From Runners Profile

James Ellis

Runners Information

Your Name: James Ellis

Occupation: Journalist/PR and PT/Nutrition Therapist

Home Town: Leeds

Runners Questions

What is your running background?

Good(ish) at school where I had to run cross country to get into the football team (it was a small school, so it was a kind of bribe to make us run). Then I did bugger all for about 20 years. I’m the proverbial middle aged bloke who re-discovered fitness into his 40s, did a three-mile-a-day challenge every day for a year, then read Ultramarathon Man/Born To Run/Eat and Run (delete as appropriate) and got into ultra running.

When did you start running Ultra marathons and why?

Three pals David Bone, Darren Strachan and Jamie Holmes – all also running Spartathlon this year – convinced me to run the Brighton Marathon one week, the London Marathon the next… and run Brighton to London in the middle of the week. It was self-organised (read badly) but we did the 56 or so miles in about 12 hours, had a laugh on the way and talked about what else we could do. Someone mentioned Spartathlon and we decided to go straight for it. Two years later, I was lining up in Athens for my first tilt (2015).

What are your key personal running achievements to date?

Those who have not yet done it won’t get this until 7pm on September 30, 2017…. There is no greater race in the world than Spartathlon. Finishing two years running is the absolute best thing I’ve done and can only be beaten by doing the triple.

What was your hardest race experience?

Any really. Like most people, I battle with the demon on one shoulder telling me to stop, that this sport is crazy. Overall though, 2015, my first Spartathlon finish now looks like a complete fluke. I’d done the miles, but had bad shoes, no blister strategy, nutrition went up the spout and I got the most massive blisters after it chucking it down for most of the night. I hobbled in, death marching the last 50 miles, and despite a 35,35 finish, just had to do it again. I felt I’d cheated myself and the race.

What events do you have planned for 2017 up to Spartathlon?

World 24 Hour Champs, KACR.

What does a typical training week look like?

In the two months before I do 5 x 10 miles in the week with a big run, anything from 20-40 at weekends. I also teach Insanity Live, so two to three classes a week and the odd weights session if I can get it in.

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

Lap up the support of your fellow runners. With the odd exception, it’s an amazing community.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?

I’ve shadow boxed with Muhammad Ali.

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in Spartathlon before?

Twice – 2015 and 2016.

How did you get on?

35.35 and 35.05

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

Don’t be scared by the ‘fast’ pace to Corinth. Much of that is run in the morning when it’s a bit cooler so you can gain time there, then slow down for the second marathon. As long as you get to the checkpoint with 30 or so to spare (and I’ve seen it done with less), you can start to pick up time pretty quickly: up to five to 10 minutes per checkpoint if you’re running at even a trot.

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

Kissing the feet for the third time, hopefully with my three running pals David, Darren and Jamie.

What are you not looking forward to?

There are bits that are a bit grubby but other than that, there’s nothing to grumble about. Arriving in Sparta is the best race finish ever, so I just try and focus on that.

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

Heat training – sauna and black bin bags!

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?

I will have the blonde bombshells with me. My wife Laura and her mate Nicky Robbins.

 

Sarah Morwood

Name: Sarah Morwood

Job: Doctor

Background

I started running around 10 years ago when I was a size 18 with the aim of losing weight whilst avoiding dieting. Pottered around for a few years and then in 2012 upped my game to take on a marathon In 2013 I signed up for Bolton Ironman, and also tried my first ultra (Jurassic Coast Challenge). I won my age category at the Ironman, qualifying for Kona and won the JCC. This is when I found that this body was made for distance not speed!

By the end of 2013 I’d done my first 100 miler (Cotswold Way 100) and fallen madly in love with long distance running. In 2014, revelling in my new-found skill, I entered races left right and centre. By the end of the year (among a whole host of shorter races from half marathon up to 100km) I’d done 4 x 100 mile races including the UTMB (won 3 of the 100 milers, and 11th overall at the UTMB despite no previous mountain experience) and my 100 mile time had gone from 20 to 17 hours. I was selected to run for GB in the 2015 World Trail Championships where I came in first British female. At the end of 2015 I’d dropped my 100 mile time to 16 hour 13mins, and I tried my first 24 hour race, 24hr De Ploeren, where I clocked 216km, giving me an automatic Spartathlon qualification, and lining me up for a place in the 2016 GB 24hour squad.

