Hayley Preen – a young trail runner on the rise
31 August 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live and time to chat some trail running and I love chatting to young up and coming athletes. Our next guest on the podcast is definitely one of them. I think it’s a name you’re going to hear lots and lots of over the years to come. What a great pleasure to welcome Hayley Preen onto the podcast today. Hayley, welcome, thanks for joining us today.
Hayley Preen: Thank you for having me.
BB: Hayley, you’ve just really burst onto the trail running scene, you’re really carving a bit of a groove for yourself which I think is fantastic. You just got back from Italy as well, from the Youth Sky Running World Championships, tell us a little bit about that experience.
HP: It was about two weeks ago I went off to Italy, just above Rome, I went with Chris Strydom, also from South Africa. We went for the Youth Sky Running World Champs. It was an incredible experience. The race was about 22.5km with about 2 200m of climbing, which is more than I’ve ever done before. The race started with a 3.5km, vertical kilometre, which I’ve never done. Living in Cape Town we don’t really have vertical kilometres. It was a hard start, but it was a good race and I’ve learnt a lot from racing there.
Running is in my blood
BB: Hayley, let’s take a step back. You’re still in school, you’re in matric at Herschel. So you’ve got a lot on your plate this year. But has running always been a part of your life or is it a fairly recent thing that you’ve taken up?
HP: No, it’s always been a part of my life, I’ve always run with my dad, Mark Preen. I always started with cross country races in primary school. I would start and I never ever won cross country races in the very beginning. But then I started training a bit more, doing a bit better. Then I carried on with cross country into high school. Then in high school I started picking up some trail races, just novice trail running my whole life. I really want to carry on with trail running going out of school.
BB: It helps when you live in Cape Town doesn’t it?
BB: Magnificent place to run trails. Let’s talk about growing up in a running family. You mentioned your dad Mark, a lot of people know him and his exploits around this part of the world. It’s just come natural to you. I grew up in a running family as well and I was never a runner, but you’ve really taken to it, like a duck to water.
HP: I certainly got the running genes from dad and from my grandpa. We started running and we started running in the mountains. Because my dad would be like, let’s go find a waterfall on a rainy day, so that’s how we would go into the mountains. That’s how I started trail running and I’ve loved it ever since.
BB: Looking at some of the people you look up to and aspire to become like, who are some of your running motivators?
HP: I think definitely Ryan Sandes. All the races and all the achievements he’s gotten, definitely an inspiration. Then top trail runners, I look up to them, that’s what I want to do.
Where to from here?
BB: As far as wanting to do it, what’s the plan now? You’ve obviously got a lot on your plate, as I mentioned, a matric year to take care of. I’m sure your folks are encouraging you to focus a bit on that as well. There’s lots of time after matric, but what’s the plan? What are you hoping to do once finals are out of the way and you’re pretty much on your own and you can do your own thing?
HP: Now during finals running is going to take a back seat for the moment. But after matric, next year I’m going to take a gap year, just to focus on running. Just focus on my sports for a year and decide actually what I want to do and how far I want to go with it. Then I’ll take it from there. But I definitely want to try and continue this trail running streak as long as I can.
BB: When did you realise you were pretty good at it? Has it been like that for a while? You said you didn’t win the early cross country races, but you put some work in. You obviously have some ability, you’ve raced on World Championship level internationally. But when did you realise you were actually pretty good?
HP: Cross country races I’ve always been good at. But then trail races, I’ve always done the trail races, they’ve always been the shorter distance. I’ve never done the longer distance, because I’ve been too young. This year I’ve started doing the longer distances because I was accepted into the Salomon Running Academy in Germany in May. So then we ran a lot further there.
Then after that I was asked to go to the Classic in France and there I was going to do a race of just 25km, then I picked up my distance quite a bit. Ever since then, I’ve realised I want to do the longer races rather than the shorter ones now. Now I’m getting into the longer trail races back here in CT, which I’m really looking forward to.
Progressing from shorter to longer stuff
BB: What is it about the long stuff that appeals to you?
HP: I don’t know, I like the longer distance because, I don’t know, the shorter distance, it’s too fast. Longer distance you have more climbing, I’m better at the climbing, it’s better. Then I also get to race against the top runners.
BB: You talk about racing against the top runners, you’ve raced lots of trail runs here in CT, but you’ve mentioned running on the international stage as well. The Youth World Championships, you actually put in a pretty decent performance. It was a tough race, but you’re happy with the way things went?
HP: Yes, I’m very happy, I never expected it to go that way, but I just tried my hardest. I tried to go hard, the whole way, but it was definitely the toughest race I’ve ever done.
BB: One thing I love about trail, you can always play to your strengths and what I mean by that is, if you are a good climber, you can find races that will highlight that strength and allow you to really shine there. If you’re somebody who descends well, you can find a race that sort of plays to that. What would you say your strengths are when it comes to trail running?
HP: I think my strength is definitely the climbing. But going to Italy, we don’t have that kind of climbing in South Africa, so it was completely different. It was a lot more than I had ever done, so I think I just need to train a lot more for those international races. For the European races, if that’s what I want to do.
BB: You said running is taking a bit of a back seat during finals, what’s on the cards after that from a race perspective? Is there anything on the immediate horizon that you’re training towards, that you’re planning on running?
HP: Nothing at the moment, but I’m hoping to go overseas next year and run in a few European races. I’m not sure which ones, but I think I’ll see next year where it takes me.
BB: Awesome stuff. Hayley, congratulations on that performance at the Youth Sky Running World Champs and all the best, best of luck for finals. I know that’s a stressful time in anyone’s life and we look forward to seeing you on the trails pretty soon after that.
HP: Thank you, thanks very much.