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Meet the Athletes
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Meet ben parkes Despite his 32 years, Londoner Ben Parkes is one of the best road runners in the UK. A Pro:Direct Run Club member, he has run over 50 marathons and is no stranger to a punishing 100-miler. Read on to find out what keeps him running, what his regular training schedule looks like, and why it’s important to slow down when you’re pushing your limits. When did running start for you and why? Running for me started at school. I wasn’t really fitting in with the traditional sports, so I sort of took myself away and found solace on the cross country course. And then in my 20s going through university I didn’t really do that much, a lot of drinking and eating too much, and then I came back to it [running] pretty much around my 30th birthday. And recently I’ve been trying hard to get fitter and healthier and improve my times, and here we are now.
How does running make you feel? It’s about the only time of the week when I can say I’m relaxed. Most of the runs I do are fairly chilled, at a relaxed, easy pace. So I probably feel more connected with my inner self when I’m running than I do at any other time, and work and life stresses kind of all melt away. I just put my headphones on and relax and try to think of as little as possible. What keeps you motivated? Staying motivated is tough and everybody finds it in different ways. For me, it’s just that unknown of how far I can take it. I’ve come to running quite late, only running over the last couple of years properly, and I’ve managed to achieve some great things so far, so just constantly pushing myself to get better and better. I’ve never really massively succeeded at most things I try, but for some reason running seems to be working, so the motivation is just to push the limit and see how far I can take it. What advice would you give to somebody trying to find their limits and push on to longer distances or faster speeds? I think for most of the amateur runners I see, say at Park Runs at weekends, for example, I think they just run too fast all the time. They’re constantly on the limit. When they’re getting injured they can’t recover from those runs, so as I was alluding to earlier I think a lot of people need to slow down, try and do most of their runs throughout the week at a relaxed, easy conversational pace and then do some structured sessions in between. For most amateur runners, and I was guilty of it as much as anybody else, they leave their front door, get their watch and just charge off for 10k. And they’ll do that day-in and day-out, and while you’ll get a little fitter, you’ll reach your limit quite quickly. Click on the video above to watch Ben’s full interview
MEET CHARLOTTE WINGFIELD A British-born international sprinter, Charlotte Wingfield competes for her father’s country of origin, Malta. At 23, she has broken national records at 60m, 100m and 200m and competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Read on to find out what got her into running track, what her typical training week looks like, and what keeps her motivated. When did running start for you and why? Running started for me when I was 10, so that was 13 years ago, but it wasn’t always running. I did start off playing netball and football, but it didn’t really spark my interest. So I was in the playground racing against the boys, and it was whoever could get to the fence first and I beat them and thought that maybe I should start athletics. So from the age of 10 I started athletics and that’s where I am today. Why track? Well most sprinters will tell you that they started with cross country first because none of us actually knew what we wanted to do. But I hated it, running through grass and the mud continuously was not my thing. So at the age of 10 I thought let’s try some sprinting and I became a sprinter, and my love for track has never faded. How does running make you feel? When I race I feel amazing knowing I’ve done a lot to prepare for that competition and I know I’m ready to race. However, the training for it makes you just feel terrible. You know you’ve got to put your all into training, but when your coach is shouting at you, like ‘pick it up, run faster’, you just feel terrible. But it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
What is your best running memory? I’d say it’s one of those championships I run in for Malta, so it’s the games in the small states. Malta never had a gold medal in the 100m or 200m and for me to come along, I was the first athlete to get the double in 2015 and 2017. So for me that was probably the best memory I’ve had, that accomplishment of giving Malta what they’ve always wanted. And what would you say is your worst running memory? And what would you say is your worst running memory? Flying all the way to Beijing for the World Championships in 2015 and false starting. It was probably the worst feeling ever. I knew I’d trained for that moment, I was ready to race, I was ready to run fast, and I just went before the gun. It’s still in the back of my head but you just have to move on and keep your fingers crossed it won’t happen again. What are your key focuses for 2018? I should be opening up towards the end of January in the Welsh Championships, an open meet, and then towards the end of the indoor season fingers crossed that I qualify for the World Indoors, which is in Birmingham. And I’ve qualified for the Commonwealth Games, so I fly to Australia at the end of March for the 100m and 200m, so that’ll be a great experience. Then I’ll have a few weeks off to recover and then my outdoor season starts so fingers crossed I qualify for the Europeans, which is in Berlin in August. So quite a big season ahead. Click on the video above to watch Charlotte’s full interview
MEET TOM EVANS 26-year-old Ultra-Runner and British Army Officer Tom Evans excels on all terrain. Continually pushing his body to its limits, his 2017 season included third place finishes in the Marathon des Sables and Ultra Trail World Series. Here the Hoka One One-sponsored athlete tells us how he got into running, how he stays in shape, and what he’s going after in 2018. When did running start for you and why? I started running when I was growing up. I’ve always been into my sport, and I found running to be a great way to vent all the excess energy that I had as a kid. What is it about Ultra-Running that drew you in? Ultra-running for me is about being outside and being at one with nature. One minute you can be halfway up a mountain, the next you’re across the desert. There’s just such huge variety in the sport, and for me that just makes it far more exciting.
