Success tastes so much sweeter for long distance runner Chris Thompson after pushing through six long years of injury to return to formidable form. After taking silver in the 10,000m at the European Championships, expect Mo Farah's close friend and training partner to become a household name.
It was a historic British 1-2 finish in the 10,000m in Barcelona. How did it feel sharing that moment with your close friend and training partner Mo Farah?
It was awesome. Coming second behind the best European athlete at the moment and arguably the best British male distance runner we've ever had was an honour - for me it was like winning a gold medal. Plus sharing the podium with a mate was just that much more exciting.
Did you go into the Championships expecting to come away with a silver medal?
I was always going to give it my best shot but I didn't expect a medal. During the race I hit a point where I realised I might not medal and I knew I had to dig deep. Just knowing I had a chance really made me hungry for it - when I crossed the line I just felt such a euphoric feeling of happiness.
Were you able to celebrate afterwards or did you immediately focus on the 5,000m?
Going into the Championships both Mo and myself had a very clear recovery plan in place. After I'd finished I allowed myself to enjoy the moment but I had to make sure I ticked all the boxes to recover physically. Someone gave me a beer to say well done, and I remember looking at it and thinking, 'I'm not even going to go there, the job's not yet done'.
Were you disappointed with your performance in the 5000m?
Yes and no. It's not the position I'm frustrated with [eighth], I'm more frustrated with how I ran the race. In a way it's a good thing because it highlighted some weaknesses and where I was going wrong. I left the Championships knowing where I need to improve because obviously next year is going to be a huge step up in standards.
You trained with Mo before the Championships. How do you balance competing against each other and training together?
We know when it needs to be a race and when it doesn't. Fortunately we've got mutual respect and we both encourage each other to improve as athletes. However, when we're on the track we're both extremely competitive - it's like boxers, we'll shake hands at the end, but once you're in the ring, it's gloves off.
After six years of being plagued by injury, this year you have suddenly hit form - what has changed?
Basically I haven't been able to train properly since I was a kid. This year I've done more hill sessions than I have in the last seven years put together. I've never been able to get enough consistency with my injuries to put training together. There are so many things that I wished I'd done years ago which I'm starting to do now, so we'll have to see where it takes me. Hopefully next year I'll improve again.
You won the Under 23 European Championships in the 5,000m (beating Mo Farah) in 2003. How frustrating were those years of injury that followed and how did you pull through?
Extremely frustrating - I had to dig myself out of some pretty deep holes and a lot of people helped me through. You just have to keep coming back for more and I never wanted to stop. Even when I'm racing, I never drop out as I simply don't believe in quitting, so I was never going to give up on running when I was still young enough. The hand that I was dealt contained a lot of injuries but everyone has their own battle to fight or problems to face. What kept me going was when I could train for two or three weeks, I would go and run something really fast and it proved to me that it was worth carrying on.
Following your recent success are you tempted to specialise more in the 10,000m than the 5,000m?
I honestly don't know. At the start of the year the 10K was a swear word until I started doing it more. I'll have to think about which one I have more potential for in a World or Olympic stadium but for now I'm just going to enjoy both and see what happens.
So, what's next for Chris Thompson?
At the moment I'm planning on competing at Crystal Palace, probably the Zurich 5k and we're looking at maybe doing the Commonwealth Games - that's in the short term. Long term it's all about the World Championships next year and I'm obviously really excited about the Olympics.
Is there more pressure to perform now and notch up medals?
To be honest I'm just loving every minute of it. I'm not scared of running harder and I'm not scared of losing because I've been doing it for the last six years. It would be hard for me to run as I badly as I have in the past, so I'm just going to keep on enjoying it and trying my best.