Runners At The Sharp-end #6: Tom Payn

I was introduced to Tom by my coach, Nick Anderson from RunningWithUs. I knew of Tom from some of his amazing race results, but I didn’t realise how hard he has worked to become the inspiring runner he is and the struggle he had to overcome illness to turn himself into a marathon runner. Now, after a pretty stella marathon career, Tom has turned his hand to ultra distance racing and bested a very strong field at arguably the toughest ultra in the UK. Oh and he does all this whilst jetting around the world as part of the athlete management team at Run Fast. Well, I think Tom can tell his own story best…

Tom on his way to winning the Ring O'Fire ultra marathon

 

To begin with could you give us some background about yourself and your running? What distances do you run? What are your personal bests (and what were your first times for those distances)?

I joined my local running club when I was about ten years old and have been running ever since. I started as an 800m runner but never trained more than three times a week until I was an under 20. I had some decent results coming 4th in the English Schools and AAA’s 800m as under 15, and medaling in the AAA’s at both under 17 and under 20 level. I can’t remember my first ever 800m race but know my personal best times were 2.02.6 as an under 15, 1.56.2 as an under 17 and 1.52.8 as an under 20. This remains my best time as once I went to university I had a little break from athletics to enjoy the “university life”! Once I had enough of enjoying myself I started running again with Birmingham University Athletics Club under the guidance of Bud Baldaro and instead of returning to the 800m I gave the 3000m Steeplechase a go. Again I had decent success at this being ranked in the top ten in the country for three or four years and getting my best time down to 8.47. Once I had finished University at Birmingham I moved down to Portsmouth to start a job as a technical sales engineer for a filtration company. As I was now on the south coast I hooked up with Nick Anderson in Winchester and he started to coach me. During a volunteering trip to Sumatra I contracted Leptospirosis also known as Wiels disease, this put me into intensive care and to cut a long story short, at the end of my time in hospital I had lost so much muscle I could only stand for a few seconds before I had to sit down again as my legs couldn’t support me. This made me reassess my running and I decided to make the switch to marathon. Six months to the day after I had first stood up for a few seconds in hospital I was on the start line of my first marathon. I ended up running 2.24 and although I was disappointed with this time, looking back it was quite impressive. Since then I have run about 5 marathons getting my time down to 2.17.29 at the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan. Since then I gave up my long term job to become a full time athlete, this didn’t quite go as planned but I did have an amazing 6 months living in Kenya and ended up getting my dream job as an athlete agent/manager. I have now just embarked on a new vocation as an ultra-distance runner.

How long have you been running and why did you start in the first place?

I have been running for as long as I can remember. I joined my local athletics club at the age of ten probably because one of my school teachers thought I would be quite good at it.

Are you coached? And if so, by whom?

I’m not currently being coached by anyone but have had a number of coaches through the years. My first real coach was a guy called Dave Needham who coached at my first club, Colchester & Tendering AC, he was a great guy who kept me injury free and enthused about running up until I joined university. At University I was coached by the one and only Bud Baldaro, one of the most inspirational coaches I know. If you ever had any doubts about your running ability, 5 minutes with Bud and you believed you could beat anybody! After Bud came Nick Anderson who helped me achieve most of my current personal best times and helped me get the opportunity to train out in Kenya. Since then I have briefly been coached by Gavin Smith whilst I was in Kenya. I think Gav will be a great coach and if I came to him at a slightly younger age I’m sure we could have done great things together.

(Aside from your coach, if you have one) who or what has been the biggest influence on your running and why?

I would have to say the biggest influence on my running would have to be my parents, they have always given me great support and guidance with everything I have ever wanted to do in my life and I know I would never be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.

What is the best piece of running advice you have ever been given? Who gave you that advice?

I can’t think of the best piece of advice I have ever been given but the best piece of advice I could give is just enjoy it. People put too much pressure on themselves to perform but if you just get out and enjoy it I guarantee you will run much better.

What is your favourite bit of kit and why?

I am not much into gadgets and gizmos when I run, I like to keep it simple with just some nice comfy, technical running kit. So I would have to say my favourite bit of kit are my Adidas Tempo running shoes. I use these shoes to do most of my mileage. I find they give a nice bit of cushioning and support but they are light enough that you always feel like you can run fast.

What has been, or where is, your favourite race?

Tough question, as I have had so many races that stick in my mind. These are probably my top three in chronological order.

  1. Barcelona 10km (2007) – This was my first race running for my country and I won. It doesn’t get much better than that!
  2. Bristol Half Marathon (2008) – My first big race win and one of the few times I felt like I was absolutely flying. Winning such a high profile race with big crowds was one of the best feelings of my life.
  3. Fukuoka Marathon (2009) – Marathon running in Japan is a national sport, so the support for this race was crazy. I ended up running on my own for 25miles but the support of the crowds pushed me onto a pb of 2.17.29
What do you think has had the biggest effect on you improving your times?

Consistency. I think this is the most important part of training. Some people can do some amazing sessions but if you can’t train consistently you won’t see that improvement.

With the benefit of hindsight, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be and why?

Don’t stress, just enjoy running.

Do you stretch enough?

Does anyone??

What do you think about the general state of running in the UK and, assuming you don’t think it is perfect, what could be done to improve it?

I think the state of running in the UK is in a pretty poor state. I’m sure there are many, many things that could be done to improve it but I don’t have the time to write it all down now!

What is your overall ambition for your own running? What do you think you need to do to achieve that?

I’m currently reviewing my running ambitions having only just completed my first Ultra Marathon. As with any target or ambition, it takes hard work and dedication to achieve so that is what I will be doing.

Please complete the following:

I run because I just love to run.

 

 

Runners At The Sharp-end #5: Mat Chataway

Mat Chataway at the National Lottery Olympic Park Run. 31 March 2012.

As fellow members of the Mornington Chasers Running Club, Mat and I managed to do a pretty good job of missing one another, but it was inevitable that we would meet. When we did I was hugely impressed with the dedication that Mat puts into his running and really empathised with his thoughts on wanting to be the best runner he can be, achieve the best marathon time possible and enjoy running for many, many years to come. These are three things that I sincerely hope I will achieve myself.

Having only met Mat recently it is evident that he has started preparing really well for the upcoming Cologne marathon in mid-October. A recent track session, where I spent lap after lap watching him pull away from me, showed me that he is in great shape and I have no doubt that as far as the Mornington Chasers is concerned, there will be a new fastest marathon time in the very near future. So I thought I would ask Mat about his running and feature him as a Runner At The Sharp-end. Here is what he had to say…

To begin with could you give us some background about yourself and your running? What distances do you run? What are your personal bests (and what were your first times for those distances)?

