Interview with Mark Lawson

Mark Lawson has been running for about 10 years. He suffered a nasty bike accident when he was sixteen, breaking his right ankle and leg. He worked hard to walk again but was never into sports. Later in life, after a conversation with his friend’s wife, he realised he was approaching 40 years old and couldn’t compete with her slow pace. So he began running. It was very hard at first, but he persevered and progressed his running distance to the marathon. His personal best is 4 hours and 14 minutes.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My proudest running achievement was getting my marathon medal in 2018. I wore my finishers’ t-shirt for days. I’d ticked the box. I was a runner. I’d proved I could do it!

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me to never give up. I’m stronger than I think, both mentally and physically.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

My most ambitious running goal is still a sub-four-hour marathon. I’m not interested in an ultramarathon. I’ve proved enough. But I’m 47. If I can run under four hours for the marathon I’ll genuinely retire happy! 

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I don’t tend to plan races. I enter most last minute, if they’re local. I wanted to tick off all the local half marathons (my favourite distance). I’m not good with planning normally because I get nervous. But entering last-minute – I can do that. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

The most miles I’ve run in a week is about 30, and I did that during marathon training. A 22-mile long run on the Sunday. A 3-mile cool-off on the Tuesday, followed by a 10k on the Thursday. Then the marathon was the following Sunday.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

The longest period for testing for a race was the marathon. This took six months. 

What has been your most serious running injury?

My most serious injuries were all early on. It was too far too soon, in bad running shoes. I got shin splints and plantar fasciitis. I was out for 3 weeks or so. Then I realised I needed better shoes, so I bought the Brooks Adrenaline GTS (which I still run in).

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

Stupidly I don’t do other exercises. Stretching never helped me. I tried and found it pointless. I’ve been injury free for nine years so I suppose I’ve just not needed to. Also, I’m no Olympian! I’m not trying to get much better.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’d use a running coach if I felt that I couldn’t improve any more on my own. If I couldn’t get under four hours after a few marathons I’d consider it. Otherwise I’m not sure I need one. I’ll never run in an England vest. And actually, I don’t need to. I’ve already achieved more than I dreamed I’d be able to. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running makes me feel happy and it makes me feel free.

Interview with Denny Krahe

Denny Krahe grew up playing various sports but always hated running. In college, he ran enough to try to keep his weight in check, but never enjoyed it. Over the years, he continued to run for exercise and started to enjoy it a little more. After his first marathon, in January 2010, he swore he would never run marathons again. The next year, he ran the same race again, and became hooked. In July 2014, he launched his podcast, Diz Runs Radio, and it changed his life. He’s now a full-time running coach, an author and speaker

What is your proudest running achievement?

I think my proudest running achievement is setting two new half marathon PBs in the same day. I had signed up for a half marathon that started at 10pm many months before the race, and when I found out our town was going to have a half marathon in town on the same day (but in the morning) I decided to run both races. To that point, I had achieved a new personal best in every half marathon I’d run, so I set the goal of keeping that streak going, and I did it!

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me about the power of consistency and the value of patience. If you keep showing up and training intelligently, you’ll continue to grow in the sport. It just might take a little longer than you would prefer.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

Qualifying to run the Boston Marathon is definitely an ambitious goal. I still have a lot of work to do to bring it into the realm of possibility, but if I can just get 25 minutes faster and 20 years older, I should be good! 

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I’m pretty laid back when it comes to planning for races. For a full marathon or 50k, as long as I have a month or so of notice I’m good to go. Occasionally I’ll plan out a race schedule more than a few months out, but not often. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

My highest volume week was about 45 miles, thanks to a 26.2 mile training run on top of a mostly normal week of training. I set a goal for myself in 2019 to run at least one marathon distance run per month, and for the months where I wasn’t running a proper race I didn’t really pull back on my regular weekly volume before or after my long run.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I don’t know that I’ve ever really trained for a specific race for longer than three or four months? I try to keep my fitness at a level where I can run, though not race, a marathon with minimal build-up time. As such, I don’t usually get serious about training more than four to six weeks before a race.

What has been your most serious running injury?

My most serious running injury was in the final stages of the build-up to my second marathon, and I had a raging case of ITBS. It happened for the most obvious of reasons: all I did was run. No foam rolling. No stretching. No strength training. As the miles crept up, the pain got worse. I still finished the race, but was limited to little more than a walk for the second half of the race. Since then, I’ve pretty much been injury-free.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I’m definitely committed to my strength training and yoga. I’ve fallen off on my spinning though, and that is one area I’d like to improve going forward. 

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I would consider working with a coach if I felt like I had reached a plateau that I simply couldn’t get past on my own, either in terms of a lack of progress, a drop in motivation, nagging injuries, or anything else. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is important to me because it makes me better in every aspect of my life. 

