My dad is a runner so I ran when I was younger, but from about the age of 10 until just into my 30s I played football 3 or 4 times a week. I ran the London Marathon once about 10 years ago whilst I was still playing football, but about 5 or 6 years ago I decided to stop playing football and took up running as my main sport. Not long after that I joined a running club for the first time and have been steadily improving ever since.
2.What do you get from running ?
From a young age I've always been active, whether it was playing football or being outside riding my bike, so carrying on being active is a big part of what I get from running. But since I became a member of a running club it has become much more than that.
The running community is incredibly friendly and welcoming, events such as park run are testament to this, and I have made some great friends through running. Most weekends a group of us will be out for a long run which we finish at a cafe for a coffee and a chat and some pastries.
3.Your favorite distance and why.
I enjoy all distances from a mile through to the marathon. I like the variety rather than focusing on a specific distance, and I completed my first ultramarathon in 2014. But I get most enjoyment from longer distance trail runs.
Some of my favourite races are Man vs Horse and the Orion 15, but I also enjoy getting out of London when I can at weekends for long runs on the South Downs, normally with the goal of finishing at a country pub for lunch and a pint.
4.What achievement are you most proud of?
It has to be my Comrades Marathon Silver medal from June 2014. The Comrades is a 56 mile road race in South Africa which is run between the cities of Pietermartzburg and Durban. It is the worlds oldest and largest ultramarathon and is steeped in history and tradition. All those finishing in under 7 hours 30 minutes receive a silver medal which is only about 4% of the field of 18,000, so it is a big achievement.
For me it had been long term goal and I had specifically trained for it for a year sacrificing speed over all other distances, so for everything to come together on race day makes it really special. I don't think I can top that.
5.What made you decide to run the Comrades marathon?
I was initially drawn to the Comrades by a fellow club member who is from South Africa and who runs Comrades every year. His stories of the race were amazing and the more I read about it and understood its link to the recent history of South Africa the more attractive it became. It had been on my todo list for about 3 years but for various reasons such as injury I had never been at the point where I felt I could achieve my goal of a Silver medal.
At the end of 2013 just prior to the entries for the 2014 race closing, one of my best friends lost a long battle against cancer. I'd had a year of uninterrupted running behind me at that point and had taking part in long distances races throughout the summer to get myself ready for it, so I decided to run the race in his memory to raise money for the cancer charities that had supported him for 7 years. Fortunately I managed to convince a fellow club member to run which certainly made the hours and hours of long runs needed for an ultramarathon easier.
Running for over 7 hours is a long time so you go through a range of emotions. Fortunately I didn't have any of the really low points that I was expecting and had tried to prepare myself for, but the worst part was realising very early in the race (about 20 miles in) that the early downhill sections had done a lot of damage to my quads, much more than I was expecting - when you still have over 30 miles to run you suddenly think that all the training and preparation may not have been enough. Fortunately I was able to carry on at the planned pace but had to take the downhill sections steady, towards the end of the race we were running the downhill sections slower than the uphill sections.
The highs were numerous. The start of Comrades is incredibly emotional and the singing of the Shosholoza before the gun goes off brings tears to your eyes. Watching the sun come up over the valley of a 1000 hills about an hour into the race is also memorable, as is passing Ethembeni School. The school cares for over 200 physically disabled and visually impaired children and on race day they line the road outside the school for about 6 hours and cheer all the runners who are passing in return for high fives. But the real high point was entering the stadium at the finish alongside Simeon, having run every step of the way together. We'd spent pretty much every Saturday and Sunday morning for 4 months training together, and there was nothing I wanted more than for us to finish together. We even had time to grab a Union Jack to hold aloft as we crossed the line together. That will stick with me forever.
7.What motivates you to carry on during a race when you begin to feel tired?
I am naturally quite competitive so whether I am running for a specific time, or am just trying to make up one more place to get an extra point for the team that is normally enough to keep me going. Staying motivated during training is much harder than during a race.
My biggest motivation for training is having training partners - nothing is better at getting you out of bed early on a cold winters morning than knowing that somebody will be waiting for you. I'm normally last to arrive though :)
8.Who inspires you?
I enjoy watching top class athletes, but I probably get more inspiration from those I run alongside regularly. Seeing somebody make a big jump in performance having seen how much hard work they have put in to get there is especially pleasing, and also makes you realise that you can always get a bit better and push yourself a little harder.
9.What’s the coolest place you’ve ever run?
Whenever I go on holiday I always pack my running kit so I have run in some spectacular locations in mainland Africa and Asia, but the coolest would either be running the forest trails of La Gomera in the Canary Islands or through the mountain villages in Sri Lanka. In fact I being able to stop for a fresh coconut from a roadside shop means Sri Lanka probably just takes it.