Your Name: Stephen Walker
Occupation: Digital Banking Analyst
Home Town: Highbury, London
Strava Account: (if applicable) Strava – https://www.strava.com/athletes/9205637?hl=en-GB
Insta: (if applicable) Insta – https://www.instagram.com/stephenjbwalker/
What is your running background?
Like any normal human being, I had no interest in running at school. However, at 15 my Dad goaded me into running 4 miles a night for 3 months to lose some weight. Since then I was generally doing 8-16 miles a week until my first marathon (London, 2007).
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?
My first ultra was Round Rotherham 50, 2008. Mainly, of course, because Rotherham is a world class city and running was the best way to see it. But also because my other sources of dopamine were too expensive and/or incompatible with other life goals. And because I’d just read a book by Dean Karnazes.
It wasn’t a case of “the rest is history”. But I kept coming back to running, despite breaks. And when I finally gave up smoking in 2014, I committed to consistent weekly volume.
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?
I don’t do many events. All my training is on flat London roads, and it’s difficult to replicate those conditions at events. Things like Canalthlon and Flitch Way close as I get. If badly injured, I’ve done Iron Man events (UK, 2009; Wales, 2016).
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
My first and only 100 miler: Samphire 100 (July, 2017), first place and new course record by 3.5hrs, Sparta Auto-Qualifer (16hrs 16mins). I claim this as theworld record 100 mile time for a runner at 25% body fat race morning (173cm/84kg).
What was your hardest race experience?
A 100 miler I found when in Pune, India (Nov, 2017) for work. 30 degree heat, undulating trail, 4hrs sleep night before, and overnight flight the night before that, I knew it would be difficult, testing conditions, that was the point. But by mile 68, despite being in the lead, I lost all interest in finishing. I’ve since learnt that’s generally how DNF’s work. And that to finish 100 mile+ race, finishing has got to mean something (not “out there for work, let’s get a training run in….”).
What events do you have planned for 2018 up to Spartathlon? (Dates/name of key events)
26thMay, 2018 Grand Union Canal Race. I’ve been lucky enough to get a place in the ballot three times. But unlucky enough to get injured and not make the start two consecutive times (left femur stress fracture one year, Achilles thing the other). Hugely frustrating, particularly after solid 40 week training blocks coming in both times; but it really crystalized for me that running is about the running. It’s not about the events.
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?
No strategy other than planning to run the whole thing, which means setting out at a sensible pace.
What does a typical training week look like?
Weeks vary a lot but I try to maintain year round averages of 80-100 miles a week running and 8-10hrs upper body weights.
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time?
You don’t have look like a POW to finish. But it helps.
Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
I’ve probably got the best tits in ultra-running. If they stopped Spartathlon half way through and turned it into press up competition, I’d be on for a much better finish.
Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?
Meeting all the other runners, the spectators, the history – I’ve been thinking about this race for a decade.
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?
Not being able to play music.
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
The usual but with a primary focus on body fat reduction (from 22% to 5%). It’s tricky, because I really like the cookies and the red wine. And I haven’t eaten a vegetable since the late 90s.
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race? (If so, please introduce them briefly)