Then in January 2016 everything went wrong. I was knocked off my road bike by a dangerous driver, and smashed my right knee to pieces. Cue 3x operations to fix the bone, 2.5months non-weight bearing, loss of over 90% of muscle in my right leg and a LONG long period of sadness, fear, frustration and rehab, rehab, rehab.

It’s taken me a year to get back to ultramarathon distance, and I now run with constant right knee pain, but ultramarathon runners are nothing if not stubborn. I can run, so I will run! All the way to Sparta.

Jay MacDonald

Runners Information

Your Name: Jay MacDonald
Occupation: Digital Product Manager
Home Town: Abbots Langley
 

Runners Questions

What is your running background?
I ran London Marathon in 2008, 2009 & 2010 but with absolutely nothing in between … It was probably in 2010 when I started to get into running a bit more seriously. I preferred football to running but was a bit unreliable for team sports so started to run a bit more and got addicted. Even now I’m still getting PBs at all distances every year so there’s still plenty to aim for and keep my running passion high!
 
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?
I only ever wanted to do the MdS after seeing a documentary on TV and was accepted into the 2011 race. I had only completed 3 marathons at that point (very slowly) and no ultras so in November 2010 I completed the XNRG Druids Ultra which I absolutely loved although I struggled badly!
 
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?
A personal favourite is the Country to Capital in January which is a cracking event to kick off the year. Centurion events are great and I love a marathon or two! I’m not fussy really but I prefer warm weather
 
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
67 official marathons/ultras including MdS 2011, 5 x 100 mile races, GUCR 2014 … Getting sub 3 at London last month (2:58) was something I had wanted for ages – Trying to juggle training for 100 mile races alongside a crack at sub 3 hour marathon has been a challenge but to a certain extent they have complimented each other well!
 
What was your hardest race experience?
GUCR 2014 – mentally more than physically but it was the fear of the unknown of going further than 100 miles.
 
EDIT – Also, I just DNF’d the Florida Keys 100 miler in mid-May at 62 miles … the humidity there was like nothing I’ve ever ran in before and the cramps were so bad I made the (now regrettable) decision to drop
 
What events do you have planned for 2017 up to Spartathlon?
Ultras – Monster Ambit 24 hour (June), Essex 100 or KACR (July), August TBC and a nice local 12 hours at St Albans Stampede (September)
 
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?
Start slow, walk hills and make the most of the bits where I feel good – not forgetting to eat at the aid stations
 
What does a typical training week look like?
Hmmmm, it can range from 10 miles to 70 miles … I’m well aware this needs to be increased before Spartathlon though! Lifestyle, family and the fact I don’t want to get injured tends to keep my mileage in check. I live a mile away from the Grand Union Canal so love a long weekend run ending at a canal side pub!
 
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time?
It’s not as hard as you think – if you like your own company and can channel your thoughts into positive ones then you can finish an ultra!
 
Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
I had a son in March called Toby and he is so unbelievably happy – He never fails to make me smile!
 

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?
No
 
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?
After being unsuccessful in the last three ballots, I’m finally looking forward to tackling this race, being part of the team, the distance, the mountain, the finish line and of course the post-race celebrations … My wife and friends are particularly looking forward to me running it so I stop talking about it all the time!
 
But most of all it has to be the last few miles of the race and especially the finish
 
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?
1.       I know how much it’s going to hurt … 153 miles will hurt no matter who you are!
2.       Being away from my wife and baby Toby
 
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
Long training runs in the heat of the UK summer, increased mileage including some back to backs, mix in some hills and walking sessions.
 
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?
I have my good mate Andy Hannon coming to support who has experience of being at ultras and has experienced my ‘ultramoods’ at GUCR a few years back. He was also in Florida in mid-May for the DNF at the Keys 100 so he will be a vital part of my race.

Marcel McKinley

Runners Information

Your Name: Marcel

Occupation: Zookeeper

Home Town: I live in Watford, but my nationality is Hungarian.

Website/Blog: https://monkeymarcel.wordpress.com/

What is your running background?

I have been running since high school. I finished my first marathon in 2009 and my first ultra just a couple of years later.