I’ve been running on and off since leaving school in 2000, sometimes jogging a couple of times a week, sometimes not at all for a few months, and doing the occasional half-marathon.  I experimented (badly) with a marathon in 2006, again (a little more successfully) in 2009 and then really started to get into it at the start of last year when my brother suggested we do the Prague Marathon.  Now I run anything from 5K to marathons, but it’s probably true to say that I prefer the longer stuff.  My half-marathon time’s come down from 1.45ish to 1.13 (and 58 seconds, but we’ll call it 1.13) and I’ve done a 2.44 marathon having started out with one that was around 4.25ish.

How long have you been running and why did you start in the first place?

I guess my running life has come in two stages: I started in 2000 as a way of keeping fit when the organised sport of my schooldays was coming to an end, but started running in a focussed and structured way in 2011 to try to achieve what I felt would be a decent marathon time.

Are you coached? And if so, by whom?

I just joined Mornington Chasers Running Club and there’s a really good weekly training session with them.

(Aside from your coach, if you have one) who or what has been the biggest influence on your running and why?

My Dad was a keen jogger when I was growing up so without realizing it at the time, living in a house where running was an everyday thing probably had quite an effect.  And then I run quite a lot with my brother now, which is some of the most enjoyable running I do.

What is the best piece of running advice you have ever been given? Who gave you that advice?

Not that he ever said as much in words, but the attitude to running that I saw my Dad take (to run for the love of it) has got to be the best thing you could ever keep in mind.  I’m pretty sure that if you strive to achieve that, in whatever form it’s going to take for you, then you can’t go far wrong.

What is your favourite bit of kit and why?

So much to choose from!  Ultimately, it’s whatever shoes I’m wearing/particularly enjoying at the time (current favourites are Brooks Green Silence) because that’s the absolute basic, fundamental necessity.  If I were to be deprived of bits of running gear one at a time, it’s the trainers I’d be most desperate to keep hold of (though I’d be pretty sad to see my Garmin go).

What has been, or where is, your favourite race?

For many years the only race I did was an annual trip to the Great North Run and that has a very special place in my affections.  But my single favourite race experience came at the Amsterdam Marathon in 2011 because I’d gone out there hoping to break 3 hours and couldn’t believe it when I ran 2.48.  It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny autumn day and finishing in the old Olympic Stadium with my parents watching, and my brother also running a PB on the same day, was pretty great.

What do you think has had the biggest effect on you improving your times?

Taking the time to train properly.  By which I mean doing enough reading to understand the purpose of different training sessions, properly planning a programme, then having the commitment to see it through.  It is time-consuming, and I’m lucky that the people close to me tolerate it/me, but it’s amazing how resourceful you can be with your time-management when you really want to be.

With the benefit of hindsight, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be and why?

Start running properly ASAP.  You’re going to find out that you love it!

Do you stretch enough?

Unfortunately not.  But I’m trying to get better!  I’m coming to appreciate that so much of your quality “training” is actually done beyond the logging of miles.  So I’m working on proper stretching and core stability strengthening routines twice a week, and then I’m also getting better at sneaking in stretches on the go.  I’ll often start a quick stretch when I’m sitting on the train or standing waiting for something.

What do you think about the general state of running in the UK and, assuming you don’t think it is perfect, what could be done to improve it?

I think it’s great.  You just have to look at how many people are out jogging, doing Park Run events, entering the London Marathon, the Great North Run, any of the hundreds of other races occurring up and down the country every year – it’s fantastic.  If you keep in mind that running is fundamentally about health and enjoyment it’s amazing how many thousands of people in the UK are deriving those benefits.  I think an improvement I’d like to see is a few more really competitive UK athletes, but I can’t pretend to have any great ideas about how to make that happen.  To see everyone so enthused by the Olympics was great, and now there’s Diamond League quite prominently advertised as being available through the BBC, and I believe many running clubs have seen upswings in membership – but it’s going to be important to sustain and nurture that interest correctly.

What is your overall ambition for your own running? What do you think you need to do to achieve that?

This is what I’m grappling with at the moment – I’m not really sure.  In the short-term I’m running the Cologne Marathon on October 14th and want to break 2.40.  I think I’m in shape to do that but I need to stay free from injuries, relax and believe in my training, and run a sensibly paced race.  But beyond that, I’m trying to clarify in my own mind.  I’d always said it was “to run the quickest marathon I can” but when you really evaluate what might be required to achieve that you start to wonder whether so much dedication for the sake of, for example, a 2.38 rather than a 2.39 PB is really worth it.  Perhaps it’s better to say my overall ambition is to still be running and loving it when I’m old, and to achieve that I need to make sure that every short- and medium-term goal I set myself is one I’m going to enjoy pursuing – one that if I fail to achieve it, I won’t mind because the pursuit in and of itself was wholly rewarding.

Please complete the following: I run because…

I love it!  At the moment, for so many different reasons: I love feeling physically and mentally healthy; I love testing, exploring and advancing my limits and trying to become the very best that I can be at something; I love the beautiful places and things that I get to see (everything looks more wonderful on an endorphin high!); I love the people I get to meet and the time I get to spend with the people I already know; I love what I learn about myself.  Running has really enriched the way I experience life.

The British Milers start on the long journey

You may recall that a while ago I was invited to an event run by New Balance to introduce a programme they had created called the British Milers. The piece that I wrote after the event is here. This is a documentary series on Sky Sports following a group of British athletes trying to qualify for the 1500m at the London Olympic Games. Well now it seems that two of them have done enough to be selected for the GB squad and have started on the road to potentially fulfilling their dreams and emulating great mile and 1500m track stars like Coe, Cram and Ovett, to name but a few.

Here is the New Balance press release in full:

Andy Baddeley and Nick McCormick, two stars of New Balance’s ‘The British Miler’ series, have qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games after sealing their places on Team GB during the Aviva 2012 Trials in Birmingham.

Andy confirmed his selection in the 1500m after claiming the British Championship, while Nick finished second in the 5,000m race to join his fellow member of Team New Balance on the British team.

Having already secured the Olympic A-standard time in April with a time of 3:35.19 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, Andy required only a top two finish to seal his place in the team, and took Gold in 3:47.99 at Alexander Stadium to confirm his credentials as Britain’s foremost 1500m hopeful.

