#MKruns262 update no. 3: Interviewing David Sawyer, a 2:40 marathoner

Here’s my update on progress in my biggest fitness undertaking yet — running the London Marathon 2019 for the charity Sense. In this post, I’m interviewing David Sawyer, a PR practitioner, and a 2:40 (sic!) marathon runner. I’m also updating on progress with my training and fundraising.

💡 Interview with David Sawyer, a 2:40 marathon runner

Exploring the ideas behind my challenge. 

MK: What does running mean to you?

DS: Running means the following to me:

  • An experimentation ground where I can test my worldview. Here’s what I get out of it.
  • Confidence. It shows you that if your work hard, effectively, the results will come.
  • Fairness. The timing clock never lies. You can’t cheat that clock and everyone has a level playing field.
  • It adds three years onto your life.
  • Friends and being part of a community. This is important for mental well-being as well as physical fitness. It also provides inspiration, close to home.
  • Running has taught me that the fewer goals you have, the more tightly focussed they are, the more success you will have.
  • Running rewards knowledge. The more you learn about running, the more you run, the more you read, the more you chat to other runners, the faster you’ll become.
  • Mental toughness. Marathoning, my passion, is 50 per cent physical and 50 per cent in the mind.
  • Suffering. Perhaps our lives are too comfortable and running long and hard is a chance to test yourself, push your limits.
  • Persistence. Most importantly, perseverance, small actions repeated every day soon add up to a lot more than the sum of their parts. Very few things worth achieving come easily in life. Running competitively is a lot of hard work but when you nail that race, or one of those occasions when you’re “flying”, that feeling of sustained elation, that runner’s high, can’t be beaten. For instance, when I broke 2:50 for the first time, knocking 11 minutes off my PB, at London in 2014, I didn’t get to sleep that night. Wow, I thought, I’ll have a bit of this.
  • Preparation prevents…it certainly helps.

A 2:40 marathon — that’s speedy. What was the hardest part of achieving such a stunning time? 

  • Years of training.
  • Belief that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. You must have that belief through all the setbacks you’ll have in reaching your goal. If you set a stretch goal for yourself, whatever it is, that belief will be sorely tested at times. You must believe that you can do it.
  • Coming back from a two-year Achilles injury in 2017 when most people would have called it a day.

How did your marathon training looked like? 

For the full sp click this link. I’ve done 11 road marathons and it’s a work in progress. Re: rhe ones I’ve run competitively, over time my training has come down to this:

  • Average 40+ miles per week (sounds a lot, but that’s relatively low mileage for the time).
  • Lots of junk miles off-road.
  • Three key sessions per week (speedwork, tempo and long run). The speedwork might be 5x1M with three minutes’ recovery. The tempo might be four or five miles at marathon pace. The long run builds to 20 (with one at 25) with an increasing amount of marathon pace chucked in towards the end of the run as the training block progresses.
  • I also do three testpiece runs to see where I’m at during the 12-week block. These are usually 10 miles at marathon pace along the Clyde, a hilly 25-miler on country roads above Glasgow with my club, and a half marathon.
  • I taper for the last two weeks and also fat-load and caffeine-fast (for the final seven days).
  • I also try to eat well during the block, depending on how seriously I am taking the target marathon.

When training for a marathon, it can sometimes be hard to find motivation to get out of bed to clock up the miles. How do you deal with it? 

I routine it, make a plan and stick to it as far as possible. For instance, at the moment I’m coming back from injury. I find these times the toughest because I know it’ll take a few months to get back to my best. So I get my kit ready the night before (everything, so I’m not waking my family up), tiptoe down the stairs, have some toast, put my kit on and go for a run first thing, before the day begins. That way I’m on autopilot and there’s no question of will I won’t I. I also arrange longer runs with others because I prefer company. This has the added effect of meaning if you don’t turn up you’ll let someone down, which forces you out of the door for 20 miles at 6am on a Scottish sub-zero morning.

Any tips for those who will be running their first 26.2-miler? 

  • Get a plan and stick to it. There are plenty on sites like Runner’s World.
  • Join a running club. That camaraderie and the tips you pick up will be invaluable.
  • If you’re training on your own, don’t just run at the same speed all the time. Build some speedwork into your runs (even if it’s only Fartleks) and get a long run in at the weekend, starting at 12 miles and peaking three weeks out at 20. And get the junk miles in slowly.
  • Do your research, arrive early, and know where the isotonic drinks and gels are positioned (at which mile markers) on your way round.
  • Get yourself a pace wristband and a decent GPS watch. Work out what average pace you’ve got to run to hit your target goals, knock three seconds a mile off for deviation from the racing line, and stick to that “average pace”. Your job is to run even splits for the whole race, or, put another way, set your watch on the average pace setting and don’t deviate.
  • Last, a terrible cliche, but a marathon is a race of two halves. The first 20 miles and the last 6.2. For that last 6.2, dig in, fix on all those tough training runs in hideous weather, and remember to smile. You may not be feeling happy, but the crowd will carry you round if you put a brave face on it.

David has recently published a brilliant book called RESET (my review here) — you can grab a copy on Amazon here. For the first 8,000 words for free head here. You can find David on LinkedIn, too.


🏃 Training

How much have I been running, racing, playlist, and favourite podcasts.  

Overview

  • Runs in February: 17
  • Distance: 123 miles (198 km)
  • Time spent running: ~18 hours

If the activities list doesn’t display correctly, see my Strava profile: strava.com/athletes/26048045

Races

On 3 February I took part in Winter 10K — a ten-kilometre race organised in the very centre of the Capital. It was freezing cold, but I enjoyed the race. And I’ve run my fastest 10K ever, finishing in 40:53. The picture in the header was taken a few metres before the finish line.

What I’ve been listening to

If the playlist doesn’t display correctly, see it on Spotify: spoti.fi/2EK20bj

Because I run over 5 hours each week, I tend to listen to music only on the harder runs. For any other types of workouts, I opt for podcasts. Everyday learning, and all that. Some of my favourite podcasts include:


💰 Fundraising

Update on what I’ve been doing to reach my fundraising goal.

At the time of writing, we’ve so far raised £1,275.16, which is 75 per cent of the goal. Here’s what I did:

  • I did a shift behind the coffee machine of The New Black.The shift at The New Black was the second time I used my barista skills. I’ve previously been brewing teas in exchange for the sponsorship of run at Good and Proper Tea. You can read all about it — and about the value of volunteering here.

Thank you

I wouldn’t have been where I am without the below people. Thank you ever so much for your contribution to:

  • Chelsea Jobe
  • Richard Bailey
  • Pete and Ciara
  • Jake O’Neill
  • Ella Minty
  • Andreea Dascalu
  • Ivi
  • Kate
  • Mom and Dad
  • Grandma and Grandpa
  • The Wynnes
  • Mick
  • M. Bukowska
  • Good and Proper Tea
  • Claire Simpson
  • Mike
  • Darryl Sparey from Hotwire
  • The New Black Coffee
  • Stephen Waddington & Sarah Hall
  • Orsi
  • Henry Clatworthy
  • Mr Jaaames J.
  • And all those who attended my Friday curry sale*

*more on that in the next update! 

You can still sponsor my run. Every penny counts and I’d much appreciate your help! Let’s do it together — for Sense: justgiving.com/fundraising/mkruns262

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If you have any suggestions, would like to guest post or give me a feedback, feel free to email me at kl.marcel [at] gmail.com, tweet me @marcelkl or connect with me on LinkedIn. Thanks for stopping by, have a splendid day!