When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?

My first ultra was a low key 50km race in Lovell Canyon, Nevada. It was a day after a marathon. Basically just wanted to see if I could pull off two back to back races.

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

Transgrancanaria. My favourite race.

What are your personal key running achievements to date?

My first silver buckle in the Western States 100 mile race from last year; my first sub-24-hour finish in Transgrancanaria last year; finishing my second Magredi Mountail Trail 100 mile race in 34 hours and enjoying most of it even though it had rained for about 26-28 hours; finishing my first Saprtathlon last year.

What was your hardest race experience?

Hahaha! Too many to choose from… I do experience extreme highs and extreme lows in longer races and if I don’t eat enough and/or I’m sleepy, I can be a drama queen.

What events do you have planned for 2017 up to Spartathlon?

4 marathons in the spring, Transgrancanaria – this time 84km distance, GUCR, Lavaredo Ultra Trail, UTMB, Karsruhe Marathon in Germany 2 weeks before the Spartathlon and Berlin Marathon 5 days before the Spartathlon.

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?

I haven’t figured it out, yet. Races can be so different, I mean I wouldn’t have the same strategy for a mountainous 100km race and a flat 100 miler.

What does a typical training week look like?

I run 6 days a week. That includes one or two longer runs, one or two pace/tempo runs and the rest are just easy runs.

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

If you feel dead at the halfway point, you’re pretty much doomed. You don’t have to feel fresh, but it makes a huge difference if you feel OK.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?

I don’t think it’s interesting, but people normally comment on how cool they think it is to be a zookeeper.

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?

Yes, managed to – just – finish in last year’s event.

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

The scenery and the people.

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

Trying not to think about the whole distance because it IS a long way.

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

Trying to spend as much time as I can in a sauna. Also doing some cross training exercises and trying to improve my flexibility.

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?

This time, I will. Rusty and Zoe will help me to get to Sparta. They’d better have a clean sock ready to shove in my mouth when I start complaining.

Kirsty Williams

Runners Information

Your Name: Kirsty Williams

Occupation: Automotive Technical Specialist

Home Town: Chelmsford

 

Runners Questions

 

What is your running background?

Started running in 2007, because I was worried I was getting old and unfit. Started running 1km laps round the park, while my son played on the skate ramps.

When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?

I saw someone wearing a UTMB T-shirt and thought it looked cool.

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

Long distance mountain events. 24 hour races.

What are your personal key running achievements to date?

Finishing the UTMB.

What was your hardest race experience?

First time I ran the UTMB. I properly broke before I got to Champex, and called my husband to come and pick me up. Luckily, he convinced me it wasn’t possible to come to me (on the easily accessible public road) and I’d have to run to meet him at the next checkpoint. He fed me, told me I was fabulous, and sent me on my merry way.

What events do you have planned for 2016 up to Spartathlon?

West Highland Way Race (95 miles) Lakeland 100 (106 miles – please note!!) And possibly a sneaky TDG.

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?

Come up with a long and complex plan based on detailed analysis of everyone who has ever run the race, comparing to any race I’ve also run to create detailed splits. Which I promptly screw up and throw away within the first hour, because it’s too stressful to run to a plan.

What does a typical training week look like?

Cycling to work, short runs during the week, longer runs at the weekend. Regular practice running up hills.

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

Just keep moving & don’t overthink it.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?

Running IS the most interesting thing about me.

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?

No

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

Finishing it!

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

I’m proper scared of the heat, the distance, and the cut-offs. But apart from that, I’m really excited!

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

More road miles, trying to run a little faster, and hot yoga.(not completely convinced about that one)

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?

Yes, my lovely long suffering husband.

Laurence Chownsmith

Runners Information

Your Name: Laurence Chownsmith

Occupation: National sales Manager REHAU Ltd

Home Town: Windsor

Runners Questions

What is your running background?

Running for 30+ years , mainly half and full marathons.

When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?

Ran the Windsor half marathon on a whim, though also thought the training would keep me fit for Hockey and Squash. I now only run ! I followed Martin Ilott on Spartathlon in 2006 on a bike and then decided to give Ultras a go.