Nick, meanwhile, opted to concentrate on the longer 5,000m course after sealing the A-standard with a personal best time of 13:18.81 in Huelva earlier in June, and clocked 14:00.61 in Birmingham to claim a silver medal, as well as the all important place on Team GB.

Andy’s success saw him qualify for a second Olympics after competing in the 1500m final at Beijing 2008, and he immediately set sights on achieving success in his home town of London. He said:

“It’s been a long road over the last twelve months and this is part two of three. Part one was get the time; part two was the trials; part three is the Olympics. I haven’t been able to think about the Olympics until today. Now I can train harder!”

After qualifying for the Olympic Games for the first time, Nick McCormick said:

“I’m absolutely over the moon. I’ve made my first Olympics at 30-years-old, so it’s been a long time coming. I’m delighted to run into the selection after achieving the qualifying time two weeks ago. I need to work hard now in training and I want to make the final in London.”

Andy and Nick’s success comes as they participate in New Balance’s ‘The British Miler’, a multi-platform documentary series tracking their journeys to London. Forthcoming episodes of the series, which airs each Monday on Sky Sports, will chart the inside story of the Trials, and more information can be found at www.thebritishmiler.com.

Having met both Andy and Nick at the New Balance event, I can tell you that they are both really charming, friendly and modest and I for one wish them all the best in the coming weeks as they finalise their preparations for the marathon. I hope they have an amazing Olympic Games.

Let Simon Wheatcroft show you what is possible

Simon Wheatcroft should be familiar to anyone who has ever said “I can’t”… and let’s face it, that is pretty much everyone in the world. I think next time you are about to allow the words ‘I’ and ‘can’t’ to cross your lips, take a look at this video and rethink what you think you can and can’t do:

Simon and Simon - and I did ask for a box to stand on, but one was not forthcoming!

I was very fortunate to meet Simon recently along with Jay Watts from Born To Plod which is really worth a read as soon as you have finished here! We were invited to meet Simon as guests of ASICS, but it was not like any PR stunt or event I have ever been to. It was one of the most inspiring and heart-warming afternoons I have ever spent for one thing – no disrespect to PR people and the events that put on, of course!

Jay and I were collected from Doncaster station and driven to Simon’s house. He is happy to have complete strangers in his house asking him daft questions because – as you will now know from having watched the video above – Simon needs to be in familiar surroundings (just in case you haven’t seen the video, the most amazing thing about Simon – aside from taking on ultra marathons whilst studying for a degree and supporting his wife and child – is that he is registered blind).

Whilst in the house I had a chance to ask Simon a whole range of questions before we were due to go out for a run and Simon was happy to answer pretty much everything!

I started by asking Simon if he had always been a runner and his answer was not what I expected. Simon told me that he has only been running for two years and before that he wasn’t really into sport although he did train in a cross-fit gym and lift weights. Like so many people, Simon started running because it is cheap and accessible and it was something that he could enjoy by running with friends. When it came to choosing ultra marathons, Simon said that the last book he read before his sight deteriorated to the point that he couldn’t read, was Dean Karnazes’ book and that was an inspiration to him.

I asked Simon if Karnazes was a personal inspiration to him and he said that he was along with athletes such as Jenson Button – the Formula 1 driver and accomplished triathlete, Randy Couture and George St Pierre, from UFC and indeed any all round athletes.

Running blind

One of the most amazing things about Simon – and let’s be clear there are a few! – is that he has memorised a route that he can run unaided. I asked Simon how he memorised the route and he said that he started running the route with a guide and was familiar with the area as he has lived in that part of the country his whole life.

As we would see later, Simon uses this uncanny ability to remember every inch of a 6 mile route along with physical clues like the grass verge or the change in texture due to the paint used for yellow lines on the road, to get around his route. He told me that he also uses RunKeeper which provides audio feedback on distances covered. Stuart Miles at Pocket Lint (@stuartmiles) wrote a brilliant piece about meeting Simon and his use of technology that you can read here.

Kit list

I asked Simon what his favourite and most useful bits of kit are. Obviously he said that his iPhone, loaded with the RunKeeper app, are essentials. He is also a big fan of the ASICS 33s – of which ASICS were kind enough to send me a pair, so there will be a review coming soon – which Simon loves because they offer sufficient cushioning whilst being lightweight and low-profile enough to allow Simon to get the feedback from subtle variations in pavement surface or yellow lines, that is so essential for his non-guided running.

The other bit of kit that Simon is reliant upon is his treadmill that dominates the conservatory at the back of his house. This allows Simon to do speed sessions and intervals and even hill sessions and frees him from the need for his wife to drive him to his route or for him to call on friends to accompany him.

Pounding the pavements

After a really lovely opportunity to ask Simon all our questions, Jay and I, along with Mark from the PR agency, headed off with Simon to accompany him on a run along his memorised route. We drove to a parking spot on a turning off a very busy country road. From there, Simon was really unerring.

He runs with a very economical style – perfect for ultra marathons but also the perfect stride for someone who has to feel the ground as he runs. But unless you knew that Simon was blind, there really is no indication that he can’t see anything: he never faltered. Indeed this is part of the reason that Simon developed this route which involves quite a bit of running on the road – when we ran in populated areas and along busy pavements, people had no clue that he was blind and would expect him to get out of the way, which of course he didn’t.

As Jay and Mark and I ran with Simon, he kept up a stream of conversation which only goes to show how well he knows this route, but I can only imagine how scary it must be to be running completely alone without being able to see and not knowing if there will be bags of rubbish or road-cones or lumps of wood on the pavement. For Simon he only becomes aware of such obstacles when he hits them.

The future

As we ran Simon talked about what he has got planned – a sandwich run where he was going to run 26.2 miles, then a local half marathon and then another 26.2 miles to make a sandwich, all in aid of a local charity.

Simon is also in a team for the Thunder Run because a woman called May asked Simon if he would like to make up a team with her. Simon obliged and now there are 9 runners of every ability.

And further into the future, there is Simon’s ultimate ambition – the record for the fastest Badwater ultra by a blind runner. At the moment two US-based brothers, Geoffrey and Miles Hilton-Barber, hold the record at around 40 hours. Simon wants to lower the record to more like 30 hours.

Badwater is a huge undertaking, whoever you are. Hours and hours and days and days of training will have to be done. Hard choices will have to be made. Deep fatigue and injuries will have to be endured. And that is before you consider doing the race without being able to see where you are going. It seems like a monumental task.

