Comeback kid finds himself in the company of legends

After four years troubled by injury, Thompson runs into the form of his life

It is six weeks now since Chris Thompson overtook the legends of British long-distance running. Competing in the 10,000m in the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational meeting at Stanford University in California on 1 May, he recorded 27min 29.61sec, nudging past Brendan Foster and Dave Bedford in the UK all-time ranking lists for the 25-lap distance.

"My dad e-mailed me after the race, saying that he remembered Dave Bedford when he ran his world record 27:30, watching him throw up afterwards on TV," the affable one-time teenage prodigy from the Aldershot, Farnham and District Athletics Club reflects. "He said: 'I just can't believe my son's beaten that.' Nor can I, when you put it like that."

It is little wonder that Thompson is in such a state of disorientation. Back in 2003 he won the 5,000m title at the European Under-23 Championships at Bydgoszcz in Poland, edging out his close friend Mo Farah, but since then his progress has been hamstrung by a frustrating succession of injuries. When the 29-year-old lines up for the 3,000m at the European Team Championships in Bergen next weekend it will be his first track race in a Great Britain vest since the European Championships in Gothenburg in 2006.

After four years in the international wilderness, the native Cumbrian (raised mainly at Fleet in Hampshire but a lifetime devotee of his home-town football team, AFC Barrow) stands second in the European rankings at 10,000m – just below Farah, who clocked 27:28.26 in Marseille last weekend to ease him out of third place on the British all-time list, behind Jon Brown (27:18.14) and Eamonn Martin (27:23.06). It is a promising place to be, six weeks away from the major event of the summer season: the European Championships in Barcelona. For all of Britain's rich tradition in 10,000m running, no one from these shores has ever won the men's 10,000m title at the European Championships.

"Really?" Thompson says. "I do know that the last one was won in 28:10 but this time I think it's going to take something really special to win it. I just really hope it's me or Mo. If Britain has never won it before, that would make it even sweeter."

Life right now is sweet enough for Thompson. He is living with his girlfriend, Jemma Simpson, the World Championship 800m semi-finalist, inside an altitude simulation tent provided by UK Athletics in a house near the domestic governing body's High Performance Centre at Loughborough University. "There's a machine that pumps nitrogen into the tent to simulate the altitude you want to be at," he says. "You've got to try to stay in it 12 hours a day to get the effect, which is a bit difficult when you've got to fit in your training and other stuff."

The benefits remain to be seen but Thompson is undoubtedly reaping the rewards of a dual coaching environment. On home soil he is guided by his long-term coach, John Nuttall, who is the UK Athletics event coach for endurance, and 1994 Commonwealth 5,000m bronze medallist. But the Loughborough graduate has clearly thrived from linking up with Simpson's coach, Mark Rowland, holder of the British 3,000m steeplechase record since his bronze-medal run at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, at the Oregon Track Club at Eugene in the United States.

"John has helped me through a lot and he's priceless to me," Thompson says. "Mark has definitely added another dimension to me, both in my training and as a person. He has a real knack and talent for the way he applies training for each athlete. I actually would put the word 'genius' with him as a coach. He couldn't have built me up better for the race in Stanford.

"I said to Jemma after the race: 'If I get hit by a lorry tomorrow and never run again I'll be happy.' After everything I've been through over the years, I just wanted to give myself a shot at running decent again. If I'd put a good load of training together and hadn't run well, I would have put my hand up and said: 'You know what, I was not that good.' And I'd have walked away without any regrets.

"Whatever I do from now, I'll have a smile on my face. Running so well in Stanford has blown my mind. I don't feel like an also-ran any more. I feel like I could potentially do stuff on a European and maybe a world stage." Like Carolina Kluft, Yelena Isinbayeva and Blanka Vlasic perhaps.

They were all winners at the European Under-23 Championships in Bydgoszcz seven years ago – the same as Chris Thompson. "Blimey!" he exclaimed. "Isinbayeva! I did not realise that. Crikey, my name's amongst legends...It's a shame I wasn't a legend myself, really." Maybe so, but there is still time yet for the 29-year-old comeback kid.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?