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 on the cusp of 50. Initially I focused on road racing 5k to Marathons before venturing into Ultra’s. Granted, 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 after achieving the first of my sub 3 marathons. It was the Marriott’s Way Ultra (36m), a low key free event on my main training route p that time. I was surprised to win the event but didn’t revisit the ultra scene again until 2013.
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 able to be a regular at Spartathlon and do like the Canal series but also have aspirations to tackle other classics like Badwater, Western States or indeed the US Grand Slam, though cost really is prohibitive when considering travel etc too.
I 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 really like to see what I can achieve. I learnt some valuable lessons but this unfamiliar race format really decimated my 2017 season. My experience at Athens in Jan 18 also resulted in injury, but I know what needs addressing and hopefully I can sort it.
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. Having said that I am tempted by a particularly long road race in the UK.
I keep meaning to revisit races in the 5k to Marathon bracket but it’s increasingly difficult to accommodate everything.
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
- Spartathlon 2015/16/17 (best 29:14 2016)
- GUCR 2016 finishing 3rd27:43
- LLCR130 (2016) 1stin atrocious weather conditions.
- 2 sub 3 marathons at age 52 (2011) and 53 (2012) Best 2:57:35 (would really like to attempt a sub 3 again in 2018 at age 59)
What was your hardest race experience?
Spartathlon (2017) because of decimated training/enforced lay-offs due to injury. It was a pity I couldn’t capitalise on particularly mild weather conditions and put in a decent time, but if you lack the training you will pay the price in this race and no mistake. I knew it was a big risk.
What events do you have planned for 2018 up to Spartathlon?
Possibly a marathon or two and maybe a 50k or 100k perhaps. Unfortunately opportunities have been dictated by my the legacy of last year, so still some indecision. I’ve reluctantly had to can my planned GUCR and LLCR130 due to volume and potential injury concerns.
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. I suffered last year although it was really attributable to a massive loss in training mileage due to injury and not a change to my strategy.
Eat fruit, raisins, yoghurt or anything else easily digestible, stay hydrated mainly via Tailwind, but I’m also partial to chocolate milk. 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 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.
All round strength training, but heavy focus on hip/leg strength, mobility, stability and flexibility.
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, 2016 and 2017
How did you get on?
31:33 (2015) 29:14:36 (2016) and an anticipated slower time of 33:32 (2017)
What tip would you pass on to those taking part for the first time?
Stay calm, run your own race, stay hydrated, manage your core temperature diligently and dress appropriately for the night section over the mountain. Most of all, enjoy!
Be prepared for the long tough haul to mountain base and again from Tegea to Sparta. Reports don’t seem to highlight 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, reaching 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?
What’s not to like!
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
Ideally it would have been the same as 2016 assuming injury free. High mileage on roads, a few big ultras, a marathon or two, plus some additional strength, speed and flexibility training, but I’ve curbed the volume this year.
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.
I should say you can run it successfully without crew as I and many others have done.