Your Name: James Ellis
Occupation: Journalist/marketeer/nutrition expert/personal trainer (I call it a ‘portfolio of employment’ other people call it ‘a 51-year-old tw*t who still doesn’t know what he’s best at’.
Home Town: Leeds/Athens
Twitter Account: @worldofjames
What is your running background?
Archetypical fattie who decided to do something about it. Started running, realised he’d topped out on shorter distance speed and was convinced to go long… you’ve read the story. Like Steve Way, but not half as good, fast, or, indeed, thin.
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?
Along with David Bone, I kind of fell into it thanks to our pals (and fellow Spartathletes) Jamie Holmes and Darren Strachan. Jamie’s daughter has a condition called hemiplegia. He wanted to raise money for her, and asked us to join him running the Brighton Marathon one week, the London the next and running from Brighton to London inbetween. As we set off on the latter, Jamie’s mum – bless her – sent us an article saying “if you think you’re running loads, have a look at this.’ It was about Spartathlon. We had 11 hours to spare running between Brighton and London and decided to give it a go. Little did we know…
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?
I’ve actually ran Spartathlon more than any other ultra (insert blushing and/or shocked emoji)
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
Four successive Spartathlon finishes, a couple of top 12 KACR finishes and the odd podium elsewhere – usually when there’s no one half decent running.
What was your hardest race experience?
The first Spartathlon I did in 2015. It was my eighth official ultra (insert blushing and/or shocked emoji). I’d done a couple of the much-missed London Ultras, one 100km race, a 24 hour and a 100miler, plus a couple of legs of the Thames Path multi-day thingy. I had no idea what it entailed – to the point I was blissfully unaware of the second huge climb after the mountain. I’d done no heat training, wore running shoes a size too big to allow for foot swelling but didn’t factor in the fact the swelling didn’t take place until the evening of day one, ground my feet to blisters before Corinth and at the finish had the soles of both feet literally flapping off. The last 50 miles were death marched. Thankfully if I have two enviable skills its determination /stamina and a decent death march.
What events do you have planned for 2019 up to Spartathlon? (Dates/name of key events)
I’ll be running a series of ultras local to me called Punk Panther (or all the ones I can make) and I’ll be doing their Dales Way Challenge 6 weeks out, running from the Lake District back to Ilkley which is just down the road from me. Endure 24 is just down the road, so I’m thinking of pitching up for that too.
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?
What does a typical training week look like?
In peak season 5 x 10 milers through the week and a couple of long ones at weekends. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result though, so after four years of hanging around the 35 hour mark at Sparta, I need to change that up.
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time?
Never follow Paul Ali when trying to write a profile for the BST – you’ll never be as funny (or, more than likely, as fast)
Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
I once asked Anne Widdicombe on a date… and got turned down.
Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?
2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018
How did you get on?
2015 (35:38:19), 2016 34.55 (35:02:25), 2017 (34:56:10) and 2018 (35:05:39) – as you can see, I’m perennially not very good.
Each one has been totally different though. Year one was a matter of survival for which I’m ever grateful to Jamie Holmes for pushing me on the mountain when I was cooked. Year two I ran largely on my own as Darren and I set off together but had very different paces.
In 2017, the four of us – Darren, Jamie, David and myself – vowed to stay together and although we split at times in the race we managed to regroup just before Sparta.
Last year was, of course, Storm Zorba. I was well up timewise by the mountain, but the constant rain, wind and a real chill stopped me from doing the time I’d set myself… Fut I did cross the finish with my twin daughters Martha and Gracie and their half-Greek cousins, Nikitas and Alexis…. That was as special as the finish gets, despite the trees in Sparta being bent double by the wind.
What tip would you pass on to those taking part for the first time?
Joking aside, it is the greatest race on earth, and aside from getting married and having kids, nothing beats that last run up to the stature of Leonidas. Enjoy it – and thank God you have the opportunity to do it.
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?
Five in a row would be pretty special. Ideally, I want to do it in a decent-ish time…. If I don’t, shoot me and let someone else have a pop.
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?
Nothing – it’s ace.
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
I plan to do more downhill repeats and look to run as long as I can into the race. You can gain loads of time if you’re still running strong over the last 20 mile stretch downhill into Sparta.
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?
For the last two, I’ve had the blonde bombshells – my wife Laura and her pal Nicky. I’m hoping to persuade them to come back for a last pop – because however much I shout at them in the race, they’ve been effin amazing and I could not want for better back up.