Interview with Owain – From a 5hr to a 2hr marathon runner

As part of my blog I (MM) believe it’s important to share common and similar experiences. This year I met Owain (OW) at the Ashmei ambassador day, and I was really inspired by his running journey following his first marathon in Edinburgh.

MM: How did you get into running and why do you continue to do it?

OW: I got in to running back in 2008 when I was a larger version of myself. I was 18.5 stone and really had to do something to lose weight. I was fed up going to buy new jeans and finding many places didn’t stock a waist size big enough for me! That was when I decided to take up running. When I was a teenager living on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, I would always be running up and down the beach between our house and the hotel we owned on the island. It wasn’t far, maybe 1/2 a mile or so but when you do that multiple times a day you forget that it’s exercise. Then I went to university and ate and drank all the wrong things and did zero exercise.

The solution to my waist line? I signed up to Edinburgh Marathon and raised money for the RNLI Lifeboats.

Why do I continue to do it? I guess it’s become an addiction to me. I enjoy training and dare I say it, I enjoy racing! It’s never about the finishing position for me, it’s always about going faster than I have before. A race between me and the clock and I believe I can still go faster.

MM: Injuries are apart of running, but not always easy to deal with, what advice would you give to runners for coping with injuries?

OW: Rest! It has to be the best advice I’ve ever been given. As runners we try and ‘run through’ an injury and it’s very rare that this helps. Resting the injury lets the body repair the issue, if you keep on running on it you are possibly doing more harm than good. I’ve been lucky and had very few injuries but when I have, resting gets me back to training quicker than if I had tried to ‘run through’ the injury.

MM: Your apart of a running club, for runners who run solo, what are the benefits of joining a running club like the one you are apart of?

OW: I started out as a solo runner and I still do most of my runs on my own but the benefits I get with Edinburgh AC and my previous club Pitreavie AAC are you have structure and company during the winter. When I ran 100% on my own, I found I was fine running solo for most of the year but then when the winter arrived, I would struggle to get out for a run in the cold, wet and windy Scottish weather.

If I knew I had club training on a Tuesday and Thursday though I would go there no matter what the weather. I knew there would be others there and that made it easier to keep training. Now I am at Edinburgh AC I also have a coach who puts training plans together for me, helps me train for races and the squad I train with are a great bunch and they help you push yourself harder than you would on your own. There is also the sociable side of things, you get to chat about running with people who have a common interest rather than boring your other friends who wonder why you would ever want to run unless it was for a bus!

MM: Exercises to develop the glutes, core etc. are key to improving running performance, what body areas do you train to improve your running performance?

OW: My mind is the current area I’m working hard to improve. If the mind says stop you quickly find yourself in a whole lot of trouble but if you can train it to put up with the fatigue and pain when racing/training, you can push harder for longer.

This is what we train for on the track, it’s a safe environment, you can push as hard as you like and you know you are only ever 200 metres away from the end. If you were to try and do some of our hard training on the road, you could be miles away from the start point and your mind reminds you of that and so you stop sooner to ensure you can get home. You don’t have that issue on the track.

We have a friend we train with, he’s called The Beast, you can’t see him but you can hear him. Sitting on your shoulder when the going gets tough, whispering in your ear to stop, to slow down. We train to look forward to his arrival, not to fear him. When he arrives you know you are pushing your limits and getting stronger. I recently wrote a blog about my experience with the Beast, I’m still learning to like him.

MM: Your first marathon was just under 5 hours, but you’ve gone on to achieving good for age qualification for the world marathon majors with a time of 2:58:49. For those looking to achieve this, what training advice would you suggest to run a faster marathon based on your training programme?

OW: This is a tough question but I guess the simple answer is, believe you can do it. Never say you can’t achieve something if you have never tried. Train smart. My 2:58 time was after many marathons slowly chipping away the seconds/minutes each time, training to a realistic goal. Speed work is really important though and don’t cut corners on the long weekend runs. You need to put in the miles to get the body ready for the race. My training week ranges from 50 miles to 70+ miles depending on what I am aiming for but I have 3 core sessions no matter what. Tuesday is track speed work, usually 10k worth of efforts, Thursday is race specific training so if I’m targeting a 10k, it will be maybe 6 x 1 mile reps at target race pace, 1/2 marathon is 10 miles of effort at half marathon target pace and for a marathon it’s 15 miles of effort at target marathon pace. The half and full marathon sessions are not sold blocks of effort, it’s broken down in to chunks to make it more manageable but still tough sessions.

MM: Mo Farah’s performance in the 10,000m Olympic race, where he was tripped up but still got up to win, was really inspiring. What challenges have you encountered mid race and how have you overcome them?

OW: Last weekend I was racing a half marathon that I felt I was in PB shape for but within 3 miles of the race I felt empty. My legs weren’t feeling great and I was struggling to hit the target pace I wanted. I knew already at this early stage in the race that a PB wasn’t going to be possible so I turned the race in to a hard training run. Trying to focus on my posture, focus on the person in front of me and just try and either hold on to the gap or even catch them. Make smaller goals within the race rather than thinking about the race. This helped me keep on running, even when my legs were screaming at me to stop from the 9 mile point. Challenges are opportunities to overcome something. Make the most of the opportunity and it’s amazing what you can achieve. I wouldn’t say it was my most enjoyable race but it was a learning experience so at least I took something out of it.

MM: What is your favourite pre race meal?

OW: I try and not change my meals from anything I wouldn’t normally eat when training. I can’t say I have a favourite that I always like to have before a race. Something light and not too spicy but saying that, a homemade lasagne is always a winner 🙂

MM: What are your favourite running books?

OW: Had to be Paul Radcliffe’s book, My story so far. I’ve read it a couple of times and she is such an inspiration, someone I would love to meet.

MM: In your experience, how important is the link between physical health and mental health?

OW: It’s vital I would say. The feeling I get after and even during a run can switch a bad day in to a great day. I’ve never regretted a run I’ve done but I have regretted missing one. Running for me brings a calm to my life. A run always puts things in to perspective.




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