New Zealand 20km race walk record-holder and Rio Olympian Alana Barber is next up to answer our Five Minutes With….questions.
Why and how did you start in the sport of athletics?
An injury forced me to take a break from running and I race walked to keep fit and avoid aggravating the injury. After a few months of race walking, I never went back to running competitively again.
What was your first significant win?
I have never won an international race, but winning my first New Zealand Road Champs in 2009 was pretty special. Especially because I had only been involved in the sport for ten months.
What was your first major setback?
I finished third in the 20km race walk at Nationals in an unimpressive time. It wasn’t the result that made it a major setback, because winning a medal at Nationals is an achievement to be proud of. It was the downhill snowball effect that followed. My times kept getting slower even though I was still training and I started losing confidence, which then resulted in worse performances. I went into every race having negative thoughts. How can you improve with an attitude like that? It took four years with the help of better guidance and supportive people to eventually improve.
Best piece of coaching advice?
When I was running with Barry Magee’s squad, he told me something I have never forgotten. He said it takes about ten years to peak in an endurance sport and you need to be patient. Every year of running high miles makes you stronger. I was 19 years old at the time.
What quality to thin every athlete needs to have to succeed?
Resilience. The ability to take setbacks and keep training, learning and pursuing for your goal.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your time in the sport?
You need to be self-motivated and enjoy your own company. You spend many hours on your feet by yourself and although training with a group is great, you can’t rely on anyone else to be successful. There are so many reasons not to train – your training partner doesn’t turn up, you have a blister from the previous session, it’s pouring with rain and windy. You have a hot date and you don’t have time to shower before you meet him/her. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, you should still go out and train. Embrace whatever the bad situation is, this is what will give you the competitive edge. The more physically and mentally demanding the session, the better the athlete you become.
What is the best thing about being an athlete?
Travelling to see interesting parts of the world. Places you would never visit if you didn't race there.
If you could have a superpower what would it be and why?
To make good decisions quickly. I can take forever to make a decision and I still don't get it right.
What is your hidden talent?
I can move one eyeball and keep the other completely still!
What would be your last meal?
Chocolate cake with more chocolate icing than cake. Literally death by chocolate!
What is your karaoke song?
“Gonna get up, gonna get up…You just walk right in, walk, walk, walk right in….” Black Box - Ride on Time. It's a song you can really shout the house down with.
What is your greatest indulgence?
Chocolate! Which is probably the most likely way I’ll die, hence my last meal!
If you could have three dinner party guests, who would they be and why?
Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler and Jesus. I'd be interested in the dynamics and what they'd have to say to one another.