Interview with Steve Bonthrone

Steve Bonthrone has been running for 21 years. A back problem in 1997 gave him the push to get fit. So he entered the 1998 London Marathon and got a place. Crossing the finish line changed his life. He wanted to help people achieve things they previously didn’t believe possible just as he had done. A few months later, he quit his job as a pizza chef and studied to become a personal trainer.

His running highlights include running the London Marathon seven times and the Paris Marathon five times. He writes a blog to chart his journey and share tips to help runners on their journeys. 

What is your proudest running achievement?

Completing all four races at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival in 2014. I did it as a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of my Dad who passed away the year before. It represented a big challenge for me. I ran the 5 km and 10 km on the Saturday but the real challenge was to race the half marathon in order to jump on my friend’s motorbike and get back to Edinburgh in time to run the marathon. My wife and I raised a lot of money for Macmillan and I was delighted that Macmillan decided to use my photo crossing the finish line to inspire more runners to run for them in future races.

What has running taught you about yourself?

That I can do something I previously didn’t believe possible.

What is the most ambitious running goal?

To run sub three hours for the marathon and gain a ‘good for age’ place in the London Marathon. London was my first marathon and I would love to go back but by earning my place. I’ve gained entry through every other means (ballot, extra ballot, charity place and club place).

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I usually plan my races in September/October for the following year.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

Not sure, between 40 and 50 miles in training for a marathon. I don’t do big mileage weeks, it’s more about the quality of sessions during each week that matters.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

20 weeks leading up to Edinburgh in 2014 but that included the Paris Marathon six weeks before.

What has been your most serious running injury?

The only injury I’ve ever had is cracked ribs in 2015. I was on my bike and my front wheel slipped in black ice and I fell. It happened five weeks before the Paris Marathon. After the fall, I couldn’t run so I walked as much as I could and managed to run 10 km the week before the race and ran the marathon hoping everything would be fine. Thankfully it was!

What cross-training exercises do you commit to? 

I do a lot of mobility and body weight exercises on a daily basis. That gives me all the strength, core strength and flexibility I need. I don’t do traditional stretching or core exercises, and I haven’t used a foam roller in six years. I don’t have any muscles that feel tight.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running gives me the space to clear my head, solve problems, come up with ideas for my business and achieve many things I wouldn’t have managed if I didn’t run.

Interview with David Swales

David Swales began running five years ago after wanting to get fit as a result of being diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. He is not the typical type 2 diabetic as he’s not overweight, exercises a reasonable amount and eats a good diet. After a 10k trail race about 3 1/2 years ago he suffered a stroke that left him with some significant disabilities, including loss of vision, cognitive problems, aphasia and memory issues. Thankfully his stroke didn’t cause him mobility problems and now mainly runs parkruns with friends. He has raised £8,500 for the Livability charity and writes a blog about his running journey.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My proudest running memory is running the 2019 London Marathon. After my stoke I never thought that I would run again. I managed to injure my foot after six miles so it was a long, hard slog but an amazing experience. I raised a further £4,800 for my stroke rehab centre. I still look back and think about how much it meant to me. There were probably very few partially sighted, diabetic stroke survivors running.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Even with the difficulties I face I can still run well. I will never be a fast runner again, as I have to keep my heart rate low but I can enjoy the challenge of a race.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I am thinking about doing an ultramarathon next year.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

Generally I plan a year ahead with key races planned. I will then try and fit other runs at reasonably short notice but these tend to be shorter in distance.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

40 miles. That was in training for the London Marathon.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

As I knew I had a 2019 London Marathon charity spot for my stroke charity I trained for 11 months with the marathon in mind. I completed a formal training plan with 18 weeks to go.

What has been your most serious running injury?

It has to be my stroke, which was not a normal injury. I hardly ran for eight months although I did the odd parkrun in that time. Mostly it was psychologically scary to run. I also had a mini stroke after another race last year and was out for about 5 weeks.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I use an exercise bike although I tend to use it when I am having a difficult cognitive day. I have to be careful when I run as I make bad decisions; I have run in front of cars before when I wasn’t thinking properly. In my marathon training I went to a boot camp to strengthen my core which was helpful.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach?

For me it’s about keeping me to account. I would have to have a coach that was prepared to accept that I have some unique problems. Sometimes I just cannot do anything.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is the thing that helps me deal with the problems I face, and I can tell my stroke that “you haven’t beaten me”.

Interview with Gary Trow

Gary Trow is an illustrator and 3D artist from Poole who now runs a training base near the Loire Valley in central France, for runners and triathletes. He took up running and cycling after playing football. He is still trying to break 3 hours for the marathon.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

My wife and I completed our first marathon together. It was the North Dorset Marathon in 2009. We didn’t really consider ourselves runners back then. We weren’t a part of a running club and had only done a couple of 10k races before entering. We started and finished in a respectable time, side by side, in pain but happy.

