Paul Ali

Runners Information

Occupation:  Business Change Manager

Home Town: Reading

Twitter Account: Now retired from social media

Website/Blog: Ok I lied.. I still maintain a running blog at www.paulsrunningblog.com

Runners FAQ 

What is your running background?

Not much to speak of. I played amateur football for many years and started a bit of jogging (and the odd 10k) in between football seasons as a way of keeping fit.

After suffering a nasty ankle injury in 2007 (see picture below) I put the football boots away and set myself a challenge of running a 50 mile event as a way of proving my fitness after a long lay off.

After finishing near the back in my first ever Ultra-marathon (The Thames Path Ultra) I was hooked and decided to run another 50 mile race, 3 weeks later (the inaugural Thames Trot). It was far too soon after the first event and I finished near the back again.

I’ve spent the last 10 years doing a fair amount of races, cranking out junk miles on a weekly basis and improving a little. I don’t really know when to retire so now settling into world-weary, mid-pack, over the hill ultra runner these days. I’m just looking to get to 10 x GUCR finishes before I can allow myself to retire.

When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?

My running plan is pretty flexible at the moment as I’m still working my way back from injury.

My current plan is:

  1. Finish rehab and recover from injuries
  2. Get fit (working on this) and lose weight (6kg lost so far.. )
  3. Run an ultra to get some confidence that I can actually still finish a race
  4. Run Spartathlon
  5. Don’t collapse at the mountain and get pulled by the medics
  6. Finish Spartathlon
  7. Contemplate running retirement at the end of the year..
  8. Carry on running next year

What are your personal key running achievements to date?

Out of 80 or so ultras I’ve had one really good result, several ok ones, lots of average races, lots of below par ones (these I usually describe as ‘training runs’ on the blog) a handful of DNF’s. Darren Strachan once described me as a ‘reliable mid-pack’ runner. Therefore, to celebrate my average to middling career, my profile pictures are all from my race DNFs..

The average runners measure of success probably goes as follows:

  • Complete a Park run – Yes
  • Won a Park Run – No
  • Complete a 10k – Yes
  • Won a 10k – No
  • Complete a Half Marathon – Yes
  • Won a Half Marathon – No
  • Age win a race – Yes
  • Complete a Marathon – Yes
  • Won a low key Marathon – Yes
  • Run THE marathon – Yes a few times.
  • Won a ‘proper’ (bigger/city type) competitive marathon – No
  • Sub 3 Marathon – Yes
  • Appeared on TV during a race – Yes
  • Run a 50 mile training week – Yes
  • Run a 100 mile week – Yes
  • Run a 150 mile training week – Yes
  • Run a 200 mile training week – Nearly.. thanks Run Until You Drop
  • Complete a LDWA event – Yes
  • “Won” a LDWA event – No
  • Complete an Ultra – Yes (about 80)
  • Write a Blog – Yes (www.paulsrunningblog.com)
  • Complete a long Ultra (100+ Miles) Yes (about 25)
  • Had a celebrity tweet you during an Ultra – Yes (Thanks “Bros” & Stouty)
  • Run a 100 mile ultra dressed as Batman/Robin (i.e. full muscle fancy dress outfit) – Yes
  • Death-marched an ultra finish – Yes (about 150 miles of the Thames Ring)
  • Volunteered at a race – Yes
  • Been a Race Director – Yes (Saturday Night Marathon events)
  • Puked during an ultra – Yes
  • Fell asleep during an ultra – Yes
  • Won a game of Fortnite – Yes (just wanted to put that somewhere)
  • Been chased by some angry cows during an Ultra – Yes
  • Been chased by an angry dog during an Ultra – Yes
  • Been chased by an angry person during an Ultra – No
  • Been scared by a pair of badgers during an Ultra – Yes (they are bigger than you think)
  • Been shouted at by Henk – Yes
  • Taken a detour during an Ultra – Yes
  • Embarrassed yourself during an Ultra somehow – Yes
  • Offered wisdom and ‘sage’ advice to other ultra runners on Facebook/Social Media – Probably
  • Written an article for Ultra Magazine – Yes
  • Produced an Ultra Magazine – Yes (anyone remember Ultra Tales… no?)
  • Become a running coach – No
  • DNFd an Ultra – Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes
  • Cried during an Ultra – Yes
  • Owned a famous hat – Yes
  • Won a low key ultra – Yes
  • Won a recognised/competitive ultra – Maybe (Joint 1st at LLCR 2017 in 22.24 with fellow Spartathlete Paul Beechey)

What was your hardest race experience? 

The next one.. it’s tough coming back from injury

What events do you have planned for 2019 up to Spartathlon?

I have a few in the diary but everything will depend upon surviving (and going blister free) from race to race.

I have a place in the TP100 followed by the GUCR.

If previous years are anything to go by at the GUCR then I look forward to another copy/paste event report where I get to Navigation Bridge ok, feel tired, get blisters, fall asleep, death march the second half of the race and feel disappointed that I didn’t crack sub 30.. again (x7 so far).

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?

When I was an ultra marathon running rookie my initial strategy was to run the first half reasonably well, get tired and death-march the second half of the race.. that would generally be enough to get a 100 mile finish in 24 hours without too much bother. (I once managed to complete a 100 mile race with 8 hour/16 hour 50 miles splits).

However, after running a few more races, gaining some some experience and honing my race craft then it’s just about extending that point in the race as far as possible before I get tired, sleepy and death-march the rest of the race…

What does a typical training week look like? 

Not much at the moment.

Just plodding to work and back a bit, longer run on the weekend and hiding from everyone on Strava.

What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time? 

Consider whether it’s really worth the effort!

General interest and “coffee room kudos” from your friends and colleagues disappears quite quickly after your first couple of “Guess what? I ran an ultra last weekend..” stories.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself? 

I haven’t run a good race in 2 years. 😦

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?

Yes in 2013, 2015, 2018.

How did you get on?

2013 – I finished in just over 35 hours and was honestly pleased just to finish.

2015 – Improved my time by a couple of hours but should have tried harder.

2018 – Fell asleep at the mountain checkpoint..

What tip would you pass on to those taking part for the first time?

Hope for blazing sun-shine as it was a rubbish last year. Make the most of the finish as it’s pretty special.

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

Alex Whearity getting sun burned.

Rob Pinnington.

Knowing the outcome of Game of Thrones by that time.

Hopefully, being fit and ready for the start of the race!

What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?

Running.

Rob Pinnington.

Sorting out the British Sparta Team kit order after last year…

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race? 

Run a bit. Hope the legs hold together. They may not look like much but I hope they’ve got it when it counts.

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race? 

After returning to the race following a Spartathlon defeat.. the only person I could turn to make me feel better was someone else with the experience of more defeats than me, therefore…

…Rob Pinnington (and son) have kindly offered to follow me by car, laugh, hurl abuse and insults along the way in return for the many.. many times I’ve taken the mick out of him. Rob is aiming to live his “2015 glory day” vicariously through me… no pressure.