30 Mar 16 by James Elson

An Interview with British 100km Champ Paul Navesey

Fresh from winning last weekend’s Anglo Celtic Plate 100km in 6:58, we talk to team runner Paul Navesey about his successful debut at the distance. (Pictures: Debs Martin-Consani & Steve Navesey)

Tell us a little bit about your running background?  How did it all start?

It seemed like a very simple way to get a bit fitter, plus my pacing was so terrible I didn't have to run far to feel I'd worked pretty hard!  After running around by myself for a bit I joined Crawley AC who have an incredible ultrarunning history. I learned a bit more about training properly, pacing (although I was still a bit sh*t at it!) and different races.

Now I train with an excellent group of Sussex athletes, the training is hard but great fun and very productive! I have read quite a bit on running from the 70s/80s and this is getting towards what I imagine they were doing when they ran the outstanding times that are often not matched today.

You’re a fan of cross-country running.  Do you think that helps with ultra-running?

I'm not sure its conventional prep for 100km on the road but I do love XC racing. In the build up to ACP I ran pretty much a full XC season. Racing all the county league races, Sussex County Champs, Southern England Champs and finally the CAU Inter Counties as part of the Sussex team 2 weeks before ACP. The races are short, fast and very competitive. 

(Paul brings home the individual and team wins for England)

When you are so successful at traditional road race distances, why did you want to run 100K?

I had some spare gels that needed using up and I can only put so many on my porridge...

It was just a different type of race and having followed previous ACP and World Champs races online it started to intrigue me. I had only run ultra-distance races a couple of times on the road before at Dartmoor Discovery and thoroughly enjoyed those races. It’s also nice and simple, no pack to carry etc. It just combined what I enjoy about running which is putting on a vest, a pair of short shorts and going racing.

You hadn't run a qualifying race/time for Team England, so the selectors maybe took a bit of a gamble of you.  Did that make you want to prove yourself more? 

True! I'd not run a qualifying time at any of the required distances (50k, 40 miles or 100k). In fact, I didn't even have a recent marathon time to quote. I had entered the open race anyway so I was always going to be running the event. 

I am not sure if they would consider it a gamble but providing them with 10k and XC results maybe didn't make me the first choice... So I was quite keen not to screw it up!

What races did you do in the build up to the Anglo Celtic Plate?

I actually raced quite a lot more than I have done prior to previous ultra races. Plenty of XC races but I also raced Chichester 10k, Brighton Half Marathon and Milton Keynes 20 miles.

(Paul is a bit humble here, so I thought I’d add he ran 32:00 for the 10K, 1:08 for the half and won the MK20 in 1:52:13.  Fast, eh?) 

What did you training week look like?  Any favourite sessions?

Favourite sessions have to be joining the training group for long reps at Tilgate Park. Really hard work at times but lots of fun!

A typical week in build up to ACP would have been something like :

Mon - Long reps
Tue - Easy running.
Wed - Long run or track session
Thu - Easy running
Fri - Rest
Sat - XC race or long tempo run
Sun - Easy running or road race (If not racing today then no Sat race or session).

You led from the start.  Was that your plan?

I had a good idea of how fast I could run the 100k. I just wanted to get right down to it from the start, it wasn't planned it just happened that no one else joined me. It could well have backfired.  I feel I may have over-reached slightly in the first half, but I was confident in my preparation and it was a bit late to go changing the plan by then!

(Paul led the race from the gun)

Who was your main competition? 

When the teams were announced I was very keen to see who my team mates were. First up Anthony Clarke from the infamous group at Bournemouth AC and their Steve Way Wednesday night marathon sessions.  Chris Singleton, also very quick over the marathon and ultra-trail races. Nathan Montague, the only member of the men’s team to have run the 100k distance on road before. So even without venturing to the other national teams there was plenty of competition! Scotland for example had Marco Consani and Wales had Daniel Weston. Both having previously run 100k at the ACP in solid times.

Luckily.... we have Strava! It was great to see how the other guys were preparing and great to see the England team looking strong in the build-up. I got to meet Chris at the Inter County XC champs as he'd earned his Lancs vest for the event. Nice to know I wasn't the only one trying to run a hilly XC race in the build up to a flat road 100k.

How did you deal with the mental battle of running 42 laps?

I was never worried about the number of laps, I spent a fair amount of time running with CR team mate Robbie Britton over the last year or two and he's got a pretty positive way of looking at lapped races... and he's had to run a lot more than 42 laps.

I was never going to get lost (Once other team mate Eddie told me the direction I was meant to be running) and never more than a few minutes from crew with food, drink and any information I wanted.

Any highs and lows?

Actually no major lows. I was warned about the final 30k and sure enough, going in to that my legs really started to complain. That was the only low as I saw my lap times drop off from where I wanted to keep them. Something that although I was told about, was a bit unfamiliar to me, I know I can work on that now.

On the flip side, loads of highs. From cheers every lap, the announcements in the final few laps, starting the last lap and obviously the finish.

Having seen the rest of the team on the course at points it was great to see them all finish so strongly. I am a big fan of team events.

Did you have a specific nutritional plan?

I had a very simple nutrition plan. As much as I like food and eating I just opted for a Mule Gel every 3rd lap, an S-cap on each hour and coke to finish!


(Paul heading out through the start finish area)

Was your support crew an important part of your race success?

Yes, without a doubt. They were incredible. From passing gels and water, giving me information, guarding portaloos to taking photos. Can't thank them enough. 

(Paul with his family and crew at the finish) 

What’s next for you?

I am going to be spending my summer racing track and shorter road races. I'd love a GB vest and another crack at the 100k, so I will also be very interested once there is more information on the World 100k event.

Assuming you have another crack at 100km, what do you think you could do to improve your already fantastic time?

I will have another crack at it. I have a couple of ideas, first of all is improving speed, improving my marathon pace and then increasing the volume of my long runs slightly. I don't want to make drastic changes so will use a very similar training process as I did but better.

(Paul Navesey with Edwina Sutton pre-race. Eddie captured 2nd in the ladies race).

What’s your favourite running gear?

A pair of arm warmers! It’s a good day when you can dig out a vest and arm warmers for a run or race. Easy way to control temperature and a very handy place to stuff some food!

Thanks, Paul.  Very insightful.  So all you need is arm warmers, a few gels and a portaloo guard…?  Oh and some kick ass speed.

Follow Paul on twitter @paulnavesey or find him on Strava.  Be warned though…his training speed might make you cry.