What has running taught you about yourself?

That I needed to take better care of myself. Years of playing football had taken its toll.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

I did consider doing Transvulcania for my 40th birthday, but moved to France to train with people instead. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is still a distant dream.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

For marathons I train for three to five months. For smaller races, I can book a race two days in advance if the weather is right.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

110km. I decided to take it easy and try to run at least once every day for a couple of months without expectations or speedwork as an experiment and to set a good base for the spring. I have always struggled with injuries (due to playing football) and I also try to cycle and swim so my run training had always been optimised for injury prevention and time constraints.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I trained for five months for the Loire Marathon, but nine months for a series of races leading up to the 2016 London Duathlon Ultra. This included the Cardiff half marathon, Cotswolds 113 Tri and Littledown Marathon.

What has been your most serious running injury?

Back injury, where muscles kept spasming and pulling discs. Due to bad posture, working environment and bad running technique. I needed two months of physio to straighten my spine before starting to run for five minutes at a time, whilst learning to run more efficiently.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

Lots of cycling and swimming. Regular back stretching exercises and glute bridges in front of the TV.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

Having a goal that would warrant the outlay, confidence in their methods and a trial period to assess relationship.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is about self improvement, a time to mentally de-clutter and an outlet for my competitive streak. 

Interview with Justin Gillette

Justin Gillette is a busy man. When he isn’t taking care of his four children and spending quality time with his wife he is winning marathons, coaching runners and being featured in Runners’ World. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

I often get asked what is my favourite running accomplishment. I have won 100 marathons so I could easily point to any of those. Perhaps winning the Kona Marathon in Hawaii five times, or the Bahamas Marathon twice would impress people. The reality is I am most proud of using running as a means to beat generational poverty. I used running to get myself a college degree, then continued running to make an income to put my wife through her Masters and PhD programs.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running taught me that you cannot set limits on what goal setting and hard work can do. My biggest year I ran 25 marathons and won 19 of them. I never would have guessed my body could handle that volume, but by focusing forward on the next goals it went well.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered? 

In 2011 I wanted to try to win a marathon on back to back days. I ran a 2:35 marathon on the first day and a 2:40 on the second day to accomplish this. It was a mental and physical battle.

How far in advance do you plan your running races? 

My wife works full time and we have four children so sometimes I have to cancel races I want to run and sometimes I get to jump into a race at the last minute. I always try to maintain race-ready fitness so I can jump into a marathon anytime there is an opening in our family schedule.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week? 

In college I averaged 15.5 miles per day. Post-college I thought it would be neat to hit a 140-mile week, but I only managed 137. I still have a bucket list goal of getting in a 168-mile week – one mile for every hour there is in a week.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race? 

In college I would do the traditional 12-16-week buildup for races. Once I got into frequent marathon racing I now train in mini-cycles so that I am never too drained from training and can run any marathon with just a week or less adjustment to my training.

What has been your most serious running injury? 

In 2013 I got plantar fasciitis. This was due to over-training. I would suggest that people be more eager to take a day off when needed instead of being addicted to making the training log look impressive. Once I became more liberal with days off I have been better able to prevent injuries.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to? 

My main core workouts are planks and lunges. I try to plank 5 minutes a day. I do lunges back and forth in my house while the children are taking naps. Post runs I like the Roll Recovery tool to massage my legs. Like most runners I have a love/hate relationship with the foam roller.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach? 

I’m an online coaching too. I would suggest an online coach to anyone who has goals they are trying to achieve. It really helps to have someone keeping you accountable to do the work when it’s hard to be motivated. Anyone can run on the perfect days with good weather. A good online coach can get you excited to run in any weather regardless of the workout.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you? 

Running to me is the difference between being in poverty and enjoying a good life.

Interview with Laura Cope

Laura Cope is 44 years old and started running around 12 years ago. After a few false starts and injuries she joined a running club 9 years ago and has been running consistently ever since. A physio once advised her not to run more than 10k. She has now completed nine marathons (including a multi-day ultra). She also writes a blog while training for longer races to reflect on lessons learnt.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

My proudest running achievement has to be completing the Pilgrim Challenge In February 2019. 66 miles in the snow is way beyond what I had ever thought I could achieve. Even now I can’t quite comprehend it. 

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that I’m tougher than I think and that you can achieve anything with the right training. It’s also taught me that I do have a little competitive streak which is usually hidden. 

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever considered?

The most ambitious goal I have considered so far is the Pilgrim Challenge. Since completing it I’ve been looking at more ultras for the future. At the moment I don’t know what the next one will be but there will be one!

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I’m having to plan my races months in advance, mostly due to events selling out so early. I’ve got races booked up to four months in advance at the moment. Some events have become a tradition for me now, so I’ll do them every year. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week and why did you run that far?