But you know what? I don’t think Simon Wheatcroft will ever say “I can’t”, in fact having spent just a few hours in his company, I am firmly of the opinion that Simon Wheatcroft probably can’t say “I can’t” and I for one will remember what he told me at the end of our few hours together for the rest of my life

a little bit of belief can do amazing things

Well, it has certainly allowed Simon to do amazing things and I think that is a lesson we could all do with learning from time to time.

Runner at the Sharp End #4: Ben Wickham

I first met Ben at the Hackney Marshes ParkRun where it became immediately obvious that we were quite evenly matched. At the time I was living in Hackney so Ben and I were neighbours and ended up running the same races a few times. I was immediately and really hugely impressed by Ben’s level of dedication (as well as his amazing sun glasses – more on that later) and it was obvious to me that Ben would be someone that I would find myself chasing quite often in races. He had already set himself the target of a sub-75 minute half marathon and a sub-2:45 marathon when I met him and at a couple of races where we both ran, he came fiercely close to the half marathon target. Then with the London marathon 2012 looming on the horizon, it clearly all came together and Ben ran 73:19 at the Paddock Wood Half Marathon on 1 April and then cruised to an eight minute PB with 2:42:19 time in the London. Truly a runner at the sharp-end, here is what Ben had to tell me and if you want more from Ben follow him at twitter.com/@benjiwickham

To begin with could you give us some background about yourself and your running? What distances do you run? What are your personal bests (and what were your first times for those distances)?
Ben in full flow... in a triathlon (but we'll forgive him for that)

I used to occasionally run the odd 10k. Maybe once a year. I always wanted to do a marathon, but badly strained my IT band whilst training (badly) in 2009, making it almost impossible to run any distance. From there I took to swimming and cycling to rehab it, and built the miles slowly to get to the start line of the 2010 London Marathon. Along the way I sort of turned myself into a triathlete.  My previous best time was somewhere around 55mins for a 10k. In training for that marathon I realized I had some potential to run pretty well, and by the time I got to the start I was shooting for sub-3. However, I exploded, running the 2nd half in 2hrs 10min, posting 3:39. Rather than put me off it fired me up to see how fast I could go. So far I have a 16:38 5k, 34:45 10k, 73′ half and 2:42 full. Those last two took some doing 😉

How long have you been running and why did you start in the first place?

I’d say I’ve been seriously running since the build up to VLM in 2010, so maybe just under 3 years, but I’d done a little bit of fun-running before. I always enjoyed the racing and the act of seeing how hard you could push you body over a given distance. As my limits expanded I just kept on looking for the edge, and still am.

Are you coached? And if so, by whom?

I’m not coached, but I read a lot, and listen a lot. I tend to try and absorb every detail about anything that interests me. I have a number of people who I bounce ideas off and discuss anything sports related. Top of the list are Mark Sheppard, who taught me Tai Chi, and coaches a variety of sports, and Hilary Ivory, who is a journalist, author (collaborating on Paula’s latest book), personal trainer, and has a marathon PB of 2:40.

(Aside from your coach, if you have one) who or what has been the biggest influence on your running and why?

Ironically, I’d say the biggest influence on my running was the injury to my IT band. It forced me to take up swimming and cycling, which have been vital in allowing my training to continue injury free, and it forced me to forensically examine my technique. The memory of not being able to run also keeps me sensible when I develop niggles.

What is the best piece of running advice you have ever been given? Who gave you that advice?

Stretch your calves. So many injuries and niggles that I develop can be traced to tight calves. They tend to feel OK, but pull on other bits of your legs, and you develop an injury that seems unrelated… and it’s not until you do a decent stretch you actually notice how bad they are!

What is your favourite bit of kit and why?

Definitely my Oakleys. I think it’s vitally important to keep your face relaxed, as tension creeps into the shoulders and down into the hips and legs. The ability to keep your head up and eyes open is crucial to reducing tension. They also put me mentally in race-mode… physically feeling like a barrier to the outside world. And let’s face it.; I’m a triathlete too… They look cool.

What has been, or where is, your favourite race?

New York Marathon 2011. It was the first time I felt controlled and relaxed all the way through a marathon, allowing me to soak up the sights. Lots of friends on the course, simply the best start I’ve ever seen, and coming down onto 1st Avenue is spine-tingling.

What do you think has had the biggest effect on you improving your times?

Specific training. Lots more slow miles, and less, but more targeted speed work. I leave it really late these days to tailor my training for races and as a result arrive much less burnt out to the start line, and have less injuries.

With the benefit of hindsight, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be and why?

You have depths and abilities you cannot imagine right now. I was never picked for any team at school, and was bottom of the class at music. These days I happily play guitar by ear and blitz marathons. I’m not sure I would change my past, but if only I’d known I may have found out sooner.

Do you stretch enough?

See my answer above. Calves, calves calves. And some IT bands for good measure.

What do you think about the general state of running in the UK and, assuming you don’t think it is perfect, what could be done to improve it?

Running at elite level to me seems to be coming out of a bit of a low patch. Whilst we aren’t up there with the east africans, there are certainly green shoots. It’s always going to be a hard sell as a lifestyle, but improvements will take years, and there are genuine characters in the sport to help. We need to push these characters. Use the interest that they generate with sponsors and race directors to create massive events, and media coverage off the back. Athletics is starting to get huge coverage these days, and it’s likely that in 3, 4 years time we may see the benefits of that. However, at a grass roots level, I think it’s never been greater. Parkrun, running clubs and local races all combine to make it a genuinely mass participation sport, and one that brings me into contact with all sorts of people. At my level, running has everything I ever need.

What is your overall ambition for your own running? What do you think you need to do to achieve that?

Simply to keep on pushing that edge. I’m aware that my limits will occur before I can set the word on fire with my running, but as long as I’m on my limit, I’m happy. I need to be honest with myself, and push more when I can. You need to learn the difference between your body saying no and your mind.

Please complete the following: I run because…

… by looking for the outside edge of your performance, not only do you learn  that edge is much further away than you ever thought possible, but quite probably all your self-imposed limits.

