Interview with Sunny – Global Marathoner

As part of my blog I (MM) believe it’s important to learn from more experienced runners than myself to see how I can improve. I am really inspired by Sunny’s (SS) journey from a marathon PB of 2:47:46 and he has run 44 marathons globally.

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

SS: I started running in 2007 when my boss challenged me to run the Dam tot Damloop (the largest running/business run event in the Netherlands with over 50,000 runners running from Amsterdam to Zaandam, 10miles). I started running and got addicted instantly. 

After this race I ran my first half marathon one month later, and that was the moment I felt something special for that marathon distance. I looked at my medal and didn’t like the 1/2 that was written for “marathon”. 

With some Futsal friends we decided to start training for the marathon. In 2008, I ran my first full marathon and that same night I finished it I subscribed for the second marathon.

In 2009 I ran my first marathon abroad, in Dublin. Since then running marathons all over the world became a true passion. The combination of travelling, running and spending precious time with people I love made me long for more, and more, each time.  

MM: You’ve run 44 marathons globally. What was your worst and best races? And what did you learn from them?

SS: I enjoyed every single marathon, even if I didn’t run that fast. One of my worst races was in Kiev (2013). I played Futsal for many years and the combination of playing Futsal and running marathons is not that good. On that particular occasion I twisted my ankle really badly, but I just had to go to Kiev, as not running the marathon wasn’t an option. So I ran that marathon with a serious injury, which is not the best thing to do, but as I said, I don’t think I will not run a marathon somewhere abroad if I’m already there.

Another challenging experience was the marathon of Budapest (2013) where I went clubbing with my friend on Thursday, Friday and Saturday… and on Sunday we had to run that marathon. We made it to the start and decided to be in the lead for as long as we could. So after the start, we sprinted for 300 meters and then were completely exhausted. We just stood there on the side, and realised that we still had another 42k to go. But we ran it together. It took us 5 hours, my slowest marathon ever.

But as I said I enjoyed every marathon so far. But my best race was Chicago (2015) where I ran for the first time a sub 3 marathon (2:53:06). There were so many people watching and I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Even not in New York (2014). I felt so strong, ran a negative split and finished my last kilometre in 3:40. Thinking about that day still makes me smile. 

Boston (2016) was also a beautiful experience. Running with the best marathoners was exciting, and that feeling when you’re almost at the finish line and pass the places where the bombings were in 2013 it was emotional.

But actually I should talk about all of my marathons here, running aside of the Ocean towards Rio de Janeiro was incredible.

Also running the Tokyo marathon in my favourite country Japan was incredible, but I will never forget and running the streets of my hometown Amsterdam (5x) was such a pleasure.

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

SS: Build up slowly. It took me years of training to get to the point where I am right now. It can be very frustrating, because you have the feeling that you can make progress way sooner, but still you have to take it slow. 

What also works for me is running so many marathons (6-8 a year) so I don’t have to start from zero at any time. I’m always fit to run. I try to run 2 times a year a fast marathon where I try to break my PB, and see the other marathons as fun runs. 

Another thing that helps me are sports massages. I try to take them every two weeks around marathon training.

During the massage, you can get notified about potential new injuries before it’s too late. So I think I prevent injuries by taking those massages as it helps me know my body better. I can feel trigger points myself when I use a foam roller for instance, or by just feeling my muscles. This took me some years and some injuries to come at this point though.

MM: Bar running what other training do you train to improve your running performance?

SS: I do a lot of general strength and conditioning training. For example I work to strengthen the core and it’s made me really stronger in my running. But it’s also improving your overall physique. 

My coach, German Silva (two time NYC Marathon winner with a PB of 2:08, helped me learn how to focus on strength training. I also go to the gym as well, and do some weightlifting, although I don’t think it’s really helpful, I feel it makes me feel stronger and it prevents me from becoming that skinny runner I don’t want to be.

MM: Your first marathon was 3:29, then you went on to PB and achieve a 2:47 marathon, congratulations on this achievement what steps did you take to achieve this?

SS: I was running marathons for fun and never really focused on times. I tried to break the 3 hours in 2012, but didn’t succeed (3:07) and after that I decided to run marathons for fun and travel a lot. 

In 2014 I ran within 1 month Amsterdam, New York and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas I ran 3:17 after a night clubbing. When I got home from my trip I met German Silva and decided to let him be my coach to my first sub 3 hour marathon. 

From May 2015 I got into serious training and in October I ran my first sub 3 marathon in Chicago. Running with German made me mentally and physically so much stronger. Since then, I was focused on running a sub 2:48 marathon. I had perfect training preparation towards the Frankfurt marathon (October this year), but after 21k I had to take it slowly due to stomach issues. After this disappointing race I just kept focused and decided to run another marathon in December. On Sunday December 18th I ran a perfect race and finished in 2:47:46. Now, a sub 2:45 marathon is on my mind. So this is my next goal… 

MM: What’s your favourite training session and what’s the session you dread but you know you must do?

SS: I like the track training (short intervals) on Thursday in the Olympic Stadium Amsterdam, as this is such an inspiring environment to run in, and with a small group of fast runners we give it our all. 

I know that I can’t run these kind of trainings on my own and need a group of runners, to help me push through it. 

On Tuesday I do my long intervals with my running buddy Patrick and these sessions are also very satisfying. We are a perfect match and challenge each other every single time. These sessions give me confidence and make me stronger. With intervals you can give it 110% and they let you feel/see that you’re capable of more than you think. 

The sessions I don’t like to do are the recovery/easy trainings. I just want to go faster. Giving 110% is what satisfies me. But doing easy/recovery runs is so important. But you will overtrain if you don’t take it easy sometimes and therefore the recovery trainings make you faster, but they can be frustrating though. 

MM: You have a great social media presence, especially on Instagram. If you could accomplish anything via social media what would it be?

SS: I like to share my passion for running marathons and inspire people to run them, or to become better athletes. 

For 2017 I will focus more on giving advice, tips and funny/interesting facts for running that magic marathon distance. 

Eventually my account will be less about me, but more about running marathons, and should be followed by every marathon runner! 

I started an Instagram account this year because I don’t wanted to “spam” my Facebook friends with running related posts all the time. So I needed an account where people interested in my marathon activities could follow me. 

Maybe next year I will add a Facebook page, so there can be more storytelling.

Besides Facebook and Instagram, Strava is for me the perfect social network for running buddies. You can see exactly what other athletes do in order to become better. That motivates me. And it shows me that hard works pays off. Always.     

MM: It’s said that the marathon is a 20 mile warm up run, with a 10k race, what mental techniques do you use to finish strong?

SS: My father passed away in 2004 since then I run every marathon with his golden lucky charm necklace, this is my main motivation to keep going.

Additionally I try to focus on my running technique and core. Especially after 30k your body sometimes needs an update and a reminder of keeping the right form. So in that moment I will focus on my position, landing, arms and knees and continue the race. 

And sometimes, none of these things work, that is the marathon, and that’s why I like it so much. 

My coach always told me that training is like putting money in a savings account. And when it’s finally race day, you can collect. It’s the moment when you can finally find your strength.

Contact details:

Instagram: Mistermarathon

Strava: Sunny Schippers 

Facebook: (To be announced in 2017

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