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

I don’t do that many Ultras in a year , but GUCR , LLCR and in Greece. I like local marathons and half marathons.

What are your personal key running achievements to date?

Best finish time wise was the 2015 Sakura Michi Nature run in Japan 255km in 34.03. I have really enjoyed running the GUCR the Olympian races because of their friendly organizers and volunteers.

What was your hardest race experience?

I find the Ultras are always tough, but the Spartathlon in 2011, in the hottest weather was a killer.

What events do you have planned for 2017 up to Spartathlon?

Ultras: Dolihos in April, GUCR in May and the LLCR in August.

However I may change this to more marathons and less Ultras.

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?

I don’t have a specific one, but I do try not to go off too quickly but keep a steady pace and run to how I am feeling. I like the feeling of two marathons under the belt , it feels like the race has just started. I am careful not to try and work out how far it is to go and how long it will take. For me these things are a distraction and can be very counter- productive.

What does a typical training week look like?

I don’t have one. Though as the Ultra comes closer, 4-8 weeks , I tend to try and run 3 times a week with a long Saturday and Sunday run in the Windsor Great Park. This year for the Spartathlon I am going to concentrate on speed over a 3 hour course.

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

Start slowly and enjoy the event.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?

I played rugby for England when I was 16, I stayed a 11 stone, so converted to Hockey by 19!

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?

Yes

How did you get on?

DNF & timed out.

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

Train to run a Marathon in 3.45 and to feel comfortable. This is important as your need to run two marathons in the heat in approximately 9 hours and have something left in the tank for the next 4 Marathons.

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

Completing it.

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

The pain, traffic and oil refineries.

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

As stated before I will do a few Ultras but for the Spartathlon I am going to concentrate on speed over a 3+ hour course.

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?

Yes , Martin Ilott and Steven his Son. Martin is an old hand at the Spartathlon finishing 6 times out of 10 . Steven is a Greek and Latin Scholar at University College London.

Cameron Humphries

Runners Profile

Your Name: Cameron Humphries

Occupation: Restaurant Management

Home Town: Colchester now living in London

Website/Blog: https://whatwillcamdonext.wordpress.com

Runners Questions

What is your running background?

I was an ok runner at school and college but nothing special, once I went to Reading Uni at 18 exercise took a backseat and going out 5 times a week was the priority! After a couple of years of abusing my body running slowly re-entered my life to balance things out.

When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?

I entered the crazy world relatively young at 22 but it felt a long time coming. I had read the obligatory Dean Karnezes book and I just loved the idea that you didn’t have to stop at the marathon. My first ultra came just a month after my first marathon. It wasn’t a conventional ultra, an assault course based 24 hour timed event called World’s Toughest Mudder. I covered 65 miles and learnt a lot about myself in the process.

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

The Essex XC season was my first last winter and I intend to run it every year now. Simple back to basic flog yourself for 25-45 minutes that I loved. Aside from that I don’t race as often as I would like due to work (Restaurant industry) often taking over my weekends. I run at Parkrun 20-30 Saturdays a year and tend to cherry pick other races of all distances around work and social commitments. That usually includes 2-3 ultras a year.

What are your personal key running achievements to date?

I’m not satisfied with any of my PBs from 5km to the marathon – I figure I have plenty of time to improve all of them though. The only performance I remain truly satisfied with was my 137.9 miles in 24 hours at Tooting Bec last September (My Sparta Auto-qualifier), it was as close to perfect as I’ve achieved in ultras yet. I’m also proud of my 2nd year (2014 – 28th place) at World’s Toughest Mudder but know I could have done better with smarter kit choices.

What was your hardest race experience?

The nightmare final hours at Lake Las Vegas where I broke down from cold and exhaustion during World’s Toughest Mudder 2014. I look back now and see an inexperienced poorly prepared runner! I couldn’t calculate that with the speed I was moving in the storm I needed to change to my thicker wetsuit. I gambled all my chips on the sunrise warming me up, when it didn’t and I kept getting colder it was as low as I’ve ever felt in a race. Getting into the medical tent and not having to run one more lap was the biggest relief but I had big regrets that I didn’t get out for one more lap.

What events do you have planned for 2016 up to Spartathlon?

