Q: What does your training regime look like?
A: Like many Athletes, my training revolves around what events I have coming up and when. In the lead up to the last race, I followed a four-phase plan which gradually built up both speed and endurance. I cover a maximum of 50 miles per week over a range of training sessions. This includes a mix of easy runs, long runs, tempo runs, and progression runs. In addition to this, I do strength training, which is HIIT once or twice a week and cross-training on my indoor exercise bike. I also love to climb, so I do bouldering to maintain my upper body strength when I can. In preparation for a race, I will be training 6 days a week; however, if my body needs the extra rest, I listen to this and incorporate more rest days into my schedule.
Q: In the lead up to a competition, how do you prepare?
A: Before an event, I like to be performing at a race pace in my training about a month in advance. At this point, I begin tapering my training down to preserve both my energy and muscles for the race itself. For running such long distances, the mental aspect is also a huge element of the preparation. I take a very similar approach to this as I did as a race engineer in motorsports. I will analyse the route, understand the elevation and terrain and recce the course, if possible, to picture every km of the adventure ahead of me. This assists with my fuelling strategy, so I ensure my body has what it needs when it needs it most. Testing out all of my selected nutrition for race day is a must in preparation for a race, alongside testing any new kit I may have to help me on my journey. The skill of ultra-running is in the preparation, then all you have to do on the day is focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
Q: How do SKINS compression garments help you in training, competition and recovery?
A: Doing so much elevation work takes its toll on the legs. The A400 compression leggings help with both the strain on my muscles during the climb and the lactic acid build-up from doing this repeatedly. It means I can scale one mountain and continue to run over to the next one and then do it all over again the following day. “The recovery element is like nothing else; SKINS products allow me to maintain the aspiration of 6 training days per week.” I describe running in compression leggings out on trail being the same as pushing down on your thigh when you tackle a steep incline. “It gives a level of support that allows you to push yourself harder and further.”
Q: Do you have anything unique to your training regime?
A: In my training, every session is an adventure. There are no gyms, just endless mountains and moorland. My home is the Peak District (in the UK), so all I have to do is step outside my backdoor and decide which peak I will scale today while completing the required session, be that a running or strength. The views are so awe-inspiring you never want your session to end! (Even on the days when it is raining sideways, and the wind barely lets you stand up!)
Q: Do you have any superstitions/pre-competition rituals?
A: I have a small rock I carry in my pack on race day that I collected from Glyder Fawr’s summit when I had just started mountain trail running. It reminds me that I do what I do, not for the competition, but to feel true freedom.
Q: What do you think separates you mentally from other athletes?
A: Blimey, that is a hard question! You know I have spent many years admiring athlete’s ability to train, their commitment and dedication. I never believed I was capable of this until I found it was my medicine. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks; running helps me manage my symptoms and recover. Michael D’Aulerio summed up the mental shift that occurs in ultra-running best with his quote ‘How long you can run is proportionate to how long you can suffer. If you have overcome great struggles, you have the mind-set to run extraordinarily long distances. And you may not even know it. If we learn how to find hope inside of suffering, we can heal from the unhealable, believe in the unbelievable and finish the unfinishable. This goes for running and in life itself.’ Running is my meditation, my serenity and ultimately, where I am happiest. What separates me is, the harder I train, and the higher I climb, the easier it becomes for me to breathe and rest because my mind is focused only on the challenge!
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.