Morten is arguably the most successful Danish long distance runner of recent years and is a multiple time national champion, winning titles on the track (1500m and 5000m), road (10km) and cross country. In 2009 he won the Nordic Cross Country Championship and in 2011 he finished in 10th place at the European Cross Country …Morten is arguably the most successful Danish long distance runner of recent years and is a multiple time national champion, winning titles on the track (1500m and 5000m), road (10km) and cross country. In 2009 he won the Nordic Cross Country Championship and in 2011 he finished in 10th place at the European Cross Country Championships. The 27 year old Nike athlete has also run 3:39 for the 1500m and is now intending to move up to 5000m.
Strides on Kenenisa Bekele’s track, 5 minutes from Yaya Village.
Hi Morten, can you talk about when you began running and what attracted you to the sport?
I really like the objectiveness of the sport because the times you run don’t lie. You know exactly if you have improved or not in both repeatable training sessions and races. In sports like football your coach tells you if you have improved but it can be hard to know for sure, and by how much. I started running when I was 15 in high school in the USA but I only began training seriously when I was 18 and living in Denmark.
Advice from legendary Somalian athlete Abdi Bile.
You are seen as a trendsetter within Scandinavian running, what motivates you to keep trying new training methods?
Part of that is what led me to high mileage. I spent one year at college in the USA and everyone else was doing 100 miles per week so I naturally thought that I should start doing that. After that I started working with a Lydiard influenced coach and it happened naturally.
I’ve done 250km in a week and I actually found it quite easy because there was very little quality speed work included. You have to strike a balance between speed and distance and I don’t think you can accurately describe how hard a week is based on mileage alone. For example, the 250km was probably not my hardest week because it was in the dead of winter when it was very cold and I really was not running very fast. However, most of the town was iced over so 200km of that total was done on an artificial football field that was about 350m around… you can calculate that for me!
Can you explain more about your approach to training?
The last few years I’ve really focused on trying to run more mileage. I think I’ve now hit a plateau with how much I get out of those miles so I need to look at other ways to improve. I’m still high mileage but I’m not looking to break any more boundaries. I intend to focus more on quality, which is actually harder for me. I don’t always train too well in interval sessions… my times in training are pretty bad compared to what I can run in races!
I know that Renato Canova talks about people not expending nervous energy when they train and other people can really dig in and do those monster sessions. I haven’t been able to do that yet and for example when I ran 3.39 for 1500m I had never completed a session that would indicate I was capable of running that time.
Does that mean you feel like you are a good racer?
Yeah, I think it does mean that I’m a good racer and I know that I always take my game to a different level when it comes to that. It would still be nice to do some better sessions because they give you confidence.
You have been very successful within Denmark, what do you think it will take to break through to the next level?
I think it will take harder and smarter training. I’ve been injured for much of the last year so it’s difficult to say. I think you always need to push your limits in different aspects and for me one of the ways I can do that is going to high altitude, training with the best and learning from them.
Elite coach Jama Aden offers some perspective.
What are you hoping to get out of training in Ethiopia and how did you choose the location?
Nothing too specific. I’m looking to build a good endurance base and am interested in seeing how I respond to this altitude(2700m), which is higher than I’ve trained at before. It’s also nice to take a break and experience a change of scenery. I also don’t mind running into Bekele and Dibaba and those guys!
Everyone knows about Ethiopia but it’s been quite an anonymous place for the majority of European runners and so far very few have come here to train. I met Julia Bleasdale in Kenya and she talked about training here and that really caught my attention. I’m trying to find the perfect place to train at altitude and you need to experiment with different locations to find what works for you.
How do you find the running around Yaya?
I’m not done exploring! There is a really good route around satellite field (across the road from Yaya Village) but if you are running 130 miles per week you really need to keep looking for those good trails. Some of the trails are quite rocky and tough… I think they will make you a mean runner! They usually entail mile long hills, either down or up. They really are tough!
What are your goals for next season and longer term?
Run fast in the 5k! That’s pretty much it. I think I can run in the 13:30’s. I think qualifying for the World Championships may require a really special performance and to be honest running in Moscow, if the heat is extreme, would not suit me well.
Long term I want to keep trying to find my limits at all different distances. I will keep on moving up and the marathon will happen soon, perhaps in a couple of years. I think modern marathon training really doesn’t exclude you from running fast on the track and I intend to stay focused on the 10km.
Thanks Morten, is there anything else you would to add?
I’d like to say that I do like Yaya. The rooms are good quality and I like the food, which is really important. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s comfortable around the training camp. The big plus aside from the obvious benefits of altitude and the nearby track is that it’s a short trip from Europe. Basically you just fly to Addis Ababa and you’re almost there… you are half an hour away from the training place. Let’s just say the same can’t be said for Iten. Or for South Africa for that matter!
Everyone at Yaya Village wishes him the best for the upcoming season and hopes to see him using the area as his training base again next year!