New Balance and the new British Milers

Last week I was invited to a New Balance event, billed as a celebration of 30 years of domestic manufacturing and featuring the athletes that are due to appear in an upcoming television series called The British Milers featuring seven British 1500m runners hoping to qualify for the Olympic Games in London. The seven athletes are:

  • Andy Baddeley – Olympic and World Championship finalist, former Oslo Dream Mile Champion
  • James Brewer – 2009 World Championship Team member
  • Lee Emanuel – Two time NCAA Mile Champion
  • Tom Lancashire – Defending UK Olympic Trials Champion
  • Nick McCormack – Defending UK indoor 1500m Champion
  • Colin McCourt – 1500m Champion Euro Team Championships
  • Ricky Stevenson – Former UK junior 1500m Champion

After presentations from the managing director and sales director of New Balance, Richard Nerurkar introduced the British Miler concept and the TV show and welcomed the athletes to the stage. Then, whilst everyone was enjoying the DJ spinning tunes and guzzling New Balance’s wine and scoffing the food they had laid on, I had the opportunity to interview three of the milers – Ricky Stevenson (RS), James Brewer (JB) and Andy Baddeley (AB). Here’s what they had to tell me:

SF: What special preparations are you making in this Olympic year?

Ricky Stevenson at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium ©Adam Fradgley

RS: I’m being sensible and trying to not over-reach. What has been different this year is that I am not pushing it all the way in training and following the advice of my coach Steve Shaw

JB: I am getting back to consistency, which has been lacking since Berlin in 2009 [when James missed reaching the 1500m final of the World Championships by fractions of a second] and I’ve strung together eight months of consistent training including six weeks at altitude in Iten [Kenya]. This all allowed me to run 3’38 indoors at the recent championships in Birmingham

AB: My preparations are different this year only in that they are simpler. I have experimented in previous years but this year I know what works and I’m sticking to that.

SF: Does the Olympic year inspire you more than others and if so how?

RS: It is exciting and inspiring, but as I said, I’m not thinking about it too much, allowing myself to get over-excited and then over-training

JB: My main focus is not the Olympics yet – it is to continue training well and then do my best at the World Indoors championships.

AB: Yes! The Olympics definitely inspire me and I want to be on the start line of the final.

SF: What are your specific targets with regards to the Games

James Brewer at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium ©Adam Fradgley

RS: The primary target is to qualify by running the required 3’35 and gaining selection but I’m not seeing the Olympics as the be all and end all.

JB: Qualify first and then reach the final.

AB: Qualification is essential. Then I want to make sure that I’m there for the final

SF: In general, what inspires you to train and perform at your best?

RS: I want to be the best at everything I try. When it comes to racing, I always want to win when I step on the track. That’s what inspires me.

JB: For me it is curiosity about what is possible and what I can achieve. Because I have been injury-prone I don’t have a very high weekly mileage, so I’m interested to see what I can do with that

SF: What is your hardest training session?

RS: We run a 2km woodland loop on trails and one session consists of four reps of that. Each loop has two big inclines in it and the effort is relentless

JB: My hardest session is probably the stuff we do in the gym – rehab and strength and conditioning work

AB: I enjoy most of my sessions on the track so the session I probably find the hardest is the Sunday long run, especially when the weather is bad

Andy Baddeley at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium ©Adam Fradgley

SF: What is your favourite training session?

RS: I don’t have one – they all hurt!

JB: It’s changing for me – it used to be speed work but recently I have been doing 30 minutes continuous hills at altitude in Iten. That involves varied paces but up one long hill that you run up non-stop for 30 minutes.

AB: Anything short on the track is my favourite

SF: What would be your top tips for someone looking to improve their running at any distance?

RS: My top tips would be: never stop believing and never let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve what you set out to achieve. The other things that are crucial are consistency and staying injury free.

 

 

JB: I would say, go out and explore – wherever you go, you can find somewhere to run to get outside and experience the world, enjoy the seasons.

AB: My advice would be to never give up – I wasn’t the fastest at school but I stuck with it when others gave up. I also think that it’s important to have someone to answer to: a training partner that you have to meet for example. I’d also say that it is really important to eat sensibly and don’t worry too much about what you eat.

As you can imagine, this group of amazing athletes were very much in demand on the night and I was extremely grateful to them for their time. I hope you agree that they offered some really interesting insights into their preparations for the Olympic Games and some great advice for the rest of us! I wish them all well for the trials and for their future careers.

 

 

 

 

Runner at the Sharp End #3: John Hutchins

I recently met John Hutchins at an event hosted by the team behind the Brighton marathon, which involved a coaching seminar on the Saturday night and a 20km time-trial run on the Sunday morning. John, like many of the amazing runners I met on the weekend, was really friendly and happy to talk to me about his racing and training and what really struck me about him was the fact that whilst holding down a full time job and family commitments, with a baby having arrived only a few months ago, John still manages to fit in the training necessary to compete at the highest level. Indeed as I write this I am sitting with my feet up recovering from the Wokingham half marathon yesterday, where John beat his previous personal best on a fairly undulating and certainly windy course, to record a brilliant time of 66:48 which was good enough for 4th place. So my thanks go to John for taking the time to tell us about himself and his running as well as sharing some brilliant tips from a runner who is certainly at the sharp end.

To begin with could you give us some background about yourself and your running? What distances do you run? What are your personal bests (and what were your first times for those distances)?
John Hutchins in the 2011 London marathon

I guess you’d call me a road runner these days, although I’ve run pretty much run everything from 800m upwards on the track and I still dabble in some cross country over the winter. My best event is the Marathon – I’ve run 2:21 for my first two (in November 2010 and April 2011) and I those are probably my best performances over any distance. I ran a fairly quick half in the Hague last year (67:06) and a decent 10 miles in the Great South Run 2010 (49:56 – and yep, I sprinted like Mo to stay under 50!). Off the back of those runs I was kindly given the chance to run for England in the Elgoibar XC, and then I was picked (but ultimately too injured to run) for the England team in the Odense marathon last year. Technically I’ve run 3 marathons, but the first was when I was 18, when I ran 3:56… My first 10k was about 32:30 back in 2004 and I think my first half run in anger was 68:26.

 

How long have you been running and why did you start in the first place?

I can remember my mum asking me to go to the shops from time to time when I was a kid and pegging it all the way there and back just because it took less time. So I guess I’ve always been a runner.  I did cross and track for my school and joined my club (Basingstoke) back then. But I kind-of gave up when exam work got tough around GCSEs and A levels with a view to getting properly involved once I got to Uni. Once I got there I joined the Uni team, got back in touch with Basingstoke and since then I haven’t looked back!

Are you coached? And if so, by whom?

Yep, my coach is Martin Tarsey. He’s an ex-Basingstoke athlete himself and has coached me since I rejoined Basingstoke. He coaches quite a range of distances-from 400m up to Marathon. His other athletes include Mark Berridge (47.1 for 400m and 1:48 for 800m) and some other very capable track runners like Dave Ragan and Max Roberts.

