Back in the pack
Louis Persent is back in training after a lengthy injury lay off and is now keen to find his form when he returns to racing this spring...
By Sam Drury - Follow on Twitter. Last Updated: 20/02/14 10:36am
There is nothing worse for an athlete than being injured. Forced to watch from the sidelines as your rivals and team-mates train and compete. For almost two years though, that is exactly the situation Louis Persent has found himself in.
The 400m runner has been plagued by an Achilles injury since the summer of 2012 and has not raced in the past 22 months. Even training was impossible for much of that time.
So when asked how difficult the past few months have been as he strives to get back to full fitness in time for this year's outdoor season, the Sky Academy Sports Scholar is unequivocal in his answer.
"I don't think it's been too hard at all," said Persent. "I've missed it so much, and week by week I've been able to do a bit more, go a bit faster, get back in spikes and get back to sessions that I haven't done for a long time.
"That is something that I've missed and being able to do that has been really good so I haven't felt like it's been hard to get back into things.
"It's been a gradual progression week by week. Obviously the training is hard work but I think it has been easy mentally to get back into the swing of things because I've been raring to go for so long. The last two months have been really fun just getting back into training. I love it. I've missed it."
Returning to training is clearly a huge step for Persent after so long off the track but he admitted that he needs to be patient before he can contemplate competing again.
The indoor season is well underway with Great Britain yesterday naming their squad for the World Championships in Poland next month. For Persent though racing indoors was never on the cards.
"Indoors were never really on my radar because I know it's not something that I'm suited to how I run 400m," he said. "It can be fun to run indoors but I've never really been concerned with that aspect of the sport.
"Yes, it would be nice to compete because it's fun, and I miss that buzz. I'm motivated at the moment because I'm coming back from injury and feel like things are going well. That's my major motivation rather than what anyone else is doing.
"You can't really effect what happens there and it's indoors, it's a whole different game when it comes to the outdoors which is still a while away. I'm just knuckling down and I'm happy to be buried away getting on with training."
Despite the little niggles, aches and pains that any athlete can expect to encounter, Persent has been happy with his training and is "itching to up the level now." After so long his keenness is to be expected but he is well aware of the problems rushing could cause. Besides, the 23-year-old has complete faith in his coach, Tony Lester, to do what is best for him.
Lester's record of having coached two 400m runners to times under 45 seconds is itself enough to show that Persent's trust is justified.
"That's the reason I'm training with him, because I wanted to make sure whoever was going to coach me was someone that I could learn a lot from and was the best in the business, really," said Persent.
"He's managed to get three very talented athletes (Roger Black, Mark Richardson and Tim Benjamin) to that point (under 45 seconds) and I have faith and trust in him that he knows what he's doing, as it were.
"I can just get on with doing the hard work, knowing that he's got a plan and can adapt it to my strengths and weaknesses."
"I'm motivated at the moment because I'm coming back from injury and feel like things are going well. That's my major motivation rather than what anyone else is doing."
His time away from the track has allowed Persent to try his hand at some television work, reporting for Sky Sports show Game Changers, something the former European Junior medallist enjoyed more than he expected.
Now, however, his focus is very much back on the challenges that await him on the track and, with so little to separate so many of Britain's 400m runners, the possibility of making a late charge for a place at either the Commonwealth Games or the European Championships in the summer.
"I think the state of the 400m event in this country is that there are a lot of people bunched together and I see that as an opportunity to step out from the pack," remarked Persent.
Indeed, the men's 400m times at the British Indoor Championships in Sheffield show that if he can rediscover his best form upon his return to racing, then Persent can be right in amongst Britain's top competitors over the distance.
"There's a lot of depth really at the level that I'm at trying to break through," he said.
"The times weren't spectacular but there're lots of people who weren't racing indoors, including myself. So I can take confidence in knowing that no one is running some really exceptional time, but at the end of the day there's still five or six people that weren't in that competition that are able to run fast.
"I wouldn't say I can take confidence necessarily, what I can take confidence from is that I'm injury free and that I can now put together training that I haven't been able to do for so long.
"I know that if I can have four or five months of consistent training then that's something I haven't had for two years and then that'll be the biggest confidence boost in the world, knowing that I can string together consistent training."
If he can manage that then the prospect of representing his country at one of the summer's major championships is one that Persent is understandably excited about, but he knows that a lot of hard work is required before that can really be considered.
"I would love to make the team for either of those competitions and that's definitely a personal aim - but I know that I have to go step by step," he added.
"Racing in April and May it'll have been pretty much two years since I've raced properly. I don't want to get carried away and I know that if I get back into racing and that if I let my training show itself then that should put me in contention for those type of competitions.
"At the moment, with it being three or four months until I get to that point, my focus is definitely on training and then getting into a position where I can actually consistently race, because it's been such a long time."