Hanne is a 23-year old Belgian athlete who rose to fame after getting silver at the European Under-20 Championships in 2015 and bronze at the World Under-20 Championships in 2016, both in the heptathlon. She qualified for the World Championships in London 2017 and Doha 2019. In Doha, she finished 11th. In between, she also broke the Belgian indoor record long-jump. Known as the girl with the smile, even during the concluding 800m of a heptathlon, it seemed like nothing could bother her.
And then suddenly, at the end of September 2020, a blog post… burn out… no more heptathlons… switch to 800m and 400m.
We are not going to delve deep into this as you can read the story on her website.
We contacted Hanne and asked her a few questions regarding her switch, her love for horses and some tips for beginning recreational runners.
Hanne’s strongest events during the heptathlon were always the long-jump and to a lesser extent the 800m. For many, it was not only a surprise she would leave the heptathlon behind, but also prefer the 800m over long-jump.
I chose the 400m and 800m over long-jump because I don’t need to think that much about technique during running. The heptathlon required too much thinking. I felt restricted during the field events because of the technical aspect and I couldn’t use my speed and power in an optimal way. I excelled from a young age in long-jump so I had to think less during the events, but small details (a few millimetres) can turn an almost perfect, long jump into a foul jump. But I might add in a long-jump now and then.
The 400m and 800m are two of the most challenging track events, with the lactic acid shooting out of your ears. The obvious question then is, what is so attractive about it?
Run as fast as you can without thinking and at the same time explore your limits and push the boundaries. “Forget all your worries and run like the wind”.
We as Europeans still stand a chance in the middle distance against the African athletes, who have a specific muscle fibre for long-distance. But then again, you will encounter the Americans and Jamaicans on the 400m.
Less than a year to go to Tokyo and with 1.59.50 as the qualification time, it will be a real challenge to make it for the 800m. But there is also the 4x400m relay, the Belgian Cheetahs. And still being only 23, Paris2024 will put you right in your prime.
Besides the time limit (which only about 15 women will reach) there is also the possibility to qualify through the world ranking, Your 5 best results in internationally acclaimed races count, both your placing and your time. Tokyo will be difficult, but not impossible. My focus is completely on Paris2024.
Over the 400m, I ran the 3rd time in Belgium this year, so I hope to make it to the 4x400m relay team and make it to Tokyo one way or another. Participating in the Olympics has been a lifelong dream.
Horses… everyone who has seen you on social media, knows you have a special connection with them. It seems they are your ultimate distraction from running and studying. Are there any other interests that keep you relaxed?
Horses…. They play a crucial role in my spare time. They bring me tranquillity and reflect my emotions. I even started a course in equicoaching.
Besides horses, I love to go for walks with my dog Gloria. The rest of my rare spare time is filled with cooking, reading (which I tend to do more lately), listening to music and watching movies. Of course, I love to meet up with friends. And then there is fashion, so shopping trips are also on my agenda.
At the same time, I’m doing my master’s degree in “Remedial Education” at the University of Ghent, but I’m able to spread it out over multiple years (40 credits instead of 60).
I love humour. I try to make people laugh, bring joy in their life and always have a positive mindset. I help people as much as I can.
Which advice would you give to beginning, recreational runners, taken from your experience as an elite athlete?
When you’re new to running, running slow feels difficult, but take your time and find a comfortable, easy pace. As it can become boring, mix it up with different sessions now and then. Add some stabilization exercises, speed work, or a yoga session now and then.
Running quickly turns into an addiction, don’t overdo it. And if you don’t feel like running, skip a day.
If possible, join a group or run with others as it makes running even more enjoyable. Don’t forget running isn’t the only thing in the world, do other things to enjoy your life too.
I almost forgot about food. This is an important aspect. Stack up on carbs and proteins before and after runs.
We would like to thank Hanne for taking the time to talk to us and for inspiring young, up and coming athletes as well as people who are new to running.
Keep the smile and laughter going!
Some other interesting links
Hanne’s Athletics Club: https://vlierzelesportief.be/ (in Dutch)
Flemish Athletics Federation: https://www.atletiek.be/ (in Dutch)
Hanne’s World Athletics profile: https://worldathletics.org/athletes/belgium/hanne-maudens-14450529
Belgian Olympic Team: https://teambelgium.be/nl/ (in Dutch and French)
Images courtesy of Hanne Maudens
By Gert Rijkx, founder and head coach of QuadraCoach. Former athlete and certified athletics coach with over 25 years of experience in coaching, training and motivating runners of all levels