this year and I think brands were looking for endurance runners as opposed to more track-based runners but yeah, it hasn’t been easy… It's a process, but it's been worth it.
What have you found to work best for you? What is at the heart of Nick's training setup and philosophy that works for you?
“It’s just finding out what makes you tick. Everyone's so different.. For me it’s just getting B+ training in and getting hopefully A+ results because I'm not burning out. I'm able to be consistent and get brilliant training blocks in throughout the year without burnout or anything. And I think that's got me to this point. It's nothing crazy, it's nothing fancy, it's just simplicity. You think in your head for the longest time that you need to be doing ‘this, this, and this’. And actually it's just taking a step back like, and enjoying running for what it is… Take away the goals, take away the times. Just enjoy running for the simplicity of it and the results will hopefully show.”
Where do you see the marathon going for you? Does 2:19 sound crazy? Maybe five or six years ago, yes, that sounds bananas. But now 2:19 to a lot of people is middle of the pack.
“It's doable. It's possible. It might take me another year or two. I don't know, we'll see. But I think for sure if all goes well and the stars align again for the next one and we nail this next block, I honestly think 2:18 is within me.”
What are you most excited about for next year? An Olympic year can be daunting to some people with the pressure and all the extra attention.
“I'm obviously seeing that I'm made for the roads, but that's okay. I’m loving this journey and I’ve only just begun. We're starting it now and it just feels like a clean slate. I've got a sponsor, I've got an amazing coach and fiancé who's got my back. And honestly just having an amazing little support team–it doesn't come easily in this world. It just feels good and I’m ready for it. Whatever challenges come my way, bring it.”
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Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.