As we still miss bibs and start lines at the start of this year, Strava and Distance are launching the Segments Series, an invitation for the runners from all across France to strive for their best time on 12 segments throughout the country, until Feb 7th. To fuel your first stride, don’t miss our series of interviews that shines a spotlight on some of the most promising of the next generation of French athletes. We spent a day with them to get an idea of the effort and the sacrifices they make daily; to understand their motivations; their state of mind after an unprecedented year; and the dreams they want to make reality. These athletes took us to their favourite training grounds and showed us a segment that suits their strengths, their specialism, or their character – so you can measure yourself against the future of French athletics.
Come with us for Quentin Malriq’s ‘life segment’, as told by the Distance team, with photos by Anne Sophie Soudoplatoff.
Hi Quentin. How are you and where are you at in this strange season?
Hi! I’m all right. Training was difficult for me during lockdown, I got going again gently during the second month, then I went off on a training camp and now I’m doing OK. There have been a couple of hitches that meant I had to stop, but I’m trying not to get too hung up about it and keep going to the end of the season.
How did you begin in athletics?
That’s a bit of a long story. Six years ago my parents separated; I was living in the mountains at Saint Laurent du Pont and my mother moved here, to Grenoble, where I didn’t have many social connections – I didn’t really know anyone. I wasn’t bad at cross country in high school and my mother signed me up to a sports club so that I met some people my age. It quickly went well, and I’ve been taking part in athletics for five and a half years now. I saw I was good at the 1,500 and it all followed on quite logically from there.
What are your best qualities and your weaknesses? How did you choose your event?
My biggest weakness is my head. I have difficulty making myself suffer, particularly in competition. During training it usually goes well, I’m good in pretty much all areas; some days my head does me a disservice, but other days it can really be a positive. Last year I was injured all season and when I got to the national championships I wasn’t at all the favourite: that day my head really helped me out – I placed second and beat quite a few guys. It’s a weakness and a strength at the same time. I’ve done a little at every distance, but the 1,500 was the first where I really performed, and when that happens you don’t let go.
When did you realise that you had the potential, that you really stood out?
The first time was when I was 17. My record for the 3,000 was 9’20”, but the next year I raced against Anthony Pontier, Fabien Palcau and Louis Moreau – guys I wasn’t in the same league as. They went off the front and I said to myself, ‘I’ll go with them!’ That day I ran an 8’29” and put a minute into my PB, and people said, ‘That was something!’ The next year I was pretty good and the year after that I was French champion in the 1,500 and second in the 3,000. When I started getting those medals, people said, ‘He’s got something!’
Who are the most important people around you these days?
Firstly – and logically – there’s my family: my mother and father, my girlfriend who does triathlons. And then there’s my coach, my friends, my physio; I spend enormous amounts of time talking with my physio, we’re a great little team.
What has your sport taught you and how has that helped you grow?
I’ve grown a lot thanks to my sport. I didn’t have the same mentality before it. I wasn’t very self-confident, and when I started athletics the good results quickly helped me gain confidence and mature.
In what ways is your environment ideal for your training?
My environment is good because we’re a group of friends, when I go to training, it’s to go see my friends and I’m happy. Here (in Grenoble) you have everything you need to train right. When I want to go cycling, the mountains are close; there’s a track in a big park where I can run with no bother, and do my sessions surrounded by nature. There’s a great track with 13 lanes, so you’re not too tightly packed. You’re surrounded by mountains, it’s stunning.
How far would you like to go? Which races do you dream about? What would you like to have on your palmarès?
As far as possible – I’d probably say the Olympics, because everyone says the Olympics! The award I’d like on my palmarès is an Olympic medal, like most athletes, I suppose. It’s something that’s lodged in my mind: if it wasn’t there I would have stopped a long time ago. Whenever I do something, I don’t quit; I’ve had a lot of hiccups, lots of injuries, but as long as that flame is burning in my mind, I won’t quit.
What’s your favourite session, and your favourite place to train?
The place I like to train best is here in Grenoble. Sometimes when I’ve had enough I like going to Monte Gordo, I like Boulouris, but here is where I feel really good. I don’t really have a favourite workout. If I had to choose I’d say 1,600 – 400 and then intervals at 1,500m pace. I don’t like getting bored during training, I like a bit of everything. If I’m doing intervals for a 1,500 I like having done a tempo run two or three days before; when I’ve done too much threshold, I like running easily on the track. I do really like the track.
Tell us a bit about your segment then – what is unique about it and why does it represent you well?
I’m a 1,500 metre runner, so it’s a bit difficult to find a 1,500-metre segment, but in general good 1,500-metre runners are good over 1,000-metres. There’s a 1,000-metre segment on the Bachelard track, often guys really push it in the 1,500-metre races and fly through the 1,000. I don’t yet have the CR, it’s a good way of seeing what you can do.
Strava recently launched the ‘Local Legend’ achievement: where do people see you running most? Do you feel you’re already the most recognised runner in town?
I’ve not got that yet! It hasn’t been out long and as I’ve been pretty injured recently I haven’t run or trained much. I know that my buddy Ghislain Airiau was happy to become the Local Legend at Font Romeu [the French national altitude centre in the Pyrenees] over 400 metres, because guys like Mo Farah used to train there. Here I’ve never got it because I haven’t trained much recently, though I’ve been on the track a lot. I’ve done 45-minute runs in lane eight, it sends you round and round!
At your level, you obviously must take a lot of segment Course Records when training. Is this something you pay attention to and do you ever go CR hunting?
Yes, during the lockdown I got a lot – there’s a park next to my place called Paul Mistral, I had a little look at segments and went to take them. I don’t have them all but I’ve got quite a few – four or five around Parc Mistral. I like having a look to see if they’re ripe for the taking. I’m not going to go crazy and injure myself, but I have been in the middle of an easy run, seen a segment, and put the hammer down, that’s pretty fun!
So what advice do you have to beat your best time on your segment? Do you know anyone who could take it from you?
Train hard! There’s quite a few in Grenoble who could get it, I think, because the CR is 2’30” [for a kilometre]. I don’t know what I’d run today, but in my group there’s the two Airiau brothers (Ghislain and Gatien), Esteban, Fabien, who do the 800 in 1’50”, so they could run a 2’30”. If I introduced them to it, there’s a good chance they’d try to get one up on me and one day I’d get that Strava email…
Do you have an suggestions for clubs or athletes to follow on Strava?
There’s a club here called Strava Grenoble that I created, with a lot of people in it – I think there are 1,000 members. I just made it for a laugh with my friends, but it’s doing well. I’m also going to say Ghislain Airiau, because he’s a good friend of mine, and [the pro cyclist] Lilian Calmejane, I look at his activities a lot.