Ben’s journey from finishing his first ultra just over two years ago to recently placing third in the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships in Chamonix has been a tale of many successes, but the road has not been without some bumps along the way. As Ben will tell us, sometimes the challenging moments are when we learn the most.
LENGTH OF TIME TRAINING WITH MILE 27?
I started working with Mile 27 at the end of 2012, so it has now been just over a year and a half. If you had told me back then that I would finish on the podium at the Skyrunning World Championships in 2014 then I probably would have laughed at you!
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING ULTRAMARATHONS?
I ran my first ultra at the Wildhorse Criterium at Easter in 2012. Can’t believe that is already over two years ago!
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTERESTED IN THE SPORT?
I was originally a cross country runner back in high school and had read books like ‘Ultramarathon Man’ and ‘Born to Run’ that had me intrigued. But it wasn’t until I ran at the World Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia in 2010 that I fell in love with the mountains and decided I wanted use ultra running to explore them.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE RACE/WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM A RACE SO FAR?
My first attempt at the TNF100 is both my biggest racing stuff up and my fondest racing memory. I was totally unprepared and ended up huddled at the side of the road wrapped up in a space blanket unable to remember how to drink from my bottle. I learnt so much from that experience but loved the fact that I could walk away knowing that on the day I absolutely gave it my all.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ULTRAMARATHON ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
Coming back to the TNF100 a year later after the aforementioned DNF and finishing in 7th place. I had put a lot of focus into ‘redeeming myself’, so to pull it off felt fantastic. On a side note, that race was the reason I started working with Mile 27.
WHAT IS ON YOUR RACING BUCKETLIST?
Ultimately I really want to step up to racing the iconic mountainous 100 milers like UTMB, Hardrock, Diagonale des Fouls, ect. I’m not ruling out stepping up to even longer events but at the moment, those are the goal. I’d also like to run some of the iconic Skyrunning events such as Zegama, Kima, etc. There are also always new amazing challenges being created, so the list is constantly growing! (It’s a good thing I’m still young!).
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM ULTRAMARATHONS? WHAT HAVE THEY TAUGHT YOU ABOUT LIFE AND YOURSELF?
It’s hard to put into words exactly what I take away psychologically from running ultra marathons, but I genuinely feel like I learn more about myself and experience more during the couple of days I spend racing each year than I do in all the other days combined.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF TRAINING?
For the most part my favourite part of running is simply spending time in the mountains, but the variety that Mile 27 provides makes running on the same routes a new challenge in itself. I love the feeling of pushing my limits and have the privilege of experiencing that fairly regularly with Mile 27! (I may have even once returned from an incomplete session declaring that “Andy is trying to kill me!”).
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE BENEFITED FROM TRAINING WITH MILE 27?
I don’t really know where to begin answering this question! Working with Mile 27 has allowed to me to train considerably harder than I previously thought possible while avoiding any serious injuries (I spent a lot of time injured before I started with Mile 27!). Furthermore, whenever I have any questions, Andy will usually have a satisfying answer and if not, will research it until he does! But above all, Andy is more than just a coach, he is also a friend.
WHAT IS THE ONE TIP YOU WOULD GIVE A FELLOW ATHLETE TO HELP THEM ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE OF RUNNING AN ULTRA MORE?
Remember why you are doing it in the first place. I have a very competitive nature (just watch me play Monopoly!), and will sometimes get caught up worrying about things like times, splits and placing. But when I turn my focus to simply enjoying the mountains, not only do I relax and love the experience more, I find that I also run much better. Pain is just psychological and so if you are enjoying yourself, it hurts less!
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT RACE?
Next up will be my third running of the Kokoda Challenge and my second time running it with Kokoda Spirit Racing. I love that event as it combines running on some of the trails that I train on regularly with spending a whole day with three of your best mates … what more could one want?!?!