The most miles in a week was the week of the Pilgrim Challenge. The event was 66 miles and with a couple of runs the week before I think I managed about 75 miles in a week. That’s the exception rather than the rule. 

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

The longest period I’ve trained for a race was five months. I had to get from comfortable half marathon (my default state) to ultra in that time. I would probably have trained a bit longer had I known I was doing the event a bit sooner. 

What has been your most serious running injury and why did it happen?

My most serious injury was a tib post tendon injury on both legs. It took me a year to fully get over it. It happened because I had the wrong footwear and tried to do too much too soon. I also tried to jump back in where I’d left off. It was eventually fixed by going right back to the beginning. 

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I cross train twice a week. I go to bootcamp once a week, a mix of strength, cardio and HIIT. I also go to a small group PT session once a week. It’s pure strength training with big weights. The strength training is crucial to keep injuries at bay when you’re doing long distances.

What would persuade you to work with a (online) running coach?

I’d consider an online coach if I wasn’t able to access the knowledge and support I require elsewhere. 

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

Running is an adventure and it’s taken me further than I ever imagined. 

Interview with Dominic Toms

Dominic Toms has been running since the 2015 London Marathon. He has now completed 16 marathons and is also a director of golf academy. More information about Dom can be found on his Twitter account and website.

What is your proudest running achievement?

My first London Marathon in 2015 is my proudest achievement because I ran the whole way refusing to walk a single step despite being absolutely worn out from the 23-mile mark.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me self discipline in terms of dedication to follow strict training plans.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

My most ambitious goal to date was the six marathons I completed in 2016 for my local charity and raising £10,000 in the process.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I plan my races (future marathons) normally a year in advance where possible.

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

The most miles I’ve run in a week is 60, which was during my marathon training.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

My longest cycle of training is 20 weeks for a marathon consisting of running, Pilates, and core strengthening.

What has been your most serious running injury?

My worst injury was plantar fasciitis due to tight calves and tight Achilles. It didn’t stop me running as I just worked with the physio to control it before getting rid of it.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

On occasion I cycle in the gym.

Why do you  work with a running coach?

The reason I chose a running coach was the disappointment of seeing no progress or improvement in recent marathons. Despite training hard in my opinion it turned out I was just training my body the same and never coming out of my comfort zone. Having a weekly training programme that I have to follow and reporting back to my coach on a weekly basis gives me the motivation I needed as I don’t want to let him down as well as myself.

What does running mean to you?

Running for me is freedom, time to myself to cleanse my mind throughout a marathon training cycle. The race against myself to achieve more in terms of performance and results is also important to me.

Interview with Kay Drew

Kay Drew has been running since the late 1980s, and ran her first marathon in 1994. She has completed a marathon in every US state, and qualified for the Boston Marathon more than once. To encourage new runners, she started a running group. It still meets weekly 19 years later, although they run less than they used to. She documents her journey through her Twitter account.

What is your proudest running achievement?

I’ve got two achievements that I am truly proud of: setting an even speed as a pacer to help runners overcome their mental blocks, and bringing new runners into the sport. 

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me that following a plan, step after step, will get you to where you want to be. It may not lead to consistent, steady progress, but the overall trajectory will be improvement in either speed or endurance, or both. For example, you have to knock off today’s three-miler in order to cross the marathon finish line four months from now.

What is the most ambitious running goal you’ve ever set?

There was a time I considered building up to a 100-miler, but I no longer think that’s for me.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

When I was running all the states in the USA, I sometimes had to plan up to a year or more in advance. 

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

I came close to 70 miles one week, but only because my schedule caused me to run two long runs in a shorter time. Training for a 100km race would make me complete a long run followed the next day by a medium-distance run.

What is the longest period you’ve ever trained for a race?

I talked five runners into running their first marathon with me at my last US state marathon. We trained for a full 20 weeks with a slow build-up. I did that for my first marathon, and probably for the Pikes Peak Marathon. Otherwise, I run marathons often enough that I don’t change much other than building up my long-run distance.

What has been your most serious running injury?

I have been incredibly lucky. I’ve only had a couple of falling injuries. I was out for four weeks with a broken wrist in 2018 when I slipped on ice on a trail run. I also tripped on an uneven sidewalk in January 2019 and required some stitches and new teeth. But it was a terrible Wisconsin cold snap that kept me from running rather than my broken face.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

I commit to swimming, yoga and cycling – one of those activities once each week.

What would persuade you to work with a running coach?

I’m still happily running at 56 years old, but after 25 years of marathons I think most of my “things to train for” are behind me. Maybe I would look to a coach if I wanted to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon in my next age group, or take on a Half-Ironman.

What does running mean to you?

Running has become so much a part of my identity that I don’t know what it will be like when I have to start saying “I used to”.