Ben Snaith is on the fast track to one-lap success
Sprinter enjoys successful 2017
Breakthrough years can create dilemmas on what happens next.
If you meet all your goals then you have to raise the bar, but do you set a standard that is achievable or do you stretch yourself to attempt to make a bigger jump?
That is the conundrum facing Ben Snaith.
With a gold medal as part of Great Britain’s 4x400m relay at the European Under-23 Athletics Championships, which included a 45-second split; an appearance in the individual 400m for England at the Manchester Invitational; and a personal best in the 400m, the 22-year-old Bottisham sprinter can look back on 2017 with pride.
“It’s a good season and I’ve learnt lots of new things,” said 22-year-old Snaith. “Overall, I think I’ve progressed this year which I’m very happy with.
“I’ve learned about tactics, what training works for me, a lot more with the strength and conditioning.
“I figured out what suits me best because as a 400m specialist, certain race plans suit them better depending on how quick they are or how strong they are.
“It was lots of trial and error really, and I figured out my better plan in the end.
“I dropped a big PB at the senior nationals in Bedford so I was happy with that. Obviously I got to go to Poland and ran a 45-second split, so it’s been a big season.
“I was not expecting a 45 split because before that I hadn’t run under 46 seconds in an individual race. I was struggling to get a good competition because I was winning every race by a second and a half and being stuck on 47, so it was quite a shock to drop that in a race.”
And Snaith puts part of that development to a more relaxed approach to his racing, which has come about by working with sports psychologist Helen Davis.
“She has really helped me, working my confidence,” he said. “I used to get really nervous before a 400m because I got scared of the suffering afterwards as it’s so painful.
“She has made me get past that now so I don’t feel anywhere near as nervous as I used to, and she has been really helpful towards that.
“I would recommend all athletes should think about the mental side of it as much as the physical side of it as well.
“She has been really helpful at keeping my confidence high and just mentally focusing and preparing. I do not feel anywhere near as nervous or worried about other competitors or about the race itself.”
To make the next step, Snaith is now looking to get into stronger races in the league season.
It is for that reason that he will be switching clubs, leaving Enfield, who have been relegated from British Athletics League, Division Two, to move to Newham & Essex Beagles.
And he may have to look abroad to see what opportunities exist to compete in Europe.
“Two seasons ago, Enfield were in the top division and we had good competition so I was racing against people like Rabah Yousif and some good athletes,” said Snaith.
“But we lost our manager and we’ve slowly declined down the leagues. We were in Division Two so I wasn’t getting that quality of competition, and we’ve been relegated again.
“I can’t really run for them anymore because it would be even slower times. I’m moving to Newham & Essex Beagles because they were looking for a 400m athlete to run in their top division.
“I was competing against Newham & Essex two or three seasons ago when we were in the top division so I know a lot of the guys in the league.
“It should be a better competition than I’ve had this year.”
Snaith does find himself a bit in limbo land as while he is not getting enough competition at home, he is also not yet getting the invitations to go and compete abroad.
But to just go and race in open meetings puts a huge pressure on finances.
“A lot of top times on Power of 10 are done abroad, so it’s always good when you do run a good time over here,” said Snaith.
“It’s hard to find and get invited to top races. But I think a lot of the guys find open events. And they tend to get decent times abroad.”
However, it is overseas targets that could come to the forefront of Snaith’s mind in 2018, with the World Indoor Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships all on the horizon next year.
Snaith was just outside the relay squad that competed at the world championships for Great Britain this year, but he did feel that selection may come just a bit too soon for him for the Commonwealths on Australia’s Gold Coast in April, and so it proved as he missed out on a spot in the England relay squad.
But after his performance in the gold-medal winning team in Poland, it is the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham in March that may be the first aim.
“After Poland, a lot of people’s coaches came up to me and said to me because of my 200m leg speed I would be good indoors for 400m and 4x400m relay, but I’ve never been that much of a big fan of indoors,” he said.
“It’s just something to think about really, whether we target indoors.”
And a place in the relay team for the European Athletics Championships in Berlin in August could be more within reach.
“It’s jam-packed right at the start of the season and I doubt people will do world indoors and Commonwealths because they will be right before each other,” said Snaith.
“And then there are European outdoors as well, which if I don’t make either of the other two I would like to target, especially for the relay. That would be my more realistic target.”