When Reece Prescod turned up at the UK Athletics trials last year, he was 8kg overweight after bingeing on fast food and cake from Deliveroo while enjoying epic eight-hour Call of Duty sessions deep into the night. Despite the 26-year-old’s highly unorthodox preparations, he still made the Tokyo Olympics, only to false start in the 100m semi-finals. There was also a gnawing sense that Britain’s most talented male sprinter was letting his extraordinary talent seep away.
A year on, Prescod is a changed man. As he heads to Manchester again for the UK trials for next month’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon he has sold his PlayStation 5, swapped fast food for cooking at home with Prep Kitchen, and worked hard to turn belly flab into lean muscle.
The results have been startling. Last month, he ran a personal-best 9.93sec at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, despite going into a notable headwind, which put him within a stride’s length of Linford Christie’s 29-year-old British record of 9.87. He believes there is a lot more in the tank. “I feel this is a reset,”he says. “A reset for Reece.”
The key to becoming fitter, happier and more productive, he says, was selling his computer. “It was quite a sad day. But with Call of Duty, I had to ask myself why I was playing it? Was I actually enjoying it or was I just upset about everything that was going on – and wanted to drown myself and just play games and eat food and stuff like that?
“I had to face a harsh reality with myself. I was using the PS5 to distract me.”
With commendable honesty, Prescod also admits that while he was talented enough to break 10 seconds for 100m four times and win European championship silver in 2018, he was not fit enough to win gold at a major championships. Being unable to race for two years after suffering a serious hamstring injury didn’t help, but nor did his fondness for going “full sesh” on nights out. When asked what he drinks now, he says: “3.5 litres of water.”
“As you get older, your body doesn’t work the same. When I was 19 or 20 I could go out, wake up the next day, and be ready. I was basically like a Duracell battery. Whereas now if I don’t get eight hours of sleep my eyes are red and tired. As everyone says, I’m a bit of an old man now. But I think the old man lifestyle is helping.”
Prescod has also started seeing a therapist and a sports psychologist for his mental health – he says he has an addictive personality – and to improve his performance. “I’ve always had this mentality of like: ‘Just deal with it or just kind of throw it under the carpet,’” he says. “So it has been challenging to open up and talk about things.”
“Meanwhile, for recovery, I go to cryotherapy twice, three times a week. And I use the wellness centres as well, such as Repose Space in Kensington and spend time in saunas and spas too. It’s about those small 1% gains. If I am training better, eating better, sleeping better and my mentality is better, I should get better over time.”
Prescod also credits his new coach, Marvin Rowe, for telling him a few hard truths, keeping him accountable with regular weigh-ins and making him fit enough to double up over 100m and 200m.
“Marvin is building a stronger Reece, a more robust Reece,” he says. “So when it comes down to the championships and you have to run round after round I’ll be ready. The talent is still there. I’ve just got to bring the best out myself now.”
He has always talked a good game off the track. This year, Prescod’s many fans will hope he finally delivers on it too.
Prescod is just one of many top British athletes competing in the trials, which run from Friday to Sunday, with the world 200m champion, Dina Asher-Smith, in the 100m and Olympic medallists Laura Muir and Josh Kerr in the women’s and men’s 1500m.
The most intriguing race of the weekend comes in the men’s 800m where the fastest man in the world this year, Max Burgin, faces strong competition from Elliot Giles, Dan Rowden and a host of others for the three places in Eugene.