(Aside from your coach, if you have one) who or what has been the biggest influence on your running and why?
A Onesie. Ben Moreau may or may not have looked like this

It pains me to put this in writing, but I’d have to say my mate Ben Moreau. We were best mates at Uni and have stayed so. We train together sporadically, but I’m always chasing him. He’s a talented runner, but he puts the work in as well-so he’s a great example for anyone to follow (except for wearing a onesie/GB kit as pyjamas).

What is the best piece of running advice you have ever been given? Who gave you that advice?

I’ve always had a tendency to gun all my runs-whether it’s racing (lead from the front), track reps (kill the first two), tempo running (start fast and then die a horrible death) or easy runs (which usually don’t turn out to be that easy…). And then I get tired. And then I feel rubbish. And then I go into a bit of a stagnant patch.

So the best bit of advice has come from most of the people that know me well-particularly my wife Joanne, Tarsey and Ben, and that is to run the way you feel. If you’re doing a tempo and you feel rubbish, don’t fight it, just cruise and be able to run the next day. Likewise if you feel great on a steady run, let yourself run a bit quicker (within reason), but recognise that if you feel slightly jaded the next day, just back off – it doesn’t mean you’re cheating!! Sometimes I find that holding yourself back when you feel great is just as bad as running too hard-and this is going to sound a bit sad-sometimes you need to feel that rush that you only get when you’re going quick, but you could go all day…

What is your favourite bit of kit and why?

The Basingstoke boys ran a training weekend in Studland for a few years. We used to have proper running tees made up for it. I love my first ever one which has my Basingstoke nickname “JT” (nothing to do with a trouser snake) on it.

What has been, or where is, your favourite race?

My favourite races have been the Florence marathon and the Elgoibar cross country. Florence because it’s a beautiful city, the crowds really get behind you and because it was a breakthrough race for me. I loved going through halfway feeling good and pushing on, waiting for the hurt to kick in, only to find out that I didn’t feel too bad. Elgoibar because it was a unique experience. The race is really historic and has a formal opening ceremony the night before. The course was crazy-set in the foothills of the Pyrenees and with a lap of a tartan track in each of the laps!

What do you think has had the biggest effect on you improving your times?
  • Mileage
  • 2 hour+ runs
  • tempo running

Hard to tell which of these has the biggest impact – each adds its own little piece. High mileage for me is 80+ per week. That’s not a great deal in comparison with the elite elite marathoners, but it’s just about all I can fit in around family life and work.  2 hour+ runs give you that marathon specific training that nothing else can – where you run close to empty and actually prove to yourself that you can run the whole distance. And tempo runs prove you can run quickly and make running slower feel easier.

With the benefit of hindsight, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be and why?

I’d probably say to myself that I should train easier, but more often.  I used to get really tired and have to take days off to recoup.  Much better to take things easier and improve aerobically.

Do you stretch enough?

Nope. But I also have chronic Achilles issues as a result.  I’m like an old man in the mornings.  Word of advice to anyone would be DO CALF RAISES. I’ve started, and they’re helping, but I wish I’d done them all along…

What do you think about the general state of running in the UK and, assuming you don’t think it is perfect, what could be done to improve it?

It’s obviously not as good as it once was.  Other sports and pass times seem to have stolen / stifled the talent that once came through the ranks. Having said that, I think London 2012 is a good stimulus for change. I also think the runBritain Grand Prix is a great way of encouraging good club runners (not just the elite elite) to race in high quality events. The atmosphere, organisation, serious competition and the fact that there are a series of races to target are all awesome incentives to train and improve.  Sometimes I also feel like the club structure we have in the UK must have been great when there was mass participation, but now numbers have fallen there almost needs to be a bit of consolidation to drive growth.  But that kind of change is way above my pay grade…

What is your overall ambition for your own running? What do you think you need to do to achieve that?

This year’s ambition is to run under 2:20.  I think I possibly could have been ready for this had I had an amazing run at London last year.  So I’m basically approaching training in quite a similar way, but a bit more sensibly with respect to keeping fresh.  Ultimately I would love to run in a major championships, but I’m just about training at capacity at the moment-what with work and home life.  I guess I will see what I can achieve this year and work out what I could change to continue to improve.

Please complete the following: I run because…

I love everything that running allows me to do; to meet great people, to run in awesome events and to travel; to rarely get bored; to eat ALL the time; to keep fit; to compete; to work hard and get results.  Most of my mates think I’m mental…

I would like to thank John for a really great interview. He is very modest about his achievements but for me he embodies the idea of a Runner At The Sharp-end and I am sure that everyone reading this blog will agree with me that John has given us some brilliant tips and lessons that he has learned that we can apply to our own training. If you enjoyed the interview you can also follow John on twitter @HutchinsJohn.

Runner at the Sharp End #2: Richard Gregory

This is the second in a series of interviews with Runners At The Sharp-end (the R.A.T.S). For an explanation of what I am defining as a runner at the sharp end have a read here. Richard, a member of the famous Ranelagh Harriers, is a fierce competitor, especially in cross-country races and excels at any distance he tackles on the road (his personal bests are testament to that, as you can see below). Here is what he told me;

SF: To begin with could you give us some background about yourself and your running? What distances do you run? What are your personal bests (and what were your first times for those distances)?
Richard going great guns in the 'cross' Image from Ranelagh Harriers

RG: Mostly half marathon and marathon at the moment, with a bit of cross country through the winter.
Half Marathon PB – 70.43 (Amsterdam 2011) and my debut was 81.16 (Brooklyn 2007)
Marathon PB – 2.30.46 (London 2011) with a debut 2.50.54 (New York 2007).

SF: How long have you been running and why did you start in the first place?

RG: Started about five years ago (though I’d run a bit through school – mainly to keep fit for hockey, which I played reasonably competitively).  I was living in New York at the time and had barely exercised for a few years; running round Central Park seemed a good way to get in shape.  A friend then convinced me a 10k race would be fun… a half soon followed, and when a New York marathon place came about (rather by accident) it seemed I better give it a go.

SF: Are you coached? And if so, by whom?

RG: Yes – Nick Anderson – since summer 2010.

SF: (Aside from your coach, if you have one) who or what has been the biggest influence on your running and why?

RG: Any number of friends I’ve made through running – anyone, at any level, who shares enthusiasm for the sport, improving at it, and having a good time along the way.  Simon’s written on the benefits of running with a group, and I’d definitely agree: I love that running has both that brilliant social side to it, and can be the best possible space for some private thinking time.

