Sondre Nordstad Moen is very much the man of the moment after his European marathon record of 2:05:48 at the Fukuoka Marathon earlier this month.
Not surprisingly, a plethora of European media has been eager to talk to him after his Japanese feat and last week the Italian newspaper La Stampa published an extensive interview with the new Norwegian star of the road running world.
Sondre kindly provided European Athletics with his original English answers to the questions and we are happy to provide an edited version of the interview.
Q: How did you celebrate your win?
A: I had Italian gelato with my coach Renato Canova in the evening after the prize ceremony. We had a good time, Renato has always a good story to listen too.
Q: Can Europeans compete on level terms with the African runners who dominate long distance running?
A: My attitude to running against the Africans has slightly changed every year, since I went to Kenya for the first time in 2009. You know you are going to beat them in competition at sea level if you are able to stay close to them in training. It took me 10 years (included two years with injuries) of dedicated training to achieve this performance. It's all about hard work for many years.
I think Africans will by far continue to dominate the long distances, but it is possible for some non-Africans to run at the same level as they do. For me, the main factor is that all the African athletes have a professional attitude and go all out to reach the top.
Q: How many days a year do you spend in Kenya?
A: I currently spend between 150 and 200 days each year in Kenya. Since my first stay in 2009 I have spent about 550 days there in total. The life is quite simple there, without any social facilities compared to a Western lifestyle, and it is more about going to visit your nearest neighbour and have a cup of chai and talk about the daily life.
Q: It's was a year of successes for Norwegian athletics. Was this a surprise?
A: Outside Norway it was maybe a surprise, but I know all those athletes and they have all been working extremely hard for years to achieve their performances, having a good plan in mind.
Q: What are your next goals?
A: My goal is to improve to be the best I can be in the future. It's me against myself. I just need to keep focused, the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and European Championships are just around the corner. I am happy for my achievement [in Fukuoka], but training is waiting for me.
Q: You were a very promising skier as a teenager so why did you switch to running?
A: I finished in sixth place, and only a few seconds from bronze, in European Cross Country Championships for juniors (now U20 athletes) when I was only 16 years old. I was in full training for the upcoming ski season, but my preparation was far from optimal so that result give me confidence to try to be a good runner. Secondly, I started to get tired of always having to travel to find snow conditions and the hysteria surrounding having the best ski equipment to be competitive seemed crazy to me. Running is so much simpler. Two legs is all what you need.
Q: How many days a year do you spend in Kenya?
A: I currently spend between 150 and 200 days each year in Kenya. Since the first stay in 2009 I have spent about 550 days in total. The life is quite simple there without any social facilities compared to Western lifestyle. Is more about go and visit your nearest neighbour and have a cup of chai and talk about the daily life.
Q: What sort of things do you do when you are not training?
A: I read books, watches movies, walk around to see other runners for a chat, frequently get massages, stretching and doing exercises for my feet or just relax with some music.
Q: You are quite a lot abroad so what do you miss most when you are away from home?
A: I miss my family and friends there although I have always liked to travel around the world and explore other cultures in different parts of the world and meet new people with the same passion like me. (Moen also spent several months in the summer training in the Italian mountain town of Sestriere.)
Q: Who are your idols in athletics?
A: I do not have any real idols but when I was a little kid I used to wake up at 4am in the morning to watching marathon races and track meetings, and I looked up to the best Kenyans at that time.
Q: Where and when did you met Renato Canova for the first time and what is training like with him?
A: I met Renato for the first time in 2010 when I was training in Iten (in Kenya). Since then I have talked a lot with him about training, athletics history, statistics and much more. I also started to join his training groups for some single sessions from 2014 but at this time I was working with my former coach in Norway.
After being self-coached in 2016 I wanted to change my training and I have always been a big believer in Canova’s training philosophy. He has a lot of experience after being a coach of world class athletes for the last 50 years; that alone gives me a lot of motivation.
The mix of training with Canova and all his strong athletes there in Kenya is so enjoyable. The training is tough but if you have passion for pain in training, and the right attitude, then it is always fun in training. Renato is more like a father figure to me but has to be though when needed.
Moen will now have two races in Italy in the next month, including at the famous Campaccio cross country meeting in San Giorgio su Legnano on 6 January, retruning to Kenya for two months training at altitude ahead of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia on 24 March, the same venue where he ran a national record of 59:48 last month.