News & Updates

16 November 2022 • Track and Field

Oakley competes in NZ 10,000m Champs motivated by World Cross Country

Julian Oakley hopes the NZ 10,000m Championships can act as a springboard to the 2023 World Cross Country Championships. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich).

National senior men’s mile and 3000m champion Julian Oakley hopes to climax an experimental racing year by banking the World Cross Country Championships performance standard at the New Zealand 10,000m Championships in Wellington on Saturday.

The former World Indoor 3000m finalist has in more recent times changed his focus by gradually stepping up in distance. Twelve months ago on his debut over the 25-lap distance he triumphed in the New Zealand 10,000m Challenge at Newtown Park and this year he has competed three times over the half marathon distance, setting a PB of 1:03:49 on his 21.1km debut to win the Reboot Marathon.

Now the Athletics Tauranga athlete is turning his focus on the national 10,000m title and he is looking forward to the prospect of potentially running for New Zealand at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia next February.

“My number one motivation is to get that performance standard time of 29:45 for the World Cross,” Julian explains. “I achieved that time last year (at the NZ 10,000m Challenge, recording 29:39.73) but the World Cross got pushed back another year because of Covid, so this is another chance to have a crack at it.

“The World Cross has been on my radar for a while,” he adds. “The champs are so close being staged in Aussie and as I’ve never been to a World Cross at either a junior or senior level, so it is big motivation.”  

Julian, 29, is a vastly experienced performer having spent a large chunk of his senior career based in the US where he attended Providence College, Rhode Island. Returning home to New Zealand during the pandemic, the Kiwi has over the past couple of seasons featured as one of the leading and most consistent endurance performers, but the switch to longer distances – particularly the half marathon – was a step into the unknown.

Training around 150km a week and introducing slightly more endurance building workouts into his weekly regime – which includes one hour and 45-minute runs and more volume to his tempo runs – the Ray Tracey-coached athlete made an impressive half marathon debut at the Reboot Marathon in May.

Yet his plans to run quicker at the Gold Coast Marathon in July were derailed by an untimely bout of flu – and he placed 14th in 1:06:09.

“I got sick about a week before, but although running at my normal race pace I started struggling from about 10km,” he admits. “But despite the result, it was cool to run a big race on a flat, fast course with tens of thousands of other people.”

Julian, who also won national 1500m and 5000m silver medals earlier this year, then took a break to attend a wedding in the US – and faced an unexpected health scare after picking up a blood clot on the 16-hour long flight from New Zealand to New York.

“I could feel my leg the next day was really throbbing, and I knew something was wrong,” he explains. “It was scary for while, although thankfully it turned out to be nothing too serious.”

The equities dealer, however, has since made a successful return for training and he was satisfied with his performance to win the Auckland Half Marathon last month in wet conditions, clocking a time of 1:06:27.

“I wasn’t too sure how I would go,” he admits. “It was drizzling throughout the race and the first half of the race was very tough, running through the hills on the North Shore and over the bridge and it broke my rhythm. The last 5km were probably my fastest of the race, but although it was a tough course, it was great to experience.”

An athlete with a rich and varied cross country background, particularly from his time in the US, where he competed three times at the ultra-competitive NCAA Cross Country Championships, he would love to further expand his cross country experiences with an appearance on the global stage in Bathurst. However, before he can potentially line up for New Zealand, he fully acknowledges he needs to impress selectors by achieving the performance standard.

So what does he hope to achieve on Saturday at the Agency Group 10,000m Festival?

“It is hard to know,” he adds. “If I was running a half marathon, I’d have a goal in mind but for the 10,000m on the track I’m not too sure. I hope to get that (performance standard) time and see how I feel. Oli Chignell paced the race so well last year to 8km and hopefully he can do so again.”

***The men’s and women’s elite races at the 2022 New Zealand 10,000m Championships will be livestreamed from 6.15pm on Saturday (19 Nov) via the Agency Group 10,000m YouTube page