SF: What is the best piece of running advice you have ever been given? Who gave you that advice?

RG:

Take responsibility for anything you can control; react positively to anything you cannot.

Sounds a cliché, but pretty fundamental to running as much as anything else in life – though at the time it was a throwaway comment from someone (who’ll remain nameless) who should know better!  It stuck with me, not least when a vomiting bug reared its ugly head seven days before the London marathon.  Keeping calm that week was as important as getting better, and thankfully by the Sunday morning I was fighting fit.

SF: What is your favourite bit of kit and why?

RG: Much as I love comfortable kit – and toys – top of the list is two healthy legs.

SF: What has been, or where is, your favourite race?

RG: For atmosphere – New York marathon, very closely followed by London.
For how I ran – Amsterdam half a few years back.  I’ve run faster since, but it was a day when everything clicked: I just felt incredibly relaxed and enjoyed a rare and wonderful flowing feeling (and a huge pb, much quicker than I’d considered possible at the time).

SF: What do you think has had the biggest effect on you improving your times?

RG: More, more consistent, and structured training.  I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I started out.  Nick’s coaching has been a huge help in learning the different ingredients, and how to put them together.

SF: With the benefit of hindsight, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be and why?

RG: Probably just to get stuck in at an earlier age: running’s something I’ve always enjoyed, but didn’t really get into until my late twenties.  Part of me wishes I’d got more involved on the track in my teens; I’d like to know what I could have done over 800/1500m!

SF: Do you stretch enough?

RG: No!  As well as stretching, I’m a big believer in core work (strength and conditioning) – I don’t do enough of that either, but really notice the difference for injury prevention and improved running form.

SF: What do you think about the general state of running in the UK and, assuming you don’t think it is perfect, what could be done to improve it?

RG: Participation seems to be on the up, which is brilliant – anything to help get people out the door and exercising is good news.  At the sharper end – the likes of Paula and Mo are an inspiration, and I’m far from qualified to say what’s needed for more to come through at that level.  In between, it would be good to see greater depth of “good club runners”, as there was in the past, and I would love to see anything that helps inspire more people to see what a brilliant sport it is, and put the work in to find out what they might achieve.  For starters the London Marathon coverage seems to miss an opportunity each year in jumping from the elite race to the masses: there are some wonderful stories of talent and dedication in between.

SF: What is your overall ambition for your own running? What do you think you need to do to achieve that?

RG: The ambition is simply to make the most of chances to keep on improving at something I really enjoy.  The volume and quality of my training has increased markedly over the past year or two: as with any runner, right now it’s just a case of putting the work in, trying to make sure I rest enough, and eating well.  Hopefully that will translate into a great marathon buildup and race at London this year.

SF: Please complete the following: I run because…

RG: Two reasons for me: I get a kick both out of running itself – nothing beats being outdoors and active – and the honesty of seeing hard work turn into improvement.

Despatches from the front line

I’d done my run this morning (actually my wife, who, being Swiss, is genetically programmed to forgo drink, food and sleep in the presence of snow, had me out running by 7am this morning in London’s first snow this winter) and I had settled down to write a blog post or two and check what the world was up to when I happened to notice that Ben Moreau (@ben_moreau) was online. Ben flew to Iten in Kenya a week ago for a few weeks’ training in advance of his attempt at Olympic qualification at the London marathon in April this year. So I jumped on the opportunity to ask him how things were going. He updated me on what was happening out there and I thought I’d pass on his news.

Ben said that he has finally acclimatised to the altitude and had “experienced one Kenyan training session”. How was it? “It was brutal”. Now coming from a man like Ben Moreau, who I have seen train and race on numerous occasions, when he says it was brutal, that means it must have been massively tough. Ben also said that he is being sensible, but that has to be put in the context of where he is and what he is doing – his sensible and most other peoples sensible are certainly going to be different!

I mentioned to Ben that I’d been out running in the snow and how hard I’d found it and he replied that whilst I was jogging in the snow he had discovered myth #1 about east African runners: that Kenyans always start runs slow. He told me about the long (erm, slow) run that he did yesterday where the 3rd mile was 5.28 min/mile and he was hanging off the back of the group!

Today included a well earned easy 45 minutes run after yesterday’s run and who can blame Ben for taking it easy. The long run was 16 miles in 95 minutes with the last 4 miles uphill.

Ben sent me his Garmin stats for Saturday’s run, just to give me an idea for what a long slow run looks like in Kenya:

Total time: 1hr 40mins
Average pace: 6:10 min/mile
Fastest pace: 4:59 min/mile
Elevation at highest point: 7,845 ft

Ben's splits for his long run in Kenya
It's not flat then...

But whilst those stats tell a story of running in a very different place, some things never change. Ben told me about catching another runner whilst out on that run who appeared to be labouring somewhat. As Ben passed him, the chap in question rushed back past Ben and shot off into the distance… until about eight miles later when Ben caught him again. This time when Ben went past there was no response! Sounds just like the people who hate to be passed on the canal towpath around Victoria Park in east London!

So we had covered training. And seeing as Ben was on Facebook, I think it is safe to assume that he was resting. So what about nutrition? How was Ben getting on with Ugali for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Well, who knows? He told me that he was having… wait for it… spaghetti bolognaise for dinner. What??? He did say though that he loves the chapatis that are served in Iten. At least that is authentic Kenyan cuisine!

Hopefully I will have the opportunity to catch up with Ben again and find out how he is getting on, but for now I think it is safe to say that he is in a great place to train well and come back in the best possible shape to make the Team GB selectors sit up and take notice. I hope you’ll all join me in wishing him luck.

Runner at the Sharp End #1: Nate Pennington

In the first of what will become a series of interviews with Runners At The Sharp-end or the R.A.T.S (for an explanation of what I am defining as a runner at the sharp end have a read here), I had the opportunity to ask Nate Pennington (or 1st Lieutenant  Nathan Pennington of the US Army, to give him his proper title), a runner with a marathon personal best of 2:19, a few questions about what continues to motivate him as well as the training required to run the times that he has. Here are his thoughts;

SF: Describe how you got started in the sport. Where did you run your first marathon and time. This is important because I’d like to understand starting points and where successful runners like yourself are at now.

NP: My brother, Paul, talked me into going out for our high school track and field team during my freshman year. He threw the shot put and discus and I decided to run the distance events and it sort of took off from there. I was hooked and loved the feeling running gave me, the challenges it posed and trying to get faster was a goal I had. I found enjoyment in the effort it took to run.