I raced the Hardmoors 110 on May 6th, finished 11th in 26:35. Whilst this was a long way off my original target of sub 24 hours my prep in the prior weeks had been atrocious. The most positive aspect was how strong I felt at the finish with the idea of more miles and time not daunting. Also, it was only my second time over 100 miles and the longest I’ve ever been on a course so it was a good learning experience for September.

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?

Cliche but best results have been when starting slow, then slowing down when I think I’m going to slow. Control the ego for the first half then come strong in the second half. Of course the risk is something goes wrong at half way and the race never comes together. This has happened on a couple of occasions but I’ve always finished, the difference with Spartathlon if this happens is a near certain DNF! That scares and excites me.

What does a typical training week look like?

Currently 0 miles a week. I’m not injured but haven’t been getting out the door through a combination of work, social life and lack of desire. Frankly think I burned myself out a little. Normally it’s 40-70 miles a week, 5-6 days a week. Time is ticking for Spartathlon and the desire is growing so it’s time to get back out there.

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

Sheer bloody mindedness and belief will get you a long way. Once you toe the start line you will always wish you trained harder, didn’t drink that beer and had prepared better but it will be too late. If you focus on what you can control which is one foot in front of the other you will usually surprise yourself with your achievement.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?

I spent 18 months travelling 13 countries across 2014-2016.

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?

Nope!

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

The deepest low that comes when you question what on earth you are doing this for when you could have just went to Greece for a ‘normal’ holiday.

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

Two things: Being part of a British Team before, during and after the race. Particularly the post race beers.

The high that comes after you’ve pushed through the deepest low, when the pain disappears and your stride opens up so you can run again.

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

I’m praying for a hot summer. I spent 18 months living and travelling in the Southern Hemisphere so running in high temperatures is not alien I’m just a bit out of practice. Extra layers and saunas amongst other ideas may be considered.

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?

Yes, although she hates the term support crew. My wonderfully supportive girlfriend Lauren will be in attendance. Whilst not a runner herself she has helped push me to some great performances in the past. I think the appeal of some post race excess and some time on Santorini will help!

John Knapp

Runners Information

Name: John Knapp

Home Town: Lancaster

What is your running background?

Ran a bit of cross country at school and the Bolton Marathon in 1983. Didn’t do a lot then until discovering Triathlon in Australia in the early 90s. It took 20 years to accept my swimming would never get any quicker and that running was the thing to concentrate on. My first ‘ultra’ was the White cliffs 50 in 2013. Since then it’s been Lakeland 100s and 110s, a couple of RingoFires, UTMB, GUCR and a good year of long distance path racing with Northern Traverse, Offa’s Dyke and The Spine.

Where are you most likely to see me?

The Rattle Gill cafe in Ambleside.

Personal key running achievement?

Possible ‘over 50’ best time for the GUCR?

Hardest race experience?

I’m in denial about these.

Events in the run up to Spartathlon?

Crawley 6hr track, Highland Fling, Meridien 100k, Lakeland Trails 110, Clyde Stride, Strathaven 50.

Race strategy?

Try to run as a time trial rather than a race until the last hour. Keep faff to a minimum (this is more of a goal than an achievement).

Spartathlon Questions

Have I taken part in Spartathlon before?

No.

What am I looking forward to?

Everything! it’s been a goal since starting my mid life ultra crisis.

How will I prepare for Spartathlon?

Lots of miles, more tarmac and just a little speed work in the gym. Try to avoid injury and train with too many togs for heat acclimatisation. Get out to Greece as early as work allows and read all the blogs/reports (again).

Support crew?

Yes. Valerie, if there’s a bus option to avoid driving out of Athens.

Darren Strachan

Runners Profile

Your Name: Darren Strachan

Occupation: IT Consultant

Home Town: Finsbury Park, London

Running Background

What is your running background?

I was a very keen cyclist in my youth in Scotland and not really into running at all.  Going to university kind of destroyed my cycling mojo and when I moved south for work it was all but gone.  A colleague at work was putting in a team for the Fleet Half marathon and I entered on a whim, and really enjoyed it.  This led to running the New York Marathon in 1999 and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?

