British 800m runner has been wearing Vaporfly as slippers around the house to ease Achilles problems this summer but has still run 1:43.85 going into Budapest
Last summer Max Burgin arrived at the World Championships as the fastest man in the world at 800m. His season’s best of 1:43.52 counted for nothing in Eugene, though, as he could not make the start line due to a blood clot in his calf.
A genetic predisposition called factor V Leiden made him susceptible to it happening during his flight to the United States and, in his absence, Emmanuel Korir of Kenya won gold in an underwhelming final in 1:43.71.
Burgin did not watch the final live. “I was too bitter,” he says.
Instead, he was reduced to hobbling around Eugene on crutches and, when they began to bruise his armpits, he was given a mobility scooter.
Due to the clot he was unable to fly home with his GB team-mates and instead spent some time at the Nike headquarters in Portland before eventually travelling back to Halifax to start training for 2023.
His problems have continued this year with inflamed Achilles tendons which prevented him racing until the UK Championships in July. There, in Manchester, he employed his trademark front-running tactics, passing the bell inside 50 seconds before fading to third and dramatically falling to the ground in the closing metres behind winner Dan Rowden and runner-up Ben Pattison in 1:45.16.
Showing his talent, two weeks later he won the 800m at the London Athletics Meet in 1:43.85. The Achilles issues have continued to bother him, though.
“I’ve not quite had the build-up as I did last year,” he said on the eve of this week’s World Championships. “Managing my Achilles stopped me racing as early as I wanted to. I’m not in the same comfortable place that I was last year where I was the world leader. But I felt good in London when I ran 1:43. I wasn’t too sick either afterwards and was able to do interviews and everything, which was a good sign.”
He has not had Achilles issues prior to this year either. “It’s frustrating to say the least,” he says. “One problem is sorted out then another reappears.”
To help ease the pressure on his Achilles, he explains: “I’ve been wearing Vaporflys as slippers. I was recommended to keep my Achilles propped up.”
How much have the problems affected his training? “My track sessions have largely survived but steady runs and auxiliary sessions like hills and tempo stuff have been compromised. I’ve been doing cross training and aqua jogging to reduce the time on my feet and help with the inflammation. It’s definitely not optimal but hopefully it will do and when I get to the off season I hope to get it properly sorted.
“It’s not ‘damage’ in the tendon so it’s unlikely to need surgery. I just need to find out what’s triggering the inflammation and that’s not really something I can do mid-season.”
Like 2022, the 2023 World Championships features a fairly wide open men’s 800m. Burgin agrees. “There are better top times this year,” he says, “but you can make a case for a number of athletes who can win it. In the final it could be anyone’s race.
“There isn’t really any pressure on me this year. I can go out there with no expectations and see what happens. I think I’m capable of getting to the final and maybe even getting on the podium. But it’s hard to make bold predictions when I’ve only run two races this year.
“If I can get through the heats and into the final then maybe I can make a name for myself.”
» The men’s 800m heats start on Tuesday evening in Budapest
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