Name: Paul Wiggins
Occupation: Insurance Broker
Home Town: Cardiff
What is your running background?
My first foray into running was when, after years of inactivity, I entered the 2006 Cardiff Half Marathon for charity (I ran it dressed as Duff Man) and finished in just under 1:45. I ran infrequently over the next few years whilst trying get into the London Marathon – which I did in 2011 (finishing in 4:02:58). Following that I stopped running (and all forms of exercise altogether) as life took over.
Fast forward a few years to 2016 and I again entered the Cardiff Half Marathon. This time I had a goal of finishing in 90 minutes. I’ve pretty much always been a terrible runner (I was usually last at cross country in school) and I quickly discovered that my body really doesn’t like trying to run fast. I did improve my finish time in the half to 1:36.17; however, I suffered from a terrible side-stich for most of the run.
Running and side-stitches always seemed to go together for me and, as I didn’t seem to be able to run any faster without suffering, I thought I might be better off trying a longer, and hence slower, distance, and so I looked to sign-up to another marathon. After looking round, there didn’t seem to be anything happening at the right time or close enough, so I started thinking about a 50k – which was the longest distance I had heard anyone run at point.
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?
What really changed everything was two books – Finding Ultra by Rich Roll and Eat & Run by Scott Jurek. Both books had a big effect on me and, in particular, I was blown away by the opening chapter of Eat & Run where Scott describes the 90-mile point of Badwater. I couldn’t conceive of running 90 miles – let alone 135 miles in Death Valley.
Mind blown I searched for a local ultra and found the St Illtyds 50k (put on by Spartathlon legend Nathan Flear). I couldn’t have found a better first ultra (2017 was also the first St Illtyds) and I ending up finishing in 5:50:00 in 7th place.
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?
I love all types of running – short & long; road & trail. I love the consistency of road running and then the contrast to this running on trails. I also love just being out, whatever the weather, and just being part of everything.
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
Finishing 7th in the 2017 St Illtyds (my first ultra)
4th place in the 2019 Conquest of Avalon 50 (9:06:35)
What was your hardest race experience?
During my first 100-miler (the Robin Hood 100 in 2017) I tore the meniscus in my left knee early on. By mile 50 my left leg was pretty much locked straight and felt like it was about to snap at the knee joint. I was doing the race for charity so I wasn’t going stop (plus I’m very stubborn) and so I walked/limped to the rest of the way. There was a comedy moment around mile 98 when I got stuck and what can only be described as a mound of earth. As I couldn’t bend my left leg, and my right leg was trashed to due limping for so long, I just could descend from the mound. I waited a few minutes to see if there were any other runners to assist but I finally decided that the only option was basically falling backwards off it. After falling a whole two feet I got back up and limped to finish in 24:03:17
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?
I try to walk before I need and to schedule in set walking breaks. I also try and take on as many calories as I can early on as I find it harder to stomach anything later in the race.
What does a typical training week look like?
I tend to run six days a week and run early in the morning (getting out before 5am on weekdays). I also try and get specific runs in throughout the week, including: Recovery (heart-rate led), Trail, Speed/Hill sessions, Medium-easy (circa 12 miles), a long run (16 miles+)
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time?
Walk before you need to and have fun!
Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
I was massively into bodybuilding when I was younger and got up to weighing around 17 stone (my sister said I used to walk like I’d pooed myself lol).
Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?
This is my first Spartathlon! 😊
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?
Just about everything. There’s something about Spartathlon that has been drawing me in since I first read about it in Eat & Run. In fact, it feels like it’s been drawing me in even before that; before I even knew it existed. As if it was there waiting for me to discover it. It’s an almost visceral feeling and the more I race reports I read the more other people seem to also feel something similar.
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?
The sun! I’m very fair skinned and can sunburn just thinking about it. I even got sunburned in the rain at Glastonbury one year!
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
I’ve upped my mileage a bit (to between 80-90 miles a week) and I’m doing more back-to-back long runs – one trail and one road (with some decent hills). I’ve also got a couple of shorter ultras planned.
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race? (If so, please introduce them briefly)
Due to the current situation, I won’t have any crew.