Interview with David Knowles

David Knowles began running as a 16-year-old. He was a sprinter to begin with, competing at 100m, 200m and 400m. Then at university he moved to middle distance track events. His running highlights include running at Crystal Palace and at a Loughborough International event in the 1980s, and more recently running to raise money for charities at the Great North Run and the Great South Run.

More information about David can be found on his Twitter account.

What is your proudest running achievement, and why?

The achievement I am most proud of is restarting running, in the certain knowledge that I will never set a new personal best – except possibly in one distance. I was fortunate to study at Loughborough University in the 1980s and train with Olympians under the legendary coach George Gandy. But a career in policing and having children meant that running took a back seat. In my late 40s I found running again. The realisation that I will never run a mile or a 10K as fast as I could when I was 20 is tough but the mindset of a returning middle-aged runner needs to be different – as soon as my mindset changed, I enjoyed running.

What has running taught you about yourself?

Running has taught me about my own mental strength and how to improve performance by practice and discipline. But it has also taught me that you can have fun even when you are trying hard. My biggest internal smile was during the 2017 Great North Run, when I realised I was running amongst people of a similar mindset to me, all of us trying to be our best. The capacity for people to provide jelly babies and ice lollies amazes me.

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

This year I made the decision to run a marathon in 2020. I have run quite a few half marathons but never a full marathon. It is the only race distance I have never run so it is an opportunity to run a PB.

How far in advance do you plan your running races?

I look about 3-6 months ahead for half marathons and 10Ks, though for the marathon I have planned this was booked 12 months in advance.

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

When I was at Loughborough I regularly ran 50 miles per week, training at least twice per day including a long run on Sundays. It was the schedule that George Gandy set for the team so I just followed it. In my second running career I regularly run 25 miles per week but I’ve run further for the Miles for Mind challenge that RUNR promote.

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

If you include ‘mental preparation’ then 12 months, for a marathon in 2020. Though I cannot say that I am running the proper miles in training yet. Aside from that, I just run for the next race these days.

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

I had a bad hamstring tear in my teens, which stopped me from running for many months. It happened because I had not been taught how to stretch properly. I had a calf strain in 2018 which reduced my training at a time when I was preparing for two half marathons and the Great South Run in the same month. It was very frustrating but didn’t stop me from completing all the races, although in slower times than I had planned when I entered them.

What cross-training exercises do you commit to?

Occasional I cycle. But nothing more.

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

Low cost, others to train with locally (this is quite important as you need to run with people with common goals so that there is a motivation to run at the same time) and regular feedback.

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

For me, running is part of my identity – I am a runner and I will always be a runner even when I am unable to run; running provides physical and mental wellbeing but also satisfaction and enjoyment through shared experiences with friends.