Will who? was the phrase on many people’s lips recently when a relative unknown took both the Canadian 1,500m championship in Montreal and the Pan Am Games bronze medal. But get to know the name, because this could be just the beginning for Will Paulson.
The 24-year-old has dual Canadian-British citizenship, thanks to his French-Canadian mom and British dad. Paulson was born in the UK and grew up in Tetbury, a small town in Gloucestershire, before going to Princeton for his undergrad in biology. Paulson is just finishing up a one-year master’s program at Arizona State University in Phoenix, in the last year of his NCAA eligibility. After competing in the NCAA for five years, he managed to stay healthy and achieved his best year yet, finishing fifth in the indoor mile and fifth in the outdoor 1,500m.
“I’ve always had very close links with Canada and Quebec in particular,” Paulson says. “All my mom’s side of the family still live there… to this day I only speak French to my siblings and my mom and English to my dad, which is a bit of a strange situation… My mom’s always tried to make sure I appreciated the culture and, obviously, learned the language… Last year I joined the club at Laval University and competed for them at the Canadian XC Championships.” (Paulson finished 10th in the senior men’s race, representing Laval.)
— Athletics Canada (@AthleticsCanada) August 8, 2019
“Cross-country has always been part of my training for track, and it was a really cool opportunity to race in Canada and get to know people a bit more,” says Paulson, adding that the experience of representing Canada at the Pan Am Games (his first meet wearing a Team Canada singlet) has also been a great opportunity to meet other athletes and get advice from some of the more senior athletes, many of whom have put in some “brilliant performances,” in his words.
Paulson won the 1,500m at nationals in 3:48.75, and his bronze-medal finish in Lima was seven seconds faster. He says the biggest factor in being able to put together such a successful season has been avoiding injury and overtraining, giving him a full year from base work starting in August last year through to the important workouts that prepared him for the big championship races in Austin, Montreal and Lima.
And how did he avoid injury and overtraining? “By making sure I didn’t do too much mileage,” he says. “… I’ve come to realize I’m not going to run any more than 60 to 65 miles (around 100K) per week at any point in the year, which is… fairly low mileage, and then also making sure I did the small things, like rolling out and stretching, which I definitely had to get better at this year, as well as incorporating a bit more cross-training than I used to. So if I was feeling tired, I’d hit the bike or swim or something when I took a day off from running.”
Paulson plans to return to North America to train after spending the next couple of months at home in the UK and traveling to races in Europe.