Marvin Watts, the last Jamaican to compete in the men’s 800m at the World Championships, believes that the country can do well in the two-lap event. His advice to aspiring 800m men is to move to a middle-distance training programme when their highschool days are over and to stick with it. Speaking from first-hand experience, Watts pinpointed the heavier training load done by the athletes from the African middle distance superpowers as the big difference.He outlined the steps needed to make progress. “That would entail after high school,” he explained, “going into a middle-distance programme, whether locally or overseas, having the right coaches and sticking to a programme.”Watts competed in the 800m semi-finals in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, the 2000 Olympics and the 2001 World Championships. In the latter meet, the tall, slim Jamaican strode through his heat in 1 minute 46.43 seconds, a personal best that lodges him at number 10 in the Jamaican all-time 800m performance list.”It’s really tough to make it to the finals,” said the former St George’s College and University of South Carolina star. “But again, I think what I would have needed, and what other athletes would need, is to join a strategic training programme.”The programme will get you there,” he assured aspirants. “That’s how many athletes worldwide – if you speak to them, they were average runners in high school. but they stuck to a programme, which entails endurance training, stamina training, speed work and, over time, you will come down in time and you will make the grade.”In 2004, Watts participated in a four-month training camp in Kenya. Injury derailed his plans, but the experience showed him the big difference between how Jamaica approaches the 800m and how Kenya approaches the same event. “I think it was just the load; compared to what we do, it was much more intense.”He also understands why Jamaican 400m runners don’t move up to the 800m.”You might have 45-46 seconds 400m runners who can do well at the 800m, but they prefer the shorter distances of 400m or less because of the popularity of the event,” he analysed.
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