Although he finished his season with the most up and downs that could possibly be squeezed into a 10km course, as he looks back on his winter season, Preston Harriers’ athlete, Patrick Dever can only reflect on some tremendous highs.
Commonly known as Paddy, Dever rounded off his cross country season leading the Senior British Men’s team home with a tremendous 37th at the World Cross Country Championships this year, as well as 5th home from Europe. On the 30th March, the Danish city of Aarhus greeted the best cross country runners in the world, to a course that has been dubbed the most difficult that has ever been assembled.
“It was completely different to anything that I have ran on before, there was pretty much not one part of the course that was simply running on the flat. It was constantly either going up or going down, and every hill was steep”. When trying to think of an analogy that he could compare the rollercoaster course to a more familiar environment for us, the infamous Parliament Hill could not even do it justice. “I did not expect it to be so hard, apparently climbing the roof was about a 10% gradient!”
Regardless of encountering the unknown beast that was climbing up the roof of the Moesgaard Museum, the 22-year-old believed he had managed to indirectly prepare himself appropriately to tackle the course, appreciating a training regime that consists of an abundance of hills, whether that is the hilly routes of his university town in Loughborough, or tackling the mighty hill of Avenham Park at his conventional home in Preston. “Yeah, I feel the course did suit my strengths” he comments. “On the inclines I seemed to always find myself going past a few guys”.
And the work on the hills certainly paid dividends, by being the first British male across the finishing line, even though he only managed fourth three weeks prior at the trials. “I knew if I had a good run, I definitely could compete with the top guys in Britain. There has not been much to split between us [the British team], and we have all beat each other at different points over the course of the season.”
Although he obviously admits it would have been great to get a medal at the trials, which was incorporated into the Inter-Counties Championships, Paddy knew the aim was simply to do enough to secure his ticket on the plane. “At Inters, I was just focused on getting the selection; I wasn’t sure on how many [positions] would be auto-selected, I just made sure I could get in the top six”. After setting the pace for a large portion of the race, Paddy was content to see Adam Hickey deciding to up the ante in the latter stages of the race. “I was quite happy when he put his foot down and see four of us managing to get away from the rest of the pack. I thought fourth would be enough [to be selected for the World Cross].” He comments, as he realised a medal placing was starting to look unlikely. “Down the home straight I was completely spent, and couldn’t lift my legs at all in the last couple hundred metres. But it was a relief to be in the breakaway group and get the qualification, which was the main aim.”
— Patrick Dever (@_patrickdever) March 12, 2019
Indeed, Aarhus encapsulated the phenomenal start to the calendar year for Paddy, who says himself he couldn’t have asked for much better. As well as his performances at the Trials and Worlds, this season, he ran to a hard-earned fifth at the European U23 Cross Country Championships in Tilburg in December, along with an impressive ninth in the Stirling International Cross Country. Once again, the former Northern champion on the country was the first Brit across the line.
It’s also impossible to forget the captivating battle to the line Paddy was involved in earlier this year in Exeter, narrowly losing out on the BUCS Cross Country title, by a gut-wrenching one thousandth of a second. “BUCS was bitter sweet; just to be so close to getting the title, but absolutely fair play to Emile [Cairess] for taking the victory”. Although he missed out on his first national title, the cross country season has certainly not been a disappointment as a whole.
“Yeah, the Winter has gone as well as it could have done, in all honesty”. The Loughborough student reflects. “The start of the winter, I had a bit of trouble and I dropped out of a couple of races. But since Liverpool [Cross Challenge] things have gone spot on, and training has gone well.”
His early winter struggles allude to him returning to racing after a lengthy spell on the treatment table, after recovering from a stress fracture in his second metatarsal. But now as he is off the back of his best winter season to date, he can’t help but believe the setback has actually been beneficial in the long term. “It was about this time last year I was diagnosed with the injury. To get back at the level I was at before and surpass that, it’s a bit crazy”.
Paddy references an important factor in reaching his high standards again was being patient, which is also credit to his coach, Andy Bibby.“I feel over the season, we managed to organise the racing calendar well and get the balance
between not racing too much, but also not too little. It was the back end of the summer season I was getting into training again, although I didn’t race. I just concentrated on getting used to running again, and comfortably hitting around 50 miles a week. Then when winter came, I could pick up the mileage and build training back up to normal as I had a strong base to work on.”
Not feeling disheartened about missing a full summer season of racing, Paddy took a philosophical approach to his rehabilitation process, which also offers some sound advice for any athlete recovering from a serious injury. “I found the injury was a great opportunity to address any weaknesses; to go back to basics and allow myself to look at what I need to work on. The time out from the sport gives you time to realise what you take for granted when you’re running well and it acted as an added motivation to come back even stronger “.
All the hard work in the gym and the battle to get back to his best has certainly paid dividends. After his winter performances, he can now look ahead confidently and with excitement at what looks to be a promising season on the track. Although what races the upcoming season will entail is still very much undefined, Paddy has opted to compete at BUCS next weekend in the 1500m, after toying between that and the 5000m. And this seems to be the trend for the most part of his season, as he plans more of an ad-hoc racing plan, leaving his options open. “I’ll just say my main aim in the summer is to rewrite some of my personal bests. I do feel I can take off a few seconds in my 5k time. I may give the 10k a go as well”. He adds, tempted by the spectacular running festival held by Highgate Harriers in early July. “I definitely don’t have a set plan, and will just try to take each race as it comes and see what opportunities arise”.
Although it is unsure what the upcoming track season will entail for Paddy, there is no doubt that with a strong winter behind him, there will be many watching closely looking forward to seeing what he can produce.