I ran my first marathon at the 2002 New York City Marathon as a part of the US Armed Forces Marathon Team for a lung cancer research charity. We were interviewed on FOX News in New York City prior to the start and had a police escort the next morning to the start line. It was a pretty interesting opportunity. We had to wait until every runner had crossed the start line and only then were we allowed to proceed into the race. Chase Manhattan Bank was donating $1 to Lung Cancer Research for every runner we passed. I was the top military finisher in the race and went from last place (32,189) to 253rd overall with a time of 2.43.36

(2.51.16 with the starting gun included). We waited nearly 8 minutes for the entire race entrants to start. We raised a lot of money and it was a great time.

SF: How many years have you been running?

NP: I have been running since I was 15, so 20 years. Time surely goes by when you’re having fun.

 

Nate in Boulder, Colorado near the famous 'Magnolia Road' where most of the worlds best distance runners have trained
SF: How did you get started in the sport and how have you worked your way down to 2.19?

NP:  My brother, and I would have to include God, were my two factors in getting into this sport. I only wish I would have started at a younger age, possibly 8 to 10 years old. That being said, I am thankful I have had some success and more importantly, appreciate my failures even more. I ran a 3.05 at the 2010 City of Los Angeles Marathon in March.  It was my worst marathon but taught me the most out of ALL my marathons combined. 2010 was the worst year of running  for me, but also the best year in teaching where I was going wrong. I was in the best shape of my life but the results just were not coming. I had been doing a few 20-milers at over 6,000ft in elevation in under 1.54 each, even faster than prior to running my 2.19 PR but the best marathon I put up in 2010 was  a 2.36.29 at the 2010 California International Marathon. I hit the half-marathon point in 1.08.33 and was still on 2.21 pace through 20 miles (1.50.29) but ended up walking and jogging my last 10K. You know, Bill Rodgers, put it best, “the marathon can humble you”. There is much to be learned by that statement.  I tried again to improve on my 2.19 best at this year’s California International Marathon earlier this month and just 4 weeks after running 2.26 in Indianapolis but could only get 2.32.24 (after an opening half-marathon of 1.09.42)

SF: What is some advice you can give to runners in this country for improving?

NP:  Great question. Two major things I would strongly advise runners who are seeking to improve is this

1) Find joy in the experience of preparing for any race distance. If you, for a second, lose sight of enjoying the sport and get caught up in ‘how fast am I going to run this or that race in’ you are doing yourself a disservice. I learned this from racing in 2010. Your body builds up cortisol which is caused by stress. My coach at the time, Lisa Rainsberger, 1985 Boston Marathon Champion, would stress enjoying what I was doing and letting go of expectations. I think if people in your country (as well as mine) can focus more on their preparation, take confidence in that, than the race efforts and times will come on their own time. If you have done the work, than there really isn’t anything you should worry about in going into a big race.  What is the point! Take confidence in what you have done and let go of the unnecessary stress you put on yourself.

2) Be patient. I experienced some serious humbling race efforts before I broke 2.20. Patience is so important in this sport and you have to believe in delayed gratification. We put all our focus on wanting everything now. We want to run a world class time. We want to lose 10lbs, quit smoking, drop a few minutes off our 10K best etc. Take time to think of all your hard work, some of your key workouts, something big you have done in training and keep reminding yourself of those things on your way to running your best time. Do not lose sight of that. Running fast marathons or other race distances don’t come overnight. That is not how it works in this sport. If you want results, you have to get into the trenches, do the work but most importantly, enjoy it and be patient. The results will follow.

SF: What clubs or teams do you run for in the US and explain a little about them?

NP: I have been in the us army for the past ten years so I ran on numerous all-army teams and made two armed forces world cross country teams. I have always honored representing my country as a Soldier-athlete. I was a member of our elite Army World Class Athlete Program from 2007-2010. It was an enormous opportunity that very few of our Soldiers get to be a part of. I had 10 months to train full time with no distractions. I improved my half-marathon best from 1.10.33 to 1.07.06 during that time. Ironically, I only brought my marathon best down from 2.43.36 to 2.40 while I was training full time. What is ironic I improved my 2.40 to 2.19 while working full time as a staff Soldier for the unit after I was taken off of athlete status. Structure and balance play a key role for me. I am now stationed at Fort Campbell undergoing some very serious military training, working long hours and do not have the luxury of sleeping in or doing workouts at whatever time of day as I did when I was with W.C.A.P. yet went and ran my second fastest marathon less than two months ago at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon running 2.26.42. Look at Yuki Kawauchi of Japan as an example of this. Runners in both of our countries do not have to have a full time training opportunity to run a quality marathon. That being said, it is a wonderful opportunity if you ever get the chance but I much more value a runner who is working full time and trying to hit a big effort than ones than those that have it much more easy. I ran for Brooks from 2010-2011 and have applied to compete for Saucony from 2012-2013.

SF: What is your overall goal time for the marathon?

NP: My overall goal time for the marathon is to run 2.15.00. It is a time that is still in reach but certainly will not be easy. I turned 35 a few months ago but value seeing other runners older than me running much faster than 2.19. There was a Moroccan who finished 5th at this years New York City Marathon in 2.08, pretty impressive [Jaouad Gharib is now 39 years old – ed]. I am due to deploy overseas soon so may have to wait a year but 2013 is my goal of chasing that time

SF: What is the most difficult thing about the marathon and why?

NP: The most difficult thing about the marathon, in my experience, has been fueling correctly. I have battled with this since I started running marathons back in 2002. I was walking and jogging for about the last 8 miles of the 2002 New York City Marathon.

We have all heard about this so-called wall. I say ‘so-called’ because when you get it right there is no ‘wall’. It is a psychological hindrance we put on ourselves before we even start.  That being said, I think there is a such thing as glycogen depletion and if you have no gas to run the engine then that could be what we call ‘a wall’. If you fuel correctly you don’t have to experience it.

I really think it has been a fueling problem I have had that has cost me dearly in my racing. I ran 2.19.35 in December of 2007 at the California International Marathon. This race and my recent 2.26 were the only two marathons where I seemed to get enough calories in my body.  I think if more of us can get enough fluids and calories in our system without having major issues than this will help us all run much faster in the future.

SF: Have you ever competed in England?

NP: No, have never raced in England but have visited the country a few times and really enjoyed my time in London in 2005. I was stationed in S.H.A.P.E., Belgium for 18 months so was blessed to see Europe. I thoroughly enjoyed England and the Netherlands.

You can find out more about Nate and his running on his website here
He is also on twitter: @rundreamachieve