Ollie Lockley: Keys to success on the Isle of Man

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With just one week to go until the notorious Isle of Man Easter Running Festival, we thought we’d catch up with the king of more or less every kilometre of the course, last year’s winner Ollie Lockley.

The Manchester International 10,000m champion is just one of multiple Isle of Man athletes who are really beginning to put the island on the map, showcasing their spectacular team of distance athletes.

Just this year, the island has already secured two British vests amongst its ranks. British indoor 800m  champion Joe Reid reached the semi-finals at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow and Commonwealth Games top 10 finisher over the 20k race walk, Erika Kelly, was selected this week for the European Cup in Lithuania in May.


Keen to continue this winning streak, Ollie speaks to us about his journey so far and gives us some tips to succeed at the Isle of Man Easter Running Festival.

The Festival is organised by Manx Harriers and over the years has become a key date on many eager distance runners’ calendars, attracting competition from all over the British Isles.

Beginning on Good Friday, athletes travel far and wide to take part in the 3-day event, which consists of 4 vital components; a Good Friday 10km, a 4 mile race up the famous Peel Hill, a speedy 5km along the promenade and of course lots of festivities. The event has really built up lots of momentum amongst the university teams and herds of distance clubs from UK universities flock to the island every year, with the promise of fast races, fancy dress and favourable drinking championships.

University teams take the weekend very seriously though, and selecting a winning beer racing team amongst the likes of festival regulars Manchester AleHouse and Leeds Doss, is just as intense as the road racing itself.

However, despite the festivities, the event actually does attract top quality competition, with event organisers pulling out all of the stops to make it an unforgettable yet competitive weekend of racing for all. It’s a no brainer then that local lad and Great Ireland Run 10k Champion, Ollie Lockley, (Coach: Dave Lockley. Leeds City/Manx) toes the line just about every year.

Speaking to us from his training camp in Albufeira, which he stresses is “rather windy and rainy”, Ollie, who is coached by his dad Dave Lockley, gives us a lowdown of his winter thus far and thoughts ahead of the event.

“My winter has been good so far, however, I did suffer a bit with a nasty hamstring injury from August to December whilst in Leeds which put me back a bit. But, I went back to the island over Christmas and since then I’ve been training really well”.

Like any 10,000m specialist, his 2019 season began with good old cross country racing. Speaking of his 11th place finish at the Inter Counties in Loughborough, he says “It took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting to finish that high up”. Just a week later, he completed the Reading Half Marathon in a time of 64:46, placing him 14th on the UK rankings in 2019. “I felt so smooth and it’s the best I’ve ever felt in a race”.

His solid start to 2019 of course comes off the back of an excellent 2018 season, which saw him secure his very first England vest. “Getting that England vest for the first time was obviously amazing and a main highlight of my season, but actually going on to win the race in that vest in Dublin is the highlight”. Ollie made his debut in the red and white vest back in April last year and took the Great Ireland 10k title. “I also won the Manchester International in awful weather and on paper that also looks good, but for me, winning the 10k in Dublin was the best”.

We also thought we’d remind him of our 2018 highlight, his notorious showdown with Joe Reid in the 1500m final at the Isle of Man Championships, which saw the pair cross the line in the exact same time of 3:57.9. Chuckling, Ollie says “The race with Joe was great. We did something ridiculous like 56 for the last 400m. I just remember yo-yoing down the home straight with him and honestly, I thought he had it. I crossed the line and was like, Joe, I think you got that mate, and Joe said the same to me. So, we both looked to the officials and they were like, yeah we have no idea! They really couldn’t separate us”.

Ollie being a 10k specialist and Joe championing the 800m, the pair decided to meet in the middle at their championships and it turned out to be quite a spectacle. Speaking very fondly of his home, he goes on to say, “It was obviously great for local people to see that and great for the island champs, as it’s not that common on the island to have such competition like that between athletes like myself and Joe. Joe is such a great racer and so good under pressure. I’ve already said to him, I better see you there again this year.”

Building on last year’s successes, Ollie has big goals for this year and beyond, and winning on home soil next weekend is naturally a part of that too.

“I actually wrote down my goals not so long ago and a sub 29 for the 10k and sub 65 for the half are definitely achievable”. Once he’s running these kinds of times consistently, he stresses his next goal is to get that all important GB vest.

Like any athlete, he goes in search for the best distance competition, and Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000 PBs in July is also on the agenda. “Highgate is amazing. It’s such a great competition, you can’t explain it. The sound is deafening and once people have had a bit of drink too it’s amazing”.

However, he understands he has his work cut out for him and needs to continue to work hard and not get carried away in order to achieve these 10k targets. “I think there’s that slight fear element a little bit, because 28:50 is unknown territory. I’ll just have to try to not get carried away”.

It’s often easy to forget that despite such good domestic competition at the likes of Highgate and BMCs, it actually requires a huge amount of dedication and logistical planning for Isle of Man athletes to compete over the summer season. With a flight from Manchester taking approximately 40 minutes and the ferry around 3 hours, a 30 minute race at a BMC in Trafford often turns into a rather pricey affair. Naturally, none of this would be possible without the athletes’ savvy planning and obviously the support from their sponsors and teams behind them. Isle of Man Sport Aid and Isle of Man Athletics support Ollie, along with his S&C coach Andy Watson, to get him where he needs to be (which is quite literally competing on the mainland!).

Not having to travel very far at all over Easter, the 10km at the Isle of Man Festival is also in his plan and the title is his for the taking yet again this year. “On my home soil, it’d be stupid not to race. I mean, obviously it’s not ideal for the body to do 3 races in 3 days, but I love the atmosphere. Like the 10km for example, I literally live 2 minutes away from the course. So, when I’m running around it’s like, I want to defend my territory you know”.

Runners can choose which races they want to partake in, with Ollie hopefully trying his hand at all three yet again. Last year he took the 10k title in 31:05, the hill race in 21:27 and the 5k was 15:09. “The 10k is obviously my favourite, and if the weather is good it’s beautiful. I’m really not a fan of hill running”.

The event on the Saturday is very much a scramble to the top of a large hill named Peel Hill (possibly because people need peeling up off the floor afterwards?) with Ollie suggesting trail shoes for the steep ascent. Despite his dislike of the hills, however, he’s still first to the top. “I hate hills and I know I can’t run well up them, but I run well down them. So, if I’m in the lead going up, I’m winning on the way down. I kind of put all my eggs in one basket there, hoping my downhill does the trick!”.

After the races, visitors to the island take part in the notorious drinking championships (instigated by the army of university students), while locals like Ollie are tucked up in bed. “We let them all have their fun, then it’s our turn on the Sunday night! Everything is just great, such a good festival”.