Peter Bol on Formula 1, Olympic prep and why you've got to believe it to achieve it

Peter Bol on Formula 1, Olympic prep and why you’ve got to believe it to achieve it

After enduring a year that would have broken most people, the surprise star of the Tokyo Olympics and Ralph Lauren Fragrances campaign face is feeling relaxed, confident and determined ahead of the Paris Games. As he tells Men’s Health at this week’s Australian Grand Prix, that’s when he’s at his best

PETER BOL KNOWS every step of his perfect race. He’s seen it often enough in his mind’s eye. The gun goes off and the 800m star is feeling confident as he strides to a position near the front of the pack, perhaps second or third place. He lets someone else set the pace, hitting the 400m mark at 50 seconds. Bol will pass the halfway mark a half second later at 50.5 seconds, still feeling relaxed. Then, with 300m to go, Bol makes his move, taking the lead around 250m out from the line. “With 100 to go, I’m way ahead,” he says. And with about 20 meters to go, he allows himself to look back, sees that no one can catch him and switches off as he crosses the line, jubilant, relieved, and yes, vindicated.

Why does he switch off over that last little stretch? It’s simple. Bol wants to enjoy this moment. He’s certainly earned it.

Bol is here in Melbourne for a different kind of race, the Australian F1 GP, though it’s one the 800m runner believes does have parallels with his sport of athletics. “The pressure, number one,” says Bol, who is chatting to MH here in the paddock today in his capacity as a Ralph Lauren Fragrances campaign face, alongside the likes of AFL star Bailey Smith, boxer Harry Garside, NBL trailblazer Isaac Humphries, actor Cameron Robbie and model Lucas White-Smith. “The pressure to compete in front of so many people and there’s so much on the line. And also athletics and the GP seem like individual sports, but there’s a massive team behind it, and every single team member has to do their part for success, whether that’s the mechanics and for us, our physios and the coaches. You’ve got to get guidance from everywhere to succeed on the track, and so do they.”

Another similarity, Bol points out, is that like F1 drivers, middle distance runners need to put it all together on the big day. That’s when you need to run that perfect race. “[That’s] the hardest part, because you can do all the training, all the preparation, everyone can be on, but it’s on the day that you need to be on.”

As we chat to Bol today, he appears confident and relaxed, qualities, he says, he looks for a fragrance to lend him and one of the reasons he was drawn to Ralph Lauren Fragrances. “It’s such an iconic brand that reflects style and confidence, which is something that I try to achieve in my day-to-day lifestyle,” says the 30-year-old, who recently got engaged. “I actually like the Polo Red. I think it ticks all my boxes and the confidence that I feel while wearing it; it’s definitely the one for me.”


Ralph Lauren Fragrances campaign faces Peter Bol and Harry Garside.


Relaxed, confident and free also happens to be the state of mind in which Bol runs at his best and one he’ll seek to inhabit as prepares for Paris 2024 in July. “I feel pretty free at the moment, so it’s a good sign, and I think the goal is to try and maintain that on the day when it actually does matter.”

If the runner had an edge to him going into the Games, you could hardly blame him. Last year was a horrible one for Bol, who last January was provisionally suspended by Athletics Australia after a failed out-of-competition doping test, which showed signs of synthetic EPO. This was later found to be a false positive, as Bol had argued all along. His suspension was lifted in February last year, though Sport Integrity Australia continued its investigation, eventually clearing Bol of any wrongdoing in August.

The investigation hung over Bol’s head for much of the year and effectively ruined his season. He had a disappointing return to athletics at the world championships in Budapest in August, finishing fifth in his heat. He did, however, manage to run two Olympic qualifying times and now needs to finish in the top three at the national titles in Adelaide next month to book his ticket on the plane to Paris.

Looking ahead, he feels that more people are pulling for him these days. And he’s certainly a bigger name than he was three years ago when he burst onto the national spotlight with a fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Games. Then Australia learned a little of his story. How he and his family fled from their homeland due to the Sudanese civil war when Bol was four years old. How they lived in Egypt for four years before eventually arriving in Toowoomba when Bol was eight years old.

The family would later move to Perth, where Bol started at St Norbert College on a basketball scholarship. Through his teens he nurtured dreams of playing in the NBA and it wasn’t until he was 17 – an astonishingly late start for a pro athlete – that a teacher persuaded him to focus on athletics instead.


Image l @pbol800


He would compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016, where he bowed out in the heats, but by the time Bol made it to Tokyo in 2021, he was a far more seasoned and tactically astute runner. After his fourth place in Tokyo, he won the silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

These days Bol is a deserving household name, something that’s evident here at the track this week. “You get recognised so much now, even funnily enough, when you go for a run and you’re mid-session and someone asks you for a photo, which didn’t happen really before,” he says. “So it’s going to be really cool. Not just representing yourself and your country and your community, but now you’ve got all these extra people behind you.”

Right now Bol is in the midst of a heavy training schedule. A hamstring injury hampered the beginning of his season but now appears to be behind him. Bol’s currently running around 70km a week, which includes one speed session. He’s also doing two gym sessions that are heavy on Olympic lifting, along with one “party session” and two easy runs, which comprise 30 to 50 minutes at 4-minute to 4.30 per kilometre pace. Finally, there are three more running sessions that include an 800m session, a treadmill session, and another session “just to kind of feel it up for endurance”. It is, he agrees, “hectic”.

Rounding it out are what Bol calls the one per centers: “Getting the right sleep, seeing a physio once a week, getting a massage once a week and eating and sleeping a lot.”

So, how does he rate his chances of medalling in Paris? “Well, I’m a bit biased,” he says smiling. “I rate it pretty high, but that just reflects, I guess, my confidence heading to into it because I know I’ll do everything in my power to get there and I believe I will. You’ve got to believe it to achieve it, right?”

Peter Bol is a campaign face of Ralph Lauren Fragrances

Running man: Peter Bol’s journey from Sudan to the 800m final

By Ben Jhoty

Ben Jhoty, Men’s Health’s Head of Content, attempts to honour the brand’s health-conscious, aspirational ethos on weekdays while living marginally larger on weekends. A new father, when he’s not rocking an infant to sleep, he tries to get to the gym, shoot hoops and binge on streaming shows.

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