Ronnie O’Sullivan has swapped potting balls for pounding pavements in lockdown, writes Will Jennings.
The five-time world champion has been working hard to keep fit during the elongated snooker lay-off, rediscovering his passion for running after over a decade away from the pastime.
The Rocket has stormed to back-to-back World Championship titles since then but struggled for his usual Crucible fluency in recent times, failing to progress past the quarter-finals in the previous five renewals of the Sheffield showpiece.
O’Sullivan normally wants the run of the balls but it’s the conventional form that’s been keeping him busy during the break.
“I’ve got back into my running during lockdown,” the 44-year-old said.
“I hadn’t really run seriously for about ten years, and was running my best times back in 2009.
“Since then other priorities took over and that went on the back-burner - I still enjoyed my fitness and training, but nothing quite like what running used to do.
“So I’ve rediscovered that love for running and that’s something I want to try and continue for as long as I possibly can, so I’ve been listening to a lot of running podcasts.
“There’s running and there’s jogging - I don’t ever want to be a jogger, so for me, running is running at a nice pace where I’m able to run at a seven minute mile for six, seven OR eight miles.
“It’s taken me about ten or 11 weeks to slowly get back into it - when I get up in the morning I don’t look forward to going for a run but once I’m five or ten minutes into it I think ‘this is great!’
“Afterwards I feel fantastic and that’s how I feel through the day, so the benefits that you get through running are huge.”
The 36-time ranking event champion has endured a mixed season on the snooker circuit, reaching the final of the Northern Ireland Open but failing to progress past the last four of a ranking event since.
O’Sullivan did not qualify for the recent Tour Championship after finishing 18th in the one-year rankings at the cut-off date, also succumbing to a 3-0 defeat against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham in the Championship League group winners’ stage.
Ronnie O'Sullivan not hiding his thoughts when it comes to playing behind closed doors snooker— Sporting Life (@SportingLife) July 23, 2020
What does it mean for him and the World Championship?
He goes into this year’s Betfred World Championship ranked No.6 in the world, bidding to topple Judd Trump’s hegemony after the reigning world champion’s thrilling season.
The Rocket knows there’s more to life than snooker, however, and - given his newfound passion for exercise - says he’d relish the challenge of taking on a marathon when his time at the table comes to an end.
“That would be great [to run a marathon or half marathon], and everyone loves to see someone out of their comfort zone,” he added.
“I think people would love to see me try and put myself through the Great North Run or the London Marathon.
“Maybe that’s somewhere along the line where I get to have a go at that, and see if I can get a decent time.”
Live snooker returns to Eurosport and the Eurosport app. Watch the World Championship and qualifying from 21st July – 16th August.