Name: Ian Thomas
Occupation: IT Project Manager
Home Town: Norwich
Twitter account: @ultraian
What is your running background?
I’ve run recreationally at various points in my life, but I started racing in earnest in 2009 with a desire to be the best I could be. Initially I focused on road racing 5k to Marathons before venturing into Ultra’s. I started a little late in life compared to most, but it’s never too late to push the boundaries!
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?
I dipped by toe in the water in 2011 to see what I was capable of after my first sub 3 marathon. It was the Marriott’s Way Ultra (36m), a low key free event on my main training route at that time in Norwich. Beginners luck saw me win the event and set a new course record, which fortuitously stood for 5 years before being beaten in 2016. I may well return in the hope of reclaiming it 😊
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?
Any Ultra’s really but usually 100 mile plus. I’d like to be a regular at Spartathlon, the Canal Slam (comprising GUCR, Avon and Kennett and LLCR130) and do have aspirations to tackle other classics like Lakeland 100, Western States or indeed the US Grand Slam, though cost rules out the latter.
I recently ventured into the 24hr track race arena via a debut at Barcelona in December 2016 and although I swore I’d never return, I’ve since changed my mind as I’d like to really see what I can achieve as I wasn’t hundred per cent on the day. I learnt some valuable lessons too.
Events like UTMB, Spine, MDS or other multi day events don’t currently appeal to me. I prefer pure non-stop running events tackled without the aid of poles.
I also still enjoy road racing anything from 5k to Marathon and am keen not to neglect this area of my racing, but it’s increasingly difficult to accommodate everything.
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
- Finishing my second consecutive Spartathlon in 2016 in 29:14:36
- Finishing my third GUCR in 2016 in 3rd place 27:43
- Finishing my third Liverpool to Leeds (LLCR130) in 2016 in first place 24:28
- Running 2 sub 3 marathons at age 52 (2011) and 53 (2012) Best 2:57:35 (would like to attempt a sub 3 again)
What was your hardest race experience?
What events do you have planned for 2016 up to Spartathlon?
British Ultrafest 24hr Track (1st April)
GUCR 145m (27th May)
Avon and Kennett 145m (28th July)
LLC130 (26th August)
Maybe one two marathons, 50k or 100k’s.
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?
Generally I tend to go out reasonably fast as I prefer to run well whilst I can. I know this seems ill advised, especially at Spartathlon as it’s easy to overcook the first 50 miles and potentially pay a heavy price. Eat small pieces of fruit, raisins or anything else easily digestible, stay hydrated mainly via Tailwind, but also partial to chocolate milk drink which worked well for me last year. Avoid gels like the plague!
What does a typical training week look like?
It tends to vary due to work commitments, but could be anything from 70-130 miles plus per week approx, incorporating lots of hills via ‘Doubles’ sessions. All executed on road to build the necessary strength. This assumes I’m not carrying any niggles of course.
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time?
Just focus on the now and dismiss the distance from your mind. It’s just a number! Know before you start that you will cross that line.
Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?
Yes in 2015 and 2016
How did you get on?
Finished in 31:33 (2015) and 29:14:36 (2016)
What tip would you pass on to those taking part for the first time?
Stay calm and avoid trying to build a large buffer over the first 50 miles. I should say that this is contrary to what I have done previously but fast starts seem to work for me, whereas they may ruin some runners chances of reaching Sparta.
Be prepared for the long tough haul to mountain base and again from Tegea to Sparta. People don’t seem to mention these parts of the course, but this race isn’t just about the mountain! It most certainly is about the finish though 😊
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?
The whole journey, the build up, pre-race get-togethers with fellow runners, the start at the Acropolis, the magical journey, kissing the foot of King Leonidas, the amazing welcome in Sparti and being greeted by my wife, in Laws, fellow team members and Spartans.
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?
A potentially cold and/or wet transition across the mountain at 100 miles in.
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
Same as last year largely. High mileage on roads, three or four big ultras, one or two smaller ultras, a marathon or two, plus some additional strength, speed and flexibility training.
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?
Yes my wife Gill and in laws Kelvin and Collette to share in the experience throughout the build up, the race itself and the finish in Sparti. They absolutely loved it last year!
I should say you can run it successfully without crew as I did in 2015.