Athlete Feature 34 - Rory Fraser

Athlete Feature 34 – Rory Fraser


Rory Fraser talks NCAA

Before Christmas we spoke to UNM Lobo Rory Fraser. Fraser had substantial success while in New Mexico under the tutelage of Joe Franklin and his support staff. Rory now works for Nike in Colorado and is proving the sceptics wrong by making the funding list despite holding down a full-time job. He speak about his NCAA career, funding and Joe Franklin. (Powerof10)

Prior to New Mexico, you were at Leeds Met with fellow NCAA products Luke Cragg  and Steve Lisgo. While all three of you ended up at different schools (Cragg Adams State, and Lisgo Butler), we’re assuming it wasn’t a coincidence that you all headed stateside at the same time. Was this always your plan and how often did you guys confer about it?

RF –  It all seems so long ago, in a time far far away. Yes we did talk about it a little bit. I am not exactly sure who made contact first with the US. I remember we would all watch and follow some of the fellow Brits who were already stateside and look at the impact it had on them and how great it would be to be a part of that. It came to the stage where we were all graduating and had absolutely zero life plans so were looking for the opportunity to carry on running and improving and that’s what we did.

The usual British hotspots such at Butler, Tulsa, New Mexico are often the first point of contact for many British and Irish athletes. Were you open minded as to where you wanted to go, or was it a prereq to be at say altitude, or the team to have sweet Nike kit? Joe has a salesman’s touch. Was this a factor?

RF – At the time of moving, New Mexico wasn’t really a developed hot spot for Brits. There were a few there who had only been there a year because they had committed to moving to Butler with Joe, but once Joe moved to New Mexico only a handful followed. For me it was about the weather. I was sick of the cold, rain, sleet and constant bleakness that the English countryside can sometimes (always) provide. Which meant that New Mexico, a place where the sun shines 320 days of the year, wasn’t too hard of a sell, even though Joe gave me all the usual salesman schpeel! I did contact a lot of schools, put my running resume on the table and only a few got back. New Mexico were the most forthcoming so I wanted to honor their interest in me by moving there. Obviously plenty of free dreamy Nike gear doesn’t hurt either.

Would it be fair to say you initially struggled with the demands of cross-country at altitude in Albuquerque?

RF - The altitude wasn’t the issue. It was just my general incompetence over cross country. I was just a pussy I guess and never really fulfilled (in my opinion) my potential over cross country at all. The best I ever placed at NCAAs was 60th ish, which is pretty tragic if you look at my PBs on the track at least. Cross was always tough for me, and even when I thought I’d nailed it in my last year I got sick leading up to conference and died a horrible death over the last 2k ( I was getting past by the girls doing their cool downs by the end).

During your time, you received 2 All-American honours (2011 Outdoor 5000 (6th) and 2010 3000 Indoor (6th)). Your PBs dropped from 13:49 to 13:39 over 5000m too. Given your athletic aspirations pre-NCAA, how do these performances match up given hindsight?

RF - For me, my progression was more about being consistent and developing as an all round athlete rather than judging things off of the times that I ran. I think I should have ran sub 13:30 in my final year. I was in shape to do it, but it just didn’t happen for me. Having said that, by the end of my college career I was actually able to compete in championship races, whereas in my first year I ran 13:39 but went to NCAAs and was aboslutely awful. I didn’t have the strength or the nouse to race against the top guys in the NCAA and was made to look stupid. So over the 3 years I definitely develop as a whole. And looking back at my last collegiate race where I placed 6th in the 5k, every other athlete that got All American in that race went on to run an Olympic A standard last year (not the nicest statistic to read but there you go), so being able to compete with that level of athlete is definitely a pleasing step forward. I was also slightly unfortunate to get a pretty bad injury a couple of months leading up to the outdoor track season in my second year which didn’t help my progress to much, making that season a bit of a write-off

One of the greatest wars of attrition over recent years in the NCAA has been yours with Joe Franklin and the matter of 25 laps of the track. You lost that war in the end. Discuss your 28:41 10,000m performance.

RF - It was one of the most painful experiences of my life – I’d rather give birth any day of the week than run another 10k. I am not sure why or how I crumbled, but my training was going well and was more 10k based in truth so I wanted to give it a go and didn’t think it could be that hard – how wrong I was! I had to dig very hard on the last couple of laps, and the fact that a certain John Beattie past me with about 1k to go definitely helped me fight to the finish (I believe I actually outkicked Beattie if my memory serves me right? )

Since finishing your NCAA career as 6th year senior, you have gone to have great success while based in the States. Last year you showed incredible consistency running 13:27 twice, and it was this that arguably led to your inclusion in lottery funding. Since you’re not part of an elite post-collegiate training group, this must be particularly satisfying showing that the old adage of having to be a full-time pro doesn’t necessarily ring true.

RF - Last year was a big breakthrough year for me. I felt as though I should have run those kind of times last year but it was nice to have a breakthrough in terms of time. It was just a shame that I wasn’t able to carry my early season form through to the Europeans. I would have loved to have performed better there. I think it definitely shows that you don’t have to be a full time pro to make it. In fact I was actually working full time, 40 hours a week in a local sports shop. Although it wasn’t the most taxing of jobs, it didn’t enable me to nap during the day or get the sufficient treatment and things that I probably needed. I hope that it shows that even if you do have to work to support your running, if your sensible, manage your time you can still improve and get great opportunities. As for the UKA funding. It took me massively by surprise to be honest. I didn’t even know what it meant or entailed until I sent a few emails. It is very nice to finally get recognised. Why they chose me is a mystery, but at the end of the day there is nothing I can do about that. I’m going to try and use the extra help to continue to make strides forward

Looking back, you certainly had success in the NCAA, so would it be safe to say that you made the right decision to leave the UK behind?

RF – 100% yes. I have never ever looked back since making the transition. I have improved in an athletic sense and almost for that alone it is worth it. It provides a great stepping stone for people who are good juniors and seniors and get to the level where they are winning BMC races (especially in the 5k & 10k), and then the next races are diamond leagues are big European races. The US is where you can get in those races where you are pushed and competitive. And you hope that by the time you graduate you are at the level where you can then go on and be competitive at the senior level. Which is something I’m definitely still working towards. It is also great from a personal standpoint. I have made some life long friends, seen some amazing places and earned a masters degree in the process. Dreamiest deal around!

What are your plans for this year?

RF - Obviously trying to hit the A standard for the worlds is the ultimate goal, but just trying to keep on improving and working on my weaknesses so that I am able to compete at the next level.

And lastly, any advice, flippant or otherwise, for athletes in the same position you were 4 years ago?

RF – Move to America. I was at a huge crossroads when I finished uni back home I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life (I’m still not 100% sure) but I decided to move and loved every minute. Don’t get me wrong, I’m turning into an American which I hate, and I use words and terms that I never thought I would, which I also hate. But sometimes it’s easier to say soccer than football, simply to avoid a 20-minute question explaining why we don’t call it soccer. Plus, if I hadn’t have moved I would probably be doing something I completely hate, running 20 minute 5ks and eating way too much fish and chips. Finally, if you pick your college wisely, you could end up getting a dreamy tan – which saves you a fortune on the use of sunbeds!

And to finish, here’s the video of that 10,000m. And you’re right Rory, you did outkick John!

But that’s not even our favourite Fraser video. This is. (This is how not to ingratiate yourself with potential NCAA coaches!)

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