Interview: Robbie Britton

The Team GB 24-hr runner talks training, nutrition and mental toughness with Men's Running


Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself. How often do you run and how many miles do you cover per week?

I’m a Team GB ultra-runner. I started running six years ago and now it’s my life. I’ve steadily built up my mileage year on year, going from 20-25 miles a week in year one to an average of 75-80 miles a week last year, peaking at a 112-mile week. I’ll normally run twice a day and have one day off a week to help my legs recover and grow stronger.

Have you struggled much with injuries or have you largely been injury free? 

Injuries are one of the hazards of running a lot but I have, touch wood, been relatively lucky with just a couple of fatigue issues with tired muscles that have been solved with sports massage and rest. I listen to my body when it needs a break, take a day off nearly every week and try not to race big races too often.I also stopped playing contact sports, football especially, as it stopped my training. I’m quite a loud player though so attracted a lot more kicking than an average player!

What do you think are the qualities of a good distance runner, both in physical terms and mentally?

In physical terms, being strong, lean and relaxed can help make you a better runner. Mentally it can require a lot of dedication and sacrifice before race day, and a calmness at the start of the race. Then the ability to push yourself, concentrate on moving forward and enjoy running. A good stomach and a sense of humour can be priceless too!

What mental strategies do you use to keep going when you feel tired?

I break everything down into smaller, manageable chunks. If I feel great, I just aim at the next checkpoint; if I feel awful, it might be just all about getting to the next lamppost or step.Remember that no matter how bad you feel, it’ll feel great at the finish. The sense of achievement will last a lifetime.

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What is your hydration strategy for long runs?

500ml an hour, as I would on race day. The more you practice it, the better it feels on the day. Plus, by hydrating and eating through long runs you reduce the amount of damage you do to your body and speed up recovery.

What is your nutrition strategy for long runs? Do you prefer gels or solid food or a mixture of the two?

As an ultra runner, I have to start my races on solid food as no one wants to eat 24 hours of gels! My dentist would probably knock me out. I make my own rice cakes, that are easy to digest, full of slow release carbs and taste great. Everyone is different with food though so practice in your long runs, that is what they are for!

What advice would you give to our marathon runners who may be starting to struggle mentally and physically at a certain point in their chosen marathons?

It’s supposed to hurt a little bit, so expect it to happen and be prepared. It might be that you’re going too fast, so slow down a little bit for a couple of miles. Ultimately though know that with each step you take you are making it a step closer to the finish so just keep moving forward.

 How important is it to get familiar with your race pace and also stick to a consistent pace during a marathon?

Race pace is important to feel comfortable with. It just helps you tick over that first half of the race without having to think too much. I put marathon pace sections into all my long runs, be it a couple of ten minute efforts separated by an easy 10 or a 45 min effort at the end of my long run.You don’t want to run everything at MP though, you’ll be too Knackered, but get used to how it feels! In the race itself a consistent pace is the best way, chasing that holy grail of a negative split! If you’re second half is quicker than your first half, then I take my hat off to you!

Rick Pearson

Written by Rick Pearson | 237 articles | View profile

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