Just the thought of tight indoor tracks sends some runners shivers down the spine. Race strategies and tactics for races longer than one lap on the 200m track completely differ from the outdoors.
“Not for me,” insists Adam Kszczot with a wide grin. He’s got all reason to speak confidently.
The Pole opened his 2017 indoor season with a world-leading 1:46.17 800m victory in Dusseldorf at the PSD Bank Meeting, which formed the second leg of the IAAF World Indoor Tour. He delivered his victory with as much confidence as he speaks.
Pace maker Bram Som led the pack through halfway in 51.47, Kszczot never more than a stride length behind the experienced Dutchman. At 250 metres, Som stepped off the track and made way for Kszczot, who went through 600m in 1:18.87. He remained unchallenged by the field that included world indoor and outdoor medallists and closed the race with a 27.30 for the last 200m to stop the clock at 1:46.17 and the crowd cheered as though he were a local athlete.
In all fairness, Kszczot and Dusseldorf have history. At the start line, the 27-year-old was introduced as ‘Mr. PSD Bank Meeting’ for good reason. He has now won at the meeting for the sixth year in a row, recorded five sub-1:46.50 times, two world leads and set the meeting record at 1:45.44 at his first appearance in 2012 before bettering it by 0.02 in 2014.
Though the race in Dusseldorf was a formidable front-running display from Kszczot, he has proven his tactical strength indoors on numerous occasions.
“I’m the type of runner that runs with strength and it’s not a problem to switch a gear during the race,” he explains.
“Even the short strides are enough to pass four or five people instantly. It helps when you’re running fast because no one will accelerate around the curves and if you’re two or three metres ahead, no one will catch you back. Very few people could do it in the past few years.”
He is right. Since 2014 he has won 14 out of 17 indoor 800m races, owns two European indoor titles, a world indoor silver and bronze, and his national indoor record of 1:44.57 ranks him fourth on the world indoor all-time list.
Last year he went undefeated in all five races he contested indoors and took the overall win in the IAAF World Indoor Tour, but chose not to use his wildcard entry to the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
“I took the decision with coach really early actually,” he said. “We said we’re going to compete during the indoor season, almost all of it, but just not right to the end. It’s way too long to stay in shape and give your body enough rest before outdoors. And actually I think it was a really good decision.”
This year the men’s 800m isn’t a scoring event on the tour, but Kszczot is still racing in a number of races before making a decision on whether he will compete at the European Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March.
“It’s 50:50,” he said. “I’m not sure yet. After the first two, maybe three races, I’ll know.” He just returned from a 22-day training stint in South Africa, a ‘must-do’ during the cold Polish winter.
“You need to run away from the winter some time,” he says. “Your muscles can’t work under constant pressure; even if you’re running only indoors and doing everything in good conditions there, the 200m track kills you – that’s what my opinion is.”
With a successful training camp behind him, he is now ready to see whether some adjustments in his training programmes over the winter months will manifest themselves in his coming races, which include the Copernicus Cup in Torun, Poland on 10 February.
“I’ve tried to do some improvements with myself – especially in the gym,” he says. “We changed things up in mainly November, December and the beginning of January, then we went back to the normal workouts and that was really good, especially in the speed areas and things like 6x1000m, but we will see.
“The 800, it’s so confusing. The coaches, the athletes, everything goes right, and in the end the final result isn’t as good as the training programme showed.”
Looking to the outdoor season and what his main goals for 2017 are, “the time is secondary” for the two-time European champion. What’s currently missing in his selection of major medals is a world title.
He took silver at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 behind world record-holder David Rudisha and a medal from the IAAF World Championships London 2017 tops his list of priorities.
“It doesn’t matter how fast you run during the season, it matters how fast or how good of a race tactically you do in the final,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. No one will remember if someone runs 1:41 or 1:44; everyone remembers the champions.”
Michelle Sammet for the IAAF