Race walker Marc Mundell works a full-time job, yet has qualified to represent South Africa in the 50-kilometre race at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Here’s what it takes.
ON WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I started walking when I was 12 years old, following in my dad’s footsteps (so to speak). My dad, Oliver, had incurred knee and lower back injuries playing rugby and tobogganing. He wasn’t allowed to run as it placed too much strain on the lower back and knee joints. He started walking and progressed to race walking. In 1993 and again in 1995 he was selected to represent South Africa at the race walking World Cups held in Mexico and China. Although I favoured running back then (participating in the 800-metre and 1200-metre events), I soon turned to walking and have been participating and competing ever since.
I have been dreaming about the Olympics since I watched the Atlanta Olympic Games on TV in 1996. I dreamt of competing with the best athletes in the world on the ultimate sporting platform. Although I played cricket, rugby and numerous other sports, I never dreamt of playing at the World Cup level, only the Olympics was tangible for me. It didn’t matter the sport or the event, the dream was to compete at the Olympics.
My training is reasonably consistent, although challenging due to my work commitments (8.00am to 4.30pm). I am extremely fortunate to have a very supportive boss, who himself coached an athlete to the Barcelona Olympics. I try to train on average 10 sessions a week, with the mileage emphasis over the weekends, often completing 50 to 70-kilometres in the two days where I can rest. I have two personal coaches that assist me with my preparation. Chris Britz, the multiple South African record holder, coached me for a decade and now specifically looks after my technique in Pretoria. Irish Olympian Jamie Costin looks after my training programme and regularly sends me my updates, chatting fortnightly on Skype. I try to work in two or three gym or cybex (arch trainer) sessions during the week in addition to a Pilates class. I have tried to schedule at least one sports massage every week in addition to seeing a chiropractor every fortnight. The body constantly adapts to the mileage and any niggles or changes in musculature can drastically affect posture and technique.
ON MENTAL PREP
The mental aspect is probably something that I’ve had to work at the hardest in my preparation. I first had to love my sport. I have to want to achieve for myself and to enjoy the thrill of competing, knowing that I had done the necessary preparation. In preparation for the Olympics, I have to keep everything simple and personal. I qualified representing myself and I need to represent myself in London. It is also incredibly important to associate with and be surrounded by positive, optimistic people who are encouraging and supportive.