Tell us more about yourself Edward, how and when you started to fall in love with ultra running and with sport in general?
I started running in 1994 when I was forty. My doctor said get some exercise or you will not see your children grow up. I had ab stressful office job, ate too much of the wrong things, was very overweight and took no exercise. I had not exercised since leaving school. At school I hated sport and used to try and get out of it. Running seemed the simplest thing to do and I soon became hooked completing my first marathon in 1995 (the first of very many) and my first big ultra marathon in 1999 when I completed the 56-mile Comrades Marathon. My first multi-day race was in 2003, the Marathon des Sables. I thought that would be the last until I got talked into taking part in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon. I now love the multi-day race format and that is about the only type of event I enter. For the rest of the time I just run in the countryside and along the South West Coastal path.
What were the toughest races you’ve ever been?
Races can be tough for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes what was once the toughest becomes a little easier. Comrades was a tough event because it has cut-offs, The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme marathon has been very, very tough in the years when temperatures have been very high. The 6633 Ultra in the Arctic, which I didn’t finish, was tough because it was a long way outside my comfort time, but for those that are used to extreme cold a hot race may be tougher. The event I find the hardest is parkrun. A 5k run where you are with people you know means you must run very, very hard if you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Not easy for an ultra runner to run a fast 5k.
We can imagine that ultra running means difficult moments during the races. How you manage to overpass them?
I am lucky because I have a history of overcoming difficult moments so know I can get through them. Your body will think of plenty of reasons why it is okay to give up. I make sure that beforehand I have thought up plenty of reasons why it is not okay. That way my mind will conquer my body’s weakness. I also concentrate on the moment when things get tough and don’t think about what is ahead. Just get the next step done. I also focus in great deal on the image, feel, taste and cold of the beer I am going to have when I finish.
From all the endurance experiences you’ve had so far, why have you decided to embark in the adventure of running a multi stage self-supported race? What do you think it makes this kind of races so special?
If you love running, then multi-day events allow you to get totally immersed in the experience. It is a very simple, stripped back experience; eat, sleep, run repeated over several days in the company of like-minded people who you can swap stories in the evening. Without other distraction those three elements have an almost mystical quality.
If you are to choose between 200 miles multi-stage and 200 miles non-stop what’s gonna be?
What’s the mileage you often put into preparing an ultra race?
It depends on where I am with my running. If I have been doing lots of miles, I dial it back a bit and put in speed work. If I need to I up the mileage. It is not distance that is the most important element, it is getting used to hard efforts over several days without adequate rest in between.
Have you had a moment during a race when you were about to quit? What was your motivation to continue?
I usually use an image of the celebratory beer to anchor lots of other images and feelings. It is a technique adapted from neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). I am usually motivated by moving towards things (carrots). However, when things when badly wrong during the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (my training and other things in life had not gone well. I had to use a stick (moving away from things) I made a pact with myself – if I did not finish, I would not drink beer until I crossed the finish line the following year. It worked.
Why Ultra Race Romania? What do you think sets this race apart from others?
I visited Romania about 10 years ago with a friend whose family lived in the area near where the race is taking place. To go back and be in a multi-day event in such a beautiful, but challenging environment is something I just could not miss. I think it could be that start of a long relationship.