Name: Ashley Gilbert
Occupation: Director & Personal Trainer
Home Town: Dereham, Norfolk
What is your running background?
Raised a runner, I’ve known the sport since my earliest memory. In fact, my first ever trip out of the house was to watch my Dad the 1985 Bungay Black Dog Half Marathon. As a young
teen I simply wanted to be fast; racing 400m and 800m – County Champion at the later, with a PB time of 2 minutes flat.
While also competing at national level indoor athletics and national schools cross country. At university I spent 3 years running the North Staffordshire Cross Country League and the BUCS Cross Country Championships. 2006 also witnessed my London Marathon debut.
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?
I stepped into this ultra-running dream out of raw curiosity; just to see how far I could run? I can’t remember much about my first ultra, but I’ll never forget it –
The Norfolk Coastal 100km, October 2012 – It hurt, but I survived, and the journey began.
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?
Last weekend saw me run the Warwickshire Ring 111 Mile Canal Race – My first ‘Canal Race’, but certainly not my last! Earlier this year I ran Flitch Way 12 Hour and Centurion’s Thames Path 100 – tipping over 1000 Centurion Running miles in the process, to date. I’m
very tempted by the Camino Ultra Lea Valley 50km and/or Epping Forest next year; I would also like to sneak under 3 hours for the marathon distance.
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
To date, completing the Run Until You Drop Challenge in 2015, 2020 and 2021 (Originally set up in 2015 by the legend Paul Ali), are, and will always be, three of my greatest running achievements I’m sure. Physically, mentally, and emotionally tough at times,
400+ miles in 28/29 days – while balancing a young family and a business – is hard on the body and mind.
Running the Spartathlon qualifying time at Robin Hood 100 in 2020 was a great achievement and a long-term goal ticked off. 2nd place at the 2021 Peddars Way 48 was when I felt able to see the possibility of my true potential; what I’m capable of accomplishing if everything falls into place. That summer, I won the 2021
Norfolk Coastal 100km; and this year’s Flitch Way 12 Hour (120km in 11h 19m) was a great day for me too!
What was your hardest race experience?
Quite possibly, very recently; at this year’s Thames Path 100. After a relatively fast first 50, somewhere between mile 51 and mile 79.
As my stomach churned and my pace began to slow, tiptoeing along the cusp of failure, paralysed in what seemed like a systematic pattern of cramps; I had two options, stop or carry on. With the pressure of Spartathlon looming, each option would come with a consequence I could not escape. Those moments of combined exertion and self-sorrow, when all was hurting, and I was teetering on the unbearable edge of my ability, I was – for the first time in a long time – at a point where I considered choosing comfort over why I
The victory over that unrivalled mix of fatigue and doubt, that only seemingly on ultra-running brings, is what makes the finish line all the more satisfying. Thames Path 100 – 19h 43m & 23rd place
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?
Strategy vs. reality is something I am relentlessly working on in preparation for this year’s Spartathlon. A typical ultra would see me to be fast and efficient from the start, wasting little to no time at checkpoints, and when I get to the end of my rope, tie a knot and hang on! (See previous answer!)
What does a typical training week look like?
Monday to Thursday on the treadmill between clients; Sacred Friday is usually with the running buggy and my youngest, I always aim for some trail time on a Saturday, and
‘Church of the Long Run’ on Sunday. I’m currently running an average of 6 days and 50-60 miles, a week. Each day a fine balance of family excitement, business professionalism, and athlete amateurism.
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time?
“Control the controllables, stay patient, and don’t burn yourself out. When the deluge of doubt begins to kick in, try a sip of chocolate milk, it works every time!”
Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
At the very beginning of my ultra-running journey I became a Dad for the first time. Nearly 10 years later, I am now a very proud dad of three. One of the most rewarding things about being an ultra-running dad is watching these guys find magic and appreciate the great
outdoors. Encouraging them daily to explore their dreams and enjoy the adventure.
*Claim to fame: I once called time on my own race to help a runner in desperate need. That runner, the man, the legend, Mr. Ian Thomas!
Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?
No – only in my dreams! – I entered the lottery for the first time this year and was successful via the waiting list.
Where did you get your qualifier for Spartathlon:
Robin Hood 100
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?
I just want to take it all in, it’s a race like no other!
I’m excited about meeting the rest of the team and their crews, and obviously the unique and iconic finish-line, it’s been visualised, talked about, and the core purpose of every run for a very long time.
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?
Honestly, the distance and the cut-offs make me nervous. This is a very different type of challenge I’ve ever accepted, but one I have dreamed about for many years. I’ll miss my family and my usual ‘Dream Team’ crew. I wouldn’t be doing what I love, so often, if not for the time, respect, and support given to me from all those guys; they have all been on this journey with me and played their own unique part – it would have been great to share the experience with them.
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
I’ll continue to train hard under the watchful eyes of the fantastic ‘Daz n Bone’; I have improved dramatically in all areas of my life because the advice and support given to me by both Darren and David. They lead by example, motivate me, listen to me, and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve helped me achieve in such a small amount of time. I trust their plan 100% and I’m loving the journey they have me on!
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race? (If so, please introduce them briefly)
No. The family is still young and it’s simply too much of an ask; hopefully they will get to see enough via the video streams etc. I know they’ll be sending love and cheering me on from Norfolk!