I have recently had the chance to get to know ultra runner, adventurer and all-round top-bloke, Robbie Britton and we have crossed paths at a number of events – almost literally at the Bristol half marathon last year when he was pacing a group (did they have any idea of the caliber of the runner leading them along, I wonder?) as I ran past on the road back into Bristol. I was gritting my teeth and trying for all I was worth to hang on to 75 minute pace. Robbie looked as cool as a cucumber as he floated up the hill with a peloton of runners glued to his back. He easily managed to shout some encouragement to me. I could barely wave in response!
The last time Robbie and I met for a coffee, a few months ago, we were chatting about plans for the future. I was getting ever more embedded in freestak work and the launch of Like the Wind. Robbie was clearing the way for a tilt at ultra-running stardom.
But what about Robbie? How is he getting on?
He is already a fan of their shoes and has raced in them quite regularly. Inov-8 are looking for committed athletes to join their team. It is a match made in heaven!
What’s next for Robbi-v8?
So having joined the inov-8 team, Robbie has announced that he is not resting on his laurels (presumably the same ones that he picked up in Athens at the end of the Spartathlon). His next big race is in a place very close to my heart – the Canary Islands, where I just spent a glorious week with Julie – where Robbie will take on the Trans Vulcania in La Palma on 10 May.
Robbie’s thoughts about the Transvulcania are typical from what I know of him:
I have been to La Palma once before, taking in a few epic days in the mountains before setting off to sail the Atlantic in a boat built by a crazy old man advertising for crew on Gumtree!
At 51 miles, Transvulcania is a little bit short for me but it has more ascent – there’s 2,000m in the first 11 miles – than the 24-hour stuff. I will go there, chuck myself in the mix and see what happens. I am always up for challenging myself.
I really admire the fact that Robbie is up for challenging himself, whether that is on a relatively short 50 miler or over hundreds of miles on the roads in Greece. He’s always up for giving it a go.
In the spirit of having a crack at all sorts of different events, Robbie is also going to resume international duties and take on probably the most iconic trail ultra of them all:
I have the World 24hr Running Championships. The target this year is a top-10 finish. I’m already feeling good about my chances as I feel fitter and stronger than I was last year.
And what year would be complete without a trip to the Alps? The 103-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) was shortened due to awful weather conditions the last time I ventured to Chamonix in 2012, but the atmosphere of the race got into my blood and this year I will return. I can’t wait.
I had a few questions for Robbie after he told me about the inov-8 link-up and being the thoroughly lovely bloke that he is, he was happy to answer them for me:
SF: What is it about inov-8 that attracted you as an athlete?
RB: I love their shoes and the fact that lightweight is king for the kit. When I race I want my kit to be as light as possible because running 100 miles is difficult in the first place. It is great to be supported by a British brand and to be able to take that to races across the world.
SF: What are you most excited about in the coming 12 months?
RB: Most excited about… So much. The competition in TransVulcania, the chance to fight for Team Medals in the World Champs (The Mens & Womens Teams are both strong enough to contend this year) and then all the British runners at UTMB, we’ve got a good bunch going!
SF: If you could take on any challenge, what would it be and why?
RB: One day I will travel to both Poles on foot. I had to step out of my Antarctic expedition (www.south2014.com) to concentrate on my running but I will get there. The Antarctic continent is the toughest place on earth and the men who have lived and died there inspire me. Oh and Western States, because I have to race that one day.
SF: Who inspires you to train and race as hard as you do?
RB: I take a lot of inspiration from explorers & mountaineers, people like Walter Bonatti and Doug Scott, who crawled off the Ogre with two broken ankles. In the World of Sport I admire anyone who gives their whole to compete at the highest level. Mark Cavendish is an great athlete who trains hard and races as if nothing else in the world mattered. [Obviously Robbie intended to include me in this list, but probably ran out of time… or something like that…]
What about inov-8?
I am a big fan of inov-8, both the company and the products. As a business, they seem to be completely authentic. The people I am in contact with there – hello, Lee, Natalie and Matt – are all committed athletes themselves. They really walk-the-walk and I think that makes all the difference.
I also think their gear is great. I was lucky to have one of their Race Elite 260 Thermoshell tops in my bag for the UTMB CCC and it is a constant companion when I am out running or fast-hiking. It is just warm enough for after a race or as an emergency top when out and about but scrunches up really small and weighs very little (well, 260g as the name suggests!) Julie has a Race Elite 140 Stormshell which is a super light-weight waterproof jacket that is perfect to carry in your pack and pull on when the weather suddenly turns. It was ideal for when we were running in Gran Canaria last week and we went from warm sun by the coast to snow at 1500m above the sea inland.
As for shoes, I think that inov-8 have a great range of running shoes, although I am particularly a fan of the trail shoe range that inov-8 produce. I know that Robbie is a big fan of the X-Talon 212, while I have really enjoyed running in the Trailroc 235 and the Roclite 315 for longer stuff. But I think there is something for everyone if you want a shoe to tackle off-road running.
So there you have it: a great athlete teaming up with a great brand. Greatness is assured. I have to throw in a plug here and say that Robbie was very kind and contributed a story for Like the Wind magazine which if you get a chance to read it will resonate with his comments about wanting to give his all when he trains and races and also the fact that he admires people who hold nothing back.
I think that the final word should go to Robbie who finished answering my questions with a quote that he should have embroidered on his inov-8 racing kit:
Racing is life, everything else before and afterwards is just waiting
Says it all, really!