I’m a convert to the art of one foot in front of the other. I’m not your natural split shorts and vest, athletics kind of runner. In fact I spent most of my life playing football, and running was always the bit of football training I hated most. I only discovered running could actually be fun when I hit my early 30s and did the British 10km. We ran past the House of Parliament on a bright sunny morning just as Big Ben chimed with crowds cheering and in that moment, running grabbed me by my non-technical t-shirt and I was gripped. Since then it’s no exaggeration to say that running has changed my life.
It’s changed my work – I’ve always been a journalist but now I specialise in everything running, tech, fitness and health, writing about wearable tech for the likes of WIRED, Runner’s World and Wareable.com. It’s changed my health, with a huge shift in how I take care of my body. It’s taken me to places I would never have dreamed of going. Up mountains, into deserts and even to Milton Keynes. And it’s changed my attitude to life and helped me share some very special moments and adventures with my family and friends.
In the nine years since my running conversion I’ve run 30 marathons, 50 half marathons and eight ultras. Along the way I’ve managed to go from a 3:43 first time marathon to a 2:57 PB, run five of the six Marathon World Majors, run a half marathon every day one December, grabbed a top 100 finish at the Marathon des Sables, finished my first 100-mile ultra and suffered two DNFs two years running in the mountains at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail.
I’m not an elite, I’m not a celebrity, I’m just an average bloke who fell in love with running and now loves to push myself to see what I’m capable of. Over the years, the experiences I’ve had have shaped my attitude towards this sport we all love and I’ve developed what you might loosely call a set of running beliefs.
Tech, when used correctly, can makes you faster
I’m very lucky that my job allows me to play with the latest running and fitness tech. So I’ve tested dozens of running watches, heart rate monitors, running headphones, apps and other running gadgets. While some runners remain skeptical about the incursion of tech into the runspace, I’m a big believer in the benefits of technology, if you use it right. For example, I’ve recently tested some wearable sensors that help identify which style of running shoes make you most efficient, a gadget that gives you real-time feedback on your running form and I’m about to try out a foot pod that lets you manage consistent effort even over changing terrain.
Nutrition is as important for hitting PBs as running
When I’m training for a race I work as hard on my nutrition as I do on my running or strength training. It’s controversial, and some will say a little extreme, but I cut out sugar, dairy, gluten, grain and alcohol and go for a diet that’s high in good quality protein, good fats and nutrient-rich veg. It means when I get to race day I’m often below 10% body fat, and that means I’m faster. Dropping a couple of kilos of body fat is a great way to knock minutes off your race time. I’ve used this approach since 2014 and it’s worked well for me, not only improving my running but also creating a healthier lifestyle overall.
Too many runners underestimate the importance of strength training
Since 2014 I’ve been working with a coach who has transformed my training. In 2013 I was running big miles, most of them at high intensity and the result was that I hd the metabolic profile of an obese 50-year-old. My body would switch to burning carbs at an 80BPM heart rate and that’s not a good place to be. I now spend as much time in the gym lifting weights as I do on the roads running miles. I’ve not been injured once and I’ve had great success with an approach that favours getting lean and building power along with quality targeted running sessions, rather than trotting out loads and loads of long runs or always feeling you need to run at your limit.
Running is all about the challenge
I love running all distances from a mile to ultras, on track, tarmac and trails, and I do it just to see if I can. A huge part of my passion comes from the process of training hard, putting the work in and then taking on a challenge that’s much bigger than me, asking myself difficult questions. And it doesn’t always go the way you want it to, but when it does the sense of reward and achievement is highly addictive.
I believe that every goal is equal
Whether you’re run-walking your first mile or you’ve just won a 100km ultra, I’m a huge believer that all goals are equal. Everyone started somewhere and built up. I’ve heard a lot of people say they’ve felt like they don’t belong in a race with other ‘proper’ runners but there’s no mould you have to fit to be a runner. The only thing that really matters is that you’re out there working hard to be better. That’s what running is all about for me.
Ask me anything
I’ll be teaming up with AfterShokz to host the UKRunChat takeover on the 13 May between 8-9pm and I can’t wait to answer all your questions. Feel free to quiz me on anything from running tech, to which city marathons I’d recommend, nutrition, motivation, stepping up from marathon to ultra and even what the future of running looks like.