“He’s a great friend, incredibly professional, and a constant reminder of how to make myself a better athlete.”
21-year-old middle distance runner Luke Mathews is under no illusions as to where he’d be without his training partner and best mate Ryan Gregson .
“A 'bromance' is certainly the word to describe it” Mathews laughs.
Recording an IAAF world championships qualifier in the 1500m over the weekend, Mathews clocked a personal best with 3:35.60 to ensure his name is in the mix for Australian team selection to London 2017 – in part due to a pacing job from Gregson.
“I'm incredibly grateful that Ryan threw up his hand to pace my teammates and I the other night. I certainly owe him a huge favour.”
In the race at Nijmegen, The Netherlands, Mathews was pipped at the line by Brazilian Thiago Do Rosario Andre. Training partners Jordy Williamsz (Vic) finished 5th in 3:37.57 with Matthew Ramsden coming in 13th with 3:43.42.
But for Rio Olympian Mathews, who now looks to be in a strong position to joi his first world championships team, Gregson’s influence is key to his success.
“I learn something new from him every day, and a lot of my day-to-day activities have formed from him - diet, gym, recovery etc."
Over the years Mathews admits he would always “pester” Gregson with questions about training. The chance to be mentored by the Australian 1500m record holder was one that Mathews grabbed with both hands.
“When I first had the opportunity to train with Ryan within the Melbourne Track Club, I jumped at it, just as any junior footballer would jump at the opportunity to train with Joel Selwood at Geelong.”
“Training becomes a lot more enjoyable when you're about to go to hell with one of your best friends.”
Extending himself over the metric mile distance, Mathews’ PB time in The Netherlands is an obvious sign that his strength due to consistent training is paying off. Though the former schoolboy champion isn’t ready to choose his favourite over the 1500m or 800m yet.
“I've gotten fitter and stronger, the 1500m has definitely come a lot easier,” Mathews said.
“At the moment, I'm not putting a label on what event I'm doing. Training under Nic Bideau, if I favour either event, the training won't change at all - I'll still run 140-150km per week, including three hard sessions, and some gym and plyometrics. I personally believe that being strong over the 800 is beneficial for the 1500 and vice versa.”
At the 2017 Australian Athletics Championships Mathews notched up his second national title, dipping at the line in the men’s 800m to take gold from Josh Ralph (NSW) by just 0.05 seconds.
To say it’s been a big 12 months for Mathews is putting it lightly. In 2016, he rose quickly to become a big name in the domestic athletics scene, highlighted by a brave run against Kenyan Olympic gold medallist David Rudisha at Melbourne’s IAAF World Challenge. In August, Mathews attended his first major senior championships at the Rio Olympics, but underperformed, not progressing out of the 800m and 1500m heats.
“Unfortunately, this roller coaster ride ran out of steam a few months ago, resulting in some embarrassing performances on the biggest stage of my life” Mathews said at the time.
“That being said, some average runs can't take away the fact that this has been an amazing season as my first proper year as a professional athlete,” a reflective Mathews added.
Read about Mathews reflecting on his breakthrough 2016 season here.
Mathews, who raced for Team Australia as a part of the inaugural Nitro Athletics Melbourne series, is adamant that he would be nowhere near where he is today without the strong support of his Melbourne Track Club training group.
“Quality training comes a lot easier when we all work together. And this goes even further from the running track: most of the people I run with have slowly become my close mates.”
“That being said, we are all trying to make each other better athletes, but we certainly aren't friends when the gun goes: I trained with Jordy Williamsz and Matthew Ramsden during the week, but I was going to do everything I could to make sure that they wouldn't beat me!”
Now, as a start at the world championships becomes a real possibility, Mathews’ athletics career is looking as bright as ever and will be sure to tackle London head-on knowing his best mate Gregson will be by his side.