News & Updates

30 November 2023 • High Performance

French makes marathon debut with sights set on Olympic qualifying

Camille French took heart from her 5000m victory at the Sir Graeme Douglas International presented by Harcourts Cooper & Co in March. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich).

Tokyo Olympian Camille French is all set for a trip into the unknown on Sunday night (NZ time) as she makes her marathon debut on the streets of Valenica.

The 33-year-old mother to 17-month-year-old Sienna is relishing the challenge and has set herself the ambitious aim of securing the Olympic entry standard mark of 2:26:50 in what will be her maiden race over the 42.2km distance.

“I want to put together a good race, but there are so many components to running a fast time like fuelling right, finding a good group to run with, so it is really hard to know what the outcome will be.

“A lot of things can happen between the start and finish line but the goal time of 2:26:50 is what I’m for.”

French (formerly Buscomb) has had quite the journey since competing in the 5000m and 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. In June last year she gave birth to her first child, Sienna, and in January married long-term partner, Cameron French, a New Zealand representative in the 400m hurdles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Stopping all running at seven months pregnant she then re-started running again eight weeks after giving birth and she admits to initially finding her return a huge struggle.

“It was a slow progression back,” she says. “At first, I couldn’t run at 5:30 per kilometre pace and then over time I got under 5:00 pace (per kilometre). I definitely didn’t rush it. Cam was working massive weeks of 60-70 hours a week starting a new job and I mainly ran on a treadmill while Sienna napped.”

After about four-and-a-half months back training she ran better than expected to record 1:22:35 for fourth at the Auckland Half Marathon before registering 16:34.08 to place fourth over 5000m at the Night of 5s in Auckland last December – a time, understandably, well short of her PB of 14:58.59 for the distance set when placing 12th at the 2019 World Athletics Championships.

Following Camille’s marriage in January, she finally felt she was in a position to step up her training to the next level. She returned to track training, where two-time Olympian Dianne Rodger often took on the childcare duties while Camille racked up the kilometres.

Competing at the Porritt Classic in February she received a pleasant surprise to run “better than expected” on her home track in Hamilton, recording 4:31.51 to place sixth in the 1500m. Since then, her family and friends have really stepped up and helped with the babysitting, which has allowed her to reintroduce double training days into her training programme – set by her Australian coach, Nic Bideau.

In March she was encouraged to record 16:14.35 to win over 5000m at the Sir Graeme Douglas International presented by Harcourts Cooper & Co in Auckland while another key staging post in her return arrived after winning bronze at the New Zealand Road Mile Championships in Rotorua.

“While I didn’t perform as I would have liked, and I didn’t push the pace enough, I felt really good. Way more like a runner again,” recalls Camille.

Stepping up to 150km in preparation for the Gold Coast Half Marathon in July, the Hamilton City Hawks athlete produced an outstanding run to dismantle her previous best over the 21.1km distance by the best part of four minutes, recording 1:09:58 for fifth.

“We talked about running sub-70 but I realised that would be a lot of hard work. That goal gave me a really good purpose and I was rapt by how I went in the race,” she adds.

When identifying a location to make her debut marathon – Valencia in Spain, situated on the Mediterranean Sea – ticked all the boxes.

“A number of people from my training group (with Nic Bideau) have raced well there including Sinead Diver who set an Australian record of 2:21:34 there last year. Valencia was also somewhere we could travel as a family which was another motivation. It also very good pacemakers and it is a race with incredible depth (in terms of performance).”

Delighted with her preparation, which has included training up to 160km per week and long runs of up to 37km, Camille is cautiously optimistic of a good performance and proud of her efforts of making it to the start line.”

“It has been a challenge to carry out the weekly training, making sure I get enough rest and the right fuel on board and helping make the family function. It has been full on, but a big goal has been making sure I’m committed and focused on each session and when the hiccups arrive making sure they do not get on your way.”

More on the Valencia Marathon here