How does running make you feel? When I’m running I feel completely free. For me running is a way to be able to get outside and vent any stress that I’ve got, feel at one with nature. And it’s just a great excuse to get out and tire myself out. What do you think about when you’re out running? All sorts of things. A lot of the time when I’m racing I’ll try and stay as focused as I can. The terrain that we run on can be technical and gnarly at points, so you’ve got to concentrate on where your feet are going, and also on their efficiency. Sometimes if I’m tired or lacking a bit of motivation I’ll listen to a bit of music, and I’ve got the most terrible choice of music. I think I’ve currently got the Now 75 on my iPod and a combination of Westlife and The Spice Girls, which is incredibly embarrassing, but it’s great to sing along to [laugh]. What is your best-ever running memory? My best running memory is during the Marathon des Sables, as myself and four Moroccan athletes were running across a dried-out lake. On our right side there were some dunes, and about 25 metres to our left there were a family of black camels just running alongside us for about 5 minutes. We’d probably covered about a kilometre-and-a-half, and that time just seemed to disappear. It was absolutely incredible and I still think about that now. What are your key focuses for 2018? At the moment I’m preparing for TCC, which is a 250km multi-stage race across Costa Rica in February, and before then I’m hoping to represent Great Britain in the Trail World Championships in Penyagolosa in Spain in May. And then I’m heading out to the U.S. to do a couple of big races out there. Then, who knows? Watch this space [chuckles]. Click on the video above to watch Tom’s full interview
MEET KAI WRIGHT Four years ago while studying at college, Kai Wright took a leap of faith and joined the inimitable Run Dem Crew family. Now 20, we sit down with him as he enthuses about the opportunities that running has given him, the benefits of running in a crew and what it’s like running in the urban environment of London. When did running start for you? Running started for me about four years ago. My crew, Run Dem Crew, came to me in college and did an assembly. It was really weird as we’d never had an assembly before. I’d never run before but I thought I’d just take a leap of faith and jump into it.

Most people don’t like to be bored and stressed out and stuff, but when you’re with your friends you can laugh and joke and you can take a break from the running. It’s not all just about the running, it’s about the people around you.
What advice would you give someone looking to get involved with a crew? The best advice I can give is being yourself, which is the most important thing. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not it’s going to be quite hard because you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people. All I can say is that you just have to throw yourself out there. If you’re scared you’re not gonna get anything done. That’s not said in a horrible way, but if you put yourself out there anything’s possible. That’s what I truly believe 100%, that if you go for it you can do anything. What are your plans and hopes for the future in running? Well I’m not just a runner. I would like to be in a position in the future where I could influence younger people because I’m quite young myself, I’m only 20 years old and about to be 21 this year, and I want to be in a position where I can show them that what’s in front of you is not the only thing. Like, people think that the streets are nice and that being bad is cool. That’s their life and I’m not going to judge them, but I’d like to be in a position where I could help someone realise that there’s more to life than just what’s in front of you. Fitness and stuff has opened so many doors for me and if I’m in a position to do that for someone else then that would be a dream come true for me. Maybe start my own crew, there’s a lot of plans, but we can only see what happens I guess. Click on the video above to watch Kai’s full interview

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