Sebastian Frey: "I've Never Experienced Anything Like It"

Sebastian Frey: “I’ve never experienced anything like it”

Austrian champion reflects on his Night of the 10,000m PBs experience and life as part of OAC Europe

Sebastian Frey

Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics during the winter, Sebastian Frey is now placing a full focus on his athletics education. The 21-year-old Austrian is a member of On Athletics Club (OAC) Europe and, following an indoor season that saw him clock PBs over 3000m and 5000m (the latter being a national record of 13:23.39), he is itching to get his outdoor schedule off and running.


With a summer ahead that includes the European Championships and Olympics, there are no shortage of incentives for the Balkan 5000m champion who has progressed well under the watchful eye of coach Thomas Dreißigacker.

He puts much of his development down to that relationship with the German, not to mention the support of On, the Swiss brand that has unveiled a 360 Athlete Support initiative that helps their athletes in areas such as physical and mental preparation, health and recovery, finance planning, personal branding and media, plus personal and career development for life beyond the track.

Another of Frey’s breakthrough performances came at last year’s Night of the 10,000m PBs in London, which is now part of the On Track Nights series. His time of 28:27.86 was an Austrian U23 record and, though his schedule won’t include a visit to Highgate this year, the event has made a lasting impact.

We caught up with him at the OAC in St Moritz to learn more about his distance running development.

How did you first become involved in athletics?

Growing up, I loved football. I played a lot and was always the one who ran across the field from start to finish – front, back, across. I was always really, really athletic but I wasn’t really pushed by my parents and I was just doing it for myself.

I always wanted to run. I always wanted to do something. I always had energy.

In primary school we started to do these kids runs and I was all always really good. I could win a few and my primary school teacher told me I should go to a high school for sports, which I did, and then I started training more and more. Now I’m here. Fast forward!


So the football matches got fewer and the running became more regular?

I wanted to join the local football club but my parents always refused because of the parents who want to force their kids into training. They were never like that. They always said we don’t want to be on the sidelines with these parents on the weekend.

I disagreed with it at the time but luckily they said it and now I’m running. It was also pretty fun winning those kids races!

Who were your sporting idols?

Cristiano Ronaldo was my favourite footballer and then later David Alaba, who is a national hero in Austria, was one I looked up to. Now I don’t really have an idol anymore. Growing up, I saw the Rio Olympics, I saw Mo Farah winning and I was inspired. I thought: “How is this possible? How can some run so quickly and do it four times, winning four gold medals?”. I hope that some day I can be the role model to the younger runners. That’s my goal.

You had a great indoor season, running PBs over 3000m and 5000m. Had you felt that coming?

I finished my studies in October and from then on I had so much more free time, which I [previously] invested into studying or attending, and I can use it now for sleeping, which is number one for recovery! That was the big change, which really helped me progress as an athlete. I felt that I was just getting stronger and stronger week by week, so I expected to run these times.

I’m really looking forward to the outdoor season because I progressed again and I hope to run quicker.


What is it like being part of OAC Europe?

We have a lot of fun. We joke around. Because we’ve been getting closer to competitions and reducing training, then more energy becomes free so we joke around more and do more nonsense. It’s a very collaborative approach [with Thomas], which I really appreciate because we all have ideas, we all have inputs and he takes them up, evaluates them and maybe buys them. If they’re garbage, maybe not! I like that approach.

What are your ambitions for the year?

Run quick, reduce my times and maybe qualify for a major championships. Mainly it’s just to progress and become better and better every day, every week. That’s the big goal.

Is it key, then, not to look too far ahead and only worry about what’s next?

I think you should always look to tomorrow. ‘What can I do better? How can I improve?’ Then the fast times will come. I think, if you always focus too much on ‘What splits do I need to hit? What do I need to run?’ then you burn out maybe. If you always try to improve, then good times will also improve. That’s the philosophy that I carry.

You won’t be competing there this year but you experienced the Night of the 10,000m PBs last May. What did you think of it?

The crowd… I’ve never experienced something like that. The people in the tents, you couldn’t hear your steps. You couldn’t hear your breathing, you could hear nothing but the crowd screaming, which was incredible. After the race, my mood was so positive. It’s really cool that we have such joy in running, which I think will progress even more over the next couple of years.

We are now seeing a running boom, with more people getting into running, and also younger people. I think it will develop even more.


When you’re hit with that noise and excitement. Is it something that it takes a while to adjust to?

I just felt like I became really light and like I got carried through the tent. I really loved it. I think it’s one of the races I enjoy most because of the crowd, because of the things around the race. We all know the boring races with just five people there – maybe parents, maybe grandparents – but this is a whole different thing.

I would have liked to race there this year, but we had different plans so I’ll probably be back next year.

Highgate was an event created for the athletes. Does it feel that way as a competitor?

One hundred per cent. It’s really different to a normal track meeting. I almost felt like the race was over so quickly because there was so much going on. The 25 laps just flew.

From your side, it must also help of course that On are so heavily in the event now?

That’s the icing on the cake that it’s from the brand I’m supported by and I think they’re going in the right direction. I think they’re paving the path for other brands to follow.

With the Athlete 360 programme we have so much where they really tried to help us and not really only take us as athletes, but just really look after us. It feels like they’re really taking care of you and supporting you.

You always have someone to talk to and I think benefits us immensely.


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