Like all good and silly things it started with a bet in a pub after one too many ales.  In 2006, A South African friend bet that Jamie Holmes and I couldn’t do Comrades Marathon so of course we had to take on the challenge.  That was a fabulous experience…. I remember coming down the hill into the cricket stadium in Pietermaritzburg just absolutely flying and feeling amazing, with the announcer shouting our names and it all just being so easy (it hadn’t been for the previous 25 miles!)…. I became thoroughly hooked on the Ultra experience too….

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

I don’t race as much as I should, as with 2 young lads at home there are always a lot of family commitments to fulfil at weekends.  Usually try to run a spring marathon (Brighton) to get a bit of winter focus and then an ultra later in the year.  Last year and this year it’s pretty much all about Spartathlon.

What are your personal key running achievements to date?

Beating David Bone in a sprint finish to the water fountain in Regents Park in about 2005.  Qualifying for Spartathlon.  Reaching CP63 last year….. I know it’s the wrong way to think but before the race I was very nervous about not reaching Corinth, so whilst I was gutted about busting out of the race I was also pleased about getting so far, a real cauldron of emotions.

What was your hardest race experience?

Also CP63 last year.  I was utterly broken, physically, mentally, emotionally…. You name it, it was broken.  

What events do you have planned for 2017 up to Spartathlon?

24 hour World Championships in Belfast (in the Open Race) and KACR.

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?

Break it down into small chunks, try not to think about the whole distance at any one time.  But (I learnt these from last year):

  • Have a game plan for each stage, rather than hoping to wing it at the time.  For instance, last year I had a very detailed plan from the start to Mountain Base, which went off pretty much like clockwork apart from a couple of sections.  I had absolutely no plan for after the mountain, partly because I thought I might not make it that far, partly because I thought if I made it over the mountain then I was home free. In fact, the roughly 30k flat section after the mountain over the plains of Tegea is an absolutely critical part of the race, and mentally it is so demanding.  I had no idea how to play it, made quite a few mistakes, and the performance over that section was a key part in not making it to the end.

 

  • Stand on the start line really believing you will finish.

What does a typical training week look like?

It’s a mixture really but I’ll be aiming to get up to consistently hitting 75 to 80 miles a week over the summer, at a little bit of a higher base pace than last year.  I’ll also add some interval training and some hill repeats.  Most of this will be on tarmac to get used to the pounding that Sparta dishes out.  I’m also doing some strength work in the gym (squats / deadlifts etc) to try to strengthen quads…. They got trashed last year by the downhill sections.  Running the downhills well is a key component of finishing Sparta I think…..

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

Just go and enjoy yourself….. you don’t need to judge so much or put pressure on yourself for a PB in the same you might for a fixed distance like 10k or marathon. 

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?

Sorry, I always struggle with this one!

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?

Yes, in 2016

How did you get on?

It was an incredible experience, I really loved being part of the British Team and in the race itself.  I didn’t make it to the finish (race report here) but I picked up a whole load of experience (well, we’ll soon find out if I did or not!!) for this year. 

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

Gah, loads of stuff, I could bore people half to death with it.  Here’s my top 3 (these are for an average runner like me trying to finish rather than someone trying to compete!):

  1. Pacing up to Corinth – there’s really no need to go too hard in the first 50 miles.  General consensus is that 9 hours to Corinth is fine.  From there to 100k there is some decent flat running where you can build a buffer on the cut-offs.  After that it gets hilly but you can still gradually put time into the cutoffs…. Having an hour / hour and a half over them at the mountain is perfect, as long as you are in running shape for the final third, which is where you can really smash into the cutoffs if you are in good shape.  On the other hand, if you go out too fast on the road to Corinth and blow-up, you’re probably not coming back from that.
  2. Heat training – training with a sauna jacket, and/or gradually increased time in a sauna during the last 4 weeks before the race is gonna help. 
  3. Practice downhill running, a lot.  There is an almighty downhill section not that far after halfway…. Lasts for about 9k I think and it’ll likely be dark with a fairly poor road surface.  I had a nightmare there last year with lots of walking…. You’ve simply got to get down that thing running in good order to set yourself up for the mountain stage

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

This year all 4 of our merry band of running brothers (James Ellis – going for the hat-trick, Jamie Holmes – finished in 2015, David Bone – debut) have got in, which is just wonderful.  Conventional wisdom says that pairs or groups of runners cannot do this race together, so we are looking forward to seeing if we can defy conventional wisdom and run the whole thing together.  We have a strange habit of the most ridiculous situations, banter and laughs pulling us through dark times and lows, so we shall we how we go.  We also have “the train”…… watch out for the train…..

