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.