Ian Thomas

Occupation: IT Project Manager

Home Town: Norwich

Twitter account: @ultraian

Website/blog: ultraian.wordpress.com

Running Background

What is your running background?

I’ve run recreationally at various points in my life, but I started racing in earnest in 2009 at age fifty with a desire to be the best I could be. I initially focused on road racing 5k to Marathons before venturing into Ultra’s. I know 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 to see what I was capable of after my first sub 3 marathon. It was the Marriott’s Way Ultra (36m), a low key free event on my main training route at that time in Norwich. Beginners luck saw me win the event and set a new course record, which fortuitously stood for 5 years before being beaten in 2016.

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

Any Ultra’s really but usually 100 mile plus. I love Spartathlon of course, the Canal series and although I have aspirations to tackle other classics like Badwater, Western States or indeed the US Grand Slam, cost rules out most.

I ventured into the 24hr track race arena over last few years debuting at Barcelona in December 2016 and since completed Energia 24 (Belfast), Athens 24hr and most recently Gloucester 24hr.

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.

I do miss road racing 5k to Marathon and am keen not to completely neglect this area of my racing, but it’s increasingly difficult to accommodate everything.

What are your personal key running achievements to date? 

  • Five consecutive Spartathlon’s, my best finish being in 2016 as first Brit in (29:14:36)
  • Finishing my third GUCR (2016) in third place 27:43
  • Finishing my third LLCR130 (2016) in first place 24:28 in atrocious conditions.
  • Running 2 sub 3 marathons when I was age 52 (2011) and 53 (2012) (would like to attempt a sub 3 again)

What was your hardest race experience? 

Difficult to choose between finishing Spartathlon in 2018 with an injury with 50 miles still to go or achieving an AQ at Athens 24hr in 2019 where I risked running with an injury from the start. It was an insane and reckless decision. I won’t put my body and family through that again.

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

Athens 24hr already completed in January, but none of my usual other events due to Covid 19. Not in to virtual events

Maybe one or two 100k coastal runs (not events)

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra? 

Historically I tend to go out reasonably fast as I prefer to run well whilst I can which seems ill advised. This is especially so at Spartathlon as it’s easy to overcook the first 50 miles and potentially pay a heavy price. However, I have been more conservative of late due to my experiences at 24hr races, where I have experimented with a more even paced strategy – to good effect at Athens especially.

Energy via fruit, raisins or anything else easily digestible, stay hydrated mainly via Tailwind, but also partial to chocolate milk drink which has worked well for me in the past. 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 80-130 miles plus 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.

Increasing amounts of strength and flexibility work incorporating unilateral leg strengthening but also all body strengthening.

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? 

Not really. 

Spartathlon

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?   

Yes in 2015 / 16 / 17 / 18 and 19

How did you get on? 

31:33 (2015), 29:14:36 (2016) slower years 33:32 (2017) and 34:53 (2018) largely due to niggles Improved slightly again for 2019 but much to do to be back where I want to be.

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

Stay calm and avoid trying to build a large buffer over the first 50 miles. I should say that this is contrary to what I have done previously, except for 2018 and 2019 where I did start more conservatively. Fast starts have worked for me though so it is hard to hold back

Be prepared for the long tough haul to mountain base and again from Tegea to Sparta. People don’t seem to mention 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 the foot of 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?

Not being allowed to touch King Leonidas statue at the finish and not being able to high 5 the kids in Elefsina.

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

High mileage on roads, couple of 100k coastal runs, plus some additional strength, speed and flexibility training.

Usual race strategy of completing a an ultra or two blown out by Covid 19.

I’m looking to experiment with Keto approach to diet.

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. They absolutely loved it too! 

I should say you can run it successfully without crew as I did in 2015