Steve Way tells us how parkrun plays a key role in his running life, and how he’s recently become a Strava convert.
If you have even a passing interest in the sport of running, the name Steve Way will mean something to you. He’s the guy who – in the space of seven years – has gone from an overweight couch potato to a 2:16 marathoner and British record holder for 100km, shedding 70lbs and a smoking habit along the way. On November 21st 2014 he competed at the World 100km Championships in Doha, finishing 13th overall – stomach malfunctions made for a fragmented and uncomfortable experience in the heat, but he refused to let that stand in his way. Here, Steve tells us how parkrun has played a role in his development, and how he’s recently become a Strava convert. We caught up with him during his preparations for the 100km Championships.
“My training for the 100km isn’t going to plan! Every other race this year has gone perfectly, but I haven’t hit some of the mileages for this. Everything is niggly and achy. I wasn’t a runner growing up, but I’ve been doing this for seven years now so I’m now at the stage where I think of myself as a runner, and when problems like this crop up, I’ve seen them before. Most of my early years of running involved me finding the limits of my body and getting injured a lot. The first first three or four years, I suffered a lot of injuries through naivety and not knowing the limits of my body; the last two or three years have been a lot more consistent. But this year I’ve had three or four big races that have gone well, and my body would have preferred to have called time on 2014 a month ago! But, the World 100km only happens every two years now, so I have to be there.
“When I’m training for marathons I use parkrun a lot more than I do now as part of my 100km training. My first experience was at Poole parkrun; it opened its doors two weeks before the London Marathon in 2010 (I think!) and as part of my training back then, I used to throw in a fast 5km the week before my target race, so at the time I didn’t know much about parkrun at all, so purely from a selfish perspective, I thought it was brilliant – it was an ideal set up for my burn-up before the London Marathon. I wasn’t really involved in the parkrun community at the time, it was just two miles from my front door – I could warm up, go full-beans for 5km, and then cool down on my way home. For a while that’s what I used it for – I’d incorporate into my speedwork, so quite a common thing would be to go all out in the parkrun, then repeat the course again straight away at marathon pace. Doing the parkrun first, with company, always means you give it that bit extra. It’s not a race, but having someone sound a hooter to set you off, it puts you under those conditions. You know it’s not a race, but you also know your time’s going to be recorded so you want to give it your best shot.
“A session I quite often do now as training for ultras is I’ll run the Poole parkrun segment but not on a Saturday as a speedwork session – so four time Poole parkrun with 3min recoveries, just a bit faster than marathon pace.
“For me now though, the Poole parkrun community that I’m involved with are such a fantastic group of people. They almost treat me like their mascot – whenever I have a big race coming up, I have to go down there so that they can give me a send-off. Their support and that community, which isn’t just for me, it’s for everyone, is fantastic. I’m just one of the parkrunners, and if I’m not going for a full blast, I’ll take one of my spaniels and run round the course with the dog. It’s great — you have someone who came tenth in the Commonwealth Games marathon lining up with someone who’s trying their first ever 5k.
“I quite often pace at my local parkrun, and over the years, I reckon I’ve probably helped 20 people to new pb’s (pr’s for the Americans) – sometimes one-to-one, with me shouting my head off at them on the final run-in. I find that really inspirational, seeing them pb, because it doesn’t matter how fast you are, whether you’re going for sub 15 or you’re trying to break 30 minutes, each of those people are giving it 100 per cent and crossing the line in a state of pure exhaustion. I love that.
“If you’re going for a pb, at Poole parkrun, check the weather – if it’s windy, forget it! I’m one for being a bit conservative – the number of people I see setting off for the first 800m at 4.30/mile pace, I quite often find myself back in 20th. I’d say the majority of people go off way too hard. So start steady, and dig deep at the end – if you can go really deep into the pain zone by yourself, all the better!
“I’ve just started using Strava to log my runs and that’s a whole new community for me to get involved with. It’s quite interesting, bringing the stats — which I love — and the community together in one place, and getting the immediate feedback I now get on my training runs. Yesterday for example, I did a 37mile training run and within moments of finishing I was getting kudos and comments – it’s really nice to have that community. On yesterday’s run, I’ve now got this whole conversation between me and various Strava users who are interested in my training. They find my training quite bonkers – yesterday’s run was on a 0.4 mile loop which get’s me lots of amusing comments! But that works for me on stupidly long runs.
“It works both ways as well – hopefully it’s a bit of inspiration for some of the people who follow me, but also, while I’m grinding it out, the sense of achievement for me getting kudos and feedback encourages me as well.”
For a full report on his 100km World Championships exploits, see Steve’s blog: ‘Blog from the bog’. To read more about Steve’s training and adventures visit www.steveway.co.uk and for more information on the parkrun and Strava partnership click here.
Photos: Andy Waterman