Credit: Vid Wadhwani

© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated

Nathan Tadesse is one of Canada’s top junior distance runners. The senior at North Surrey Secondary won the 2014 BC High School Cross Country Championships in Victoria, BC in October, shortly after overcoming a severe bout of anemia. He followed that race up with a fourth-place finish at Athletics Canada’s National Cross Country Champions in Vancouver, BC, to cap off his 2014 cross-country racing season.

On February 22nd, Tadesse helped Team Canada secure a second place finish at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Cross Country Championships (NACAC) by finishing 10th overall. He is now getting ready for his final season of high school track before attending NCAA Division 1 Washington State University.

Personal bests:

800m – 1:56

1500m – 3:56.11

3000m – 8:43 (indoors)

Christopher Kelsall:
How old were you when you first started running?

Nathan Tadesse: I started training for running in the cross-country season of my grade nine year. I played soccer and basketball as a kid growing up and never thought I would end up running cross-country and track.

CK: Where you competitive in the other sports?

Yes, I played soccer since I was five and up until grade eight, and basketball up until grade 11. I’m a sharpshooter for basketball, they call me Steph Curry.

CK: Who calls you Steph Curry?

NT: Basically anybody who has been given the great opportunity to witness me shoot a basketball. Ha-ha I am just kidding, basically only I call myself Steph Curry, I live inside my own head.

It’s actually funny that I have improved so much in basketball in the years I stopped playing in high school, quite ironic.

CK: So what was the change that led you to running?

NT: When I was in grade eight, my school hosted a cross-country meet in which my brother was set to compete in. I convinced myself to try it out because I hadn’t had basketball that day. I ended up finishing in second place in our district with no prior running experience.

The school coach Scott Svelander, who is also a teacher at North Surrey Secondary School, came knocking on one of my classroom doors and asked to speak to me. He sat me down, explained the opportunities running could give me, and told me I had run very well and that I should come out to practices. I dodged him for the rest of the year because I was playing soccer and basketball and because I didn’t see myself as a runner. The next year I came out to a couple cross-country practices, but it was when I qualified for the BC Summer Games and won a silver medal that my eyes were really opened to taking running seriously.

CK: Was it easy to dodge Mr. Slevander?

NT: No. I would always see Scott Svelander in the hallways and he would just smile while I would Tadesse_Flashtry and avoid contact. He was coaching my brother at the time so whenever we would encounter one another I would “pretend” to seem interested in running. He was nice about it though, he didn’t bother me too much.

CK: What would your long-term goal be towards international running and professionalism?

NT: I would love to continue running and making a living off of it. My ultimate goal that I am aiming for is to represent Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I will be 23 by that time and have plenty of experience competing against the best runners in the NCAA and the world.

If all fails, I may become a rapper and collaborate with Justyn Knight on his long-awaited mixtape.

CK: Long awaited by whom?

NT: Long awaited by Justyn Knight, who also goes by the name “Jmoney”.

CK: So about this Jmoney mixtape feat., Nathan Tadesse, have you two been jamming? Is this your back-up plan?

NT: First day in Colombia Jmoney was showcasing his singing voice over a Drake song. And with the ears I have I immediately spotted out the talent, so suggested I hop on the mixtape he announced back in November (may not come out for another 10 years we will see but we’re working on it). We had a couple jam-out sessions in Colombia and I’m really looking forward to the future.

CK: International hip hop artists. Besides Drake who else do you listen to? What are your most listened to songs right now on your iPod or phone?

NT: The most played song right now is “Trap Queen” and “Try me” At the moment I’m into some Big Sean, Kanye West, Lil Durk, Rae Sremmurd, I like Meek Mill, Lupe Fiasco, Fabolous. It always changes though. When Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper drop their new albums they will probably be on repeat for one month.

CK: Is Lil Durk smaller than Big Sean?

NT: Although Big Sean isn’t the biggest of dudes even compared to someone with the name of “Lil Durk” he is definitely “bigger” on the track than most rappers.

CK: Speaking of track, what outdoor track distance do you hope to specialise in?

NT: I hope to specialise in either the 1500m and the 5,000m or the 5,000m and 10,000m. I have mixed feelings about the 10,000m right now because it’s really long and does not really interest me right now, but who knows I’m still very young. I might also give the 800m a try!

CK: Can you describe a typical week of training?

NT: A typical week of training for me consists of three workout days and four easy runs. The worst part about training is that I usually do all of my workouts and runs by myself because I am not in a club and train with my school coach Scott Svelander, who is an experienced running coach. I usually train in a park with trails where I do one hill workout a week and do a combination of workouts such as 1K and 2K repeats, one we call the Lumberjack workout and sometimes get on the track for some 400’s.

One thing that we always do that I don’t think most others don’t are drills (high knees, butt kicks etc) in between every rest period in a workout instead of just standing there. I also do one long run for about 70-80 minutes once a week. One workout that has really worked for me is a 30-minute hill workout where I do a combination of continuous hills and strides with slow jogs in between each hill and stride.

CK: Is it difficult to keep coordination in the drills, when just coming off a hard interval?

NT: Yes it is and that is exactly why do them! It is designed to make you keep proper form when you are tired so when you are in a race and you are hurting down the back stretch you won’t sacrifice your form. Good form and staying relaxed can make a huge difference in your closing ability.

CK: You have at least two sisters, yes? Are they runners as well? How about your parents?

NT: I have two younger sisters who are in elementary school so they are just playing the “fun” games for now. Both my parents were not runners or in any way associated with running as ironic as it sounds with them being from Ethiopia. I got into running because of my brother Ephraim Tadesse, he now runs for SFU. We moved from Burnaby to Surrey and were lucky to land at a school with many teachers who are experienced in running. Mark Bomba (who coached high school at the time) and Scott Svelander had convinced my brother to start running and after seeing his success I decided to give it a try for fun!

CK: So your parents must have found it just as ironic coming all the way to Canada to find out their kids are runners? Do they speak of that.

NT: Yes they find it very ironic. People often assume my parents are runners or used to run back in Ethiopia but when they are often asked the question they just laugh at the irony!

CK: So how did you end up getting anemic? That is a condition typically reserved for women. Were you not getting enough dietary iron?

NT: I still don’t know the cause on how I ended up getting anemic, I might have not been getting enough dietary iron on top of the amount of training I was doing last year. I increased my mileage rapidly from grade 10 to grade 11 and started running double days five days a week which I think was too much for me. Even though I did not get injured it may have played a role towards my iron deficiency.

CK: Two-a-days. What weekly volume was that adding up to?

NT: I don’t know exactly how much mileage I was at, but if I had to guess I would say some weeks were north up 70 miles a week (113K), probably around 80 (130K). I have significantly decreased my mileage to about 50 this year (80K) and no doubles, which I think has benefited me a lot.

CK: When your iron stores were back to normal, did your fitness seem to turn on like a switch?

NT: Yes! I would notice that the overall effort it took to complete a run or workout was much easier. I was able to close workouts faster as opposed to “hitting the wall.” When I was iron deficient my coach and I thought I was in decent shape because sometimes we were able to get in some “good” workouts because of the amount of rest I was taking. The shorter speed work was mostly close to pace but it was when we did long intervals that I my real fitness would show, and when we got into a race the last lap or two I would totally “hit the wall.”

CK: Finally, at Washington State University, what program are you hoping to enroll in?

NT: (Go Cougs!), I am planning to go into their business program. I am going to take a variety of business related courses to get the feel of what I want to specialise in, and then decide my major from there!