On a personal level I simply can’t wait to have another crack at slaying this beast of a race.

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

Sleep deprivation after the mountain and the second mountain climb on the Sparta highway….. I plan to get there before it is too hot this year!!

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

Distance + intervals + hills + heat + Worlds + KACR

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?

Definitely!  The exact make-up of the support team for David and I is yet to be determined, but we’ll definitely have my brother Jeff and David’s wife Gaby supporting us.  Jeff was there last year and was an absolute legend, I don’t think he slept for about 48 hours… he has been bitten by the Sparta / ultra bug and can’t wait to join in with the British Team and see us all home to kiss the sweaty foot.  Gaby is an accomplished marathon runner and I think she will love the whole Sparta experience.  I’m hopeful my wife Rosie will also be able to make it but as our kids are so young with so many school commitments it is a bit of a juggling act!

Marco Consani

Your Name: Marco Consani

Occupation: Senior IT System Analyst

Home Town: Glasgow

Twitter Account: @mconsani

Runners Questions

What is your running background?

I started off running on roads as a way of keeping fit for hillwalking on the Scottish hills. This became more competitive as I started to run in Half marathons and 10k’s and then joining a running club and running in my first marathon. Then one day I opened an email from my wife with the subject – “Fancy this….” With a link to the Devil of the Highlands Ultra. It took me a few years to get Ultras right but then I am competitive and the wife was doing well, so couldn’t let her get all the plaudits. After a few West Highland Way races, D33 and Glasgow to Edinburgh’s I was selected to run for Scotland in the 100K and then Great Britain in the 24 hour.

When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?

That fateful email from Debbie – “Fancy this…”. I think also I expected more from the Marathon and was slightly disappointed that that was it when I finished my first one.

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

24 hour running, Lake District

What are your personal key running achievements to date?

Part of the Mens Gold (European and World) 24 hour team 2015

Part of the Mens European Silver 24 hour team 2016

Part of the Winning Scottish ACP 100K Team 2013

Track record for the Barcelona 24 hour race – 256.531km

Course record for the Glasgow to Edinburgh Race – 6 hours 19 mins

Won the Lakeland 100 (2014) 2nd in 2015/2016

2nd West Highland Way 2013

What was your hardest race experience?

My hardest experience was the World 24 hour in Turin in 2015. I had been running really well until about 18 hours when I just couldn’t keep warm and ended up shivering in a first aid tent for 4 hours. It was really hard to take after being at my fittest and up until then having a really good race.

What events do you have planned for 2016 up to Spartathlon?

I have the World 24 hour Championships in Belfast in July

What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?

Forget what everyone else is doing and stick to your own plan

What does a typical training week look like?

A typical week will have and easy run on a Monday, Speed on a Tuesday, Easy or steady on a Wednesday, Thursday is hills, with Friday as an easy run with circuits and strides. Saturday and Sunday will have back to back longer runs or a short race and longer run.

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

Watch your pacing. Continually ask yourself if you can keep that pace going throughout the race.

Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?

When I first started to run in Ultra Races I couldn’t pace myself at all and used to go out hard and fast. After injury I was relegated to supporting my Wife Debbie as she ran for Scotland and then Great Britain. At that point I was fine with never doing an Ultra again.

Watching how she paced and the methods that she used taught me a great deal about running and myself and I slowly got back into Ultra Running again which was a good thing as I started to improve and meet a lot of really nice people that I now call my friends.

I’m also really competitive and couldn’t let Debbie have all the limelight….

Spartathlon Questions

Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?

No.

What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?

The end. Watching Debbie and everyone else running through Sparta with the children at the end looked amazing and it made my mind up to one day run in this race.

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

The heat. I may have an Italian sounding name but I have been brought up in Scotland and don’t do heat.

How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?

Yikes – I’ll get my next race done first before I think about this. The 24 hour race in Belfast though will certainly be good preparation.

Will you be bringing any support crew to the race?

Yes.