How did you get into running and why?
Because my cousin died of leukemia, age 50. Before that I hated running, I never thought about running. So I signed up for the Great North Run in 2008, to raise money for leukemia research.
I started training – did the first mile, then thought “bloody hell, have to get back now!” I was getting bored training on my own, so I looked for a running club, to get me going a bit. I looked at the Harriers, but they seemed a bit “pro”, so got in touch with Quakers… I phoned Dave Thompson, told him I was 50-odd, and nervous that it would be all super-athletes in the club. He told me I’d be fine, to come along and give it a go; and everyone was so friendly, I was so glad I went along. I wouldn’t still be running now, if it wasn’t for the running club.
I did that first Great North Run just under 2 hours, made running friends, and just kept going. I did my first run for the Quakers at the Guy Fawkes 10, which remains one of my favourite races.
And I’ve never looked back – it’s been a crazy journey! I finally found something I was really comfortable doing. I’d tried football, and other things in the past, but until I started running, I’d never won anything. This was a whole new experience, I found my thing!
What kept you going when you first started running?
Joining the Quakers running club, and going out with some of the guys – David McLachlan was my main running partner, and a few others – I enjoyed the steady running, with good humoured chat. It’s like being down the pub, without the booze! That kept me going, and everyone seems to encourage everyone else at the club.
Tell us about some of the races that you’ve done in the past?
I’ve pretty much done every discipline – I still think my favourite is the Guy Fawkes 10, I do like that one. I remember my first time going for the Club Championship, I needed to win last 9 or 10 races to beat Wayne (ex-chairman, and one of my running heroes). There was a lot of friendly banter on the way, but great hard work.
I’ve done a number of marathons – my first was in around 2010, in Edinburgh, and was an incredible experience; the highs and lows of training for it, and the great training support from the club. Finishing the race was amazing – the pain, tiredness and heat was mind-blowing. What I was really after, that one marathon, was a ‘good for age’ time, to get into London. Then the target time was 3:15 – I tried about 3 times to get into London, all at Edinburgh. Once I missed it by a couple of minutes, I was absolutely gutted. Eventually I got 3:12 and got in – and at the same time Sandra did the half-marathon, and got a PB, so that was a fantastic day. Michael Joyeux was also there, and he’s always spurred me on. So, I was ecstatic to get into my first London marathon – but I got injured 3 weeks before, so had to defer! That was no good – a real low point.
I also like to remember Amsterdam marathon in 2015, where I first ran sub 3 hours, which was a brilliant run – I didn’t set out to do it, but at the last minute I went for pace, had nothing to lose, and I got it!
How much training do you typically do?
Typically 6 days a week, about 40 miles per week, building up to 55 in run up to marathons. It’s all run training I do – no gym sessions. If I had time, if there were 8 days in the week, I would do pilates and yoga, but I’ve never found the time in my schedule, and I always give preference to getting out and running.
I do still seem to be getting faster – it is beginning to plateau a bit, but when I stepped my training up from 3 or 4 days a week to 6 days, it made a huge difference. Once I could work past the injuries and the niggles and get out running 6 days a week, my performance really improved.
Be honest, do you enjoy training?
I love running! It’s easier to run 6 miles, than go to the gym. I love the club sessions, the camaraderie between the members and the efforts of the club coaches (who I applaud). I really appreciate everyone in the club who gives up their time to the club and the runners. I do have my bad days, but 99% of the time, I love it. I have to train hard to keep 50 points away from Michael Joyeux!
What’s your current running aim?
I’m representing England in my age group at Chester marathon, in October this year – I am really hoping I don’t get injured ahead of that one. Also to run for the England Masters Cross Country team, which I was in last year, I need good 5k and 10k times, compared to the other athletes – that’s in Londonderry this year, and I want to get back into that team again.
What is your favourite race/distance/terrain?
I like a mixture of road, and off-road / trail – although I haven’t done as much off-road as I want, I have stuck to the road races because my performance has been improving. But I like the off road mentally – anything which keeps your mind off your watch is good! I’d like to try some of the Hardmoors stuff. Distance wise, I think 10-13 miles is a good all round run – the Guy Fawkes 10 is just about perfect.
Which race performance are you most proud of?
Getting sub 3 hours at Amsterdam marathon was pretty good. Several of my 10k PBs, like the Mermaid, were hard won and I’ve surprised myself. But the one I am most proud of has to be Chester marathon, as it was a PB (2:58:28) and it got me into the England age group marathon team.
Which race would you have to be forced to do at gunpoint?
I’ve been thinking about this, and there’s actually nothing I hate! Maybe an army assault course, or the tough mudder type events, they’re not for me. I just like running, I don’t want to carry anything, or do obstacles! I find some courses boring, but still enjoy running, and I do think we should support our local races, or we risk losing them.
What is your proudest running achievement?
Editor’s note: I had to DRAG much of this information out of Brian – he’s too humble to sing his own praises!
It’s got to be getting into the England Cross Country team. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get onto the team in the past, so opening that letter was amazing. I was expecting another rejection, so when I read “Congratulations, you’re on the England Cross Country team” I was just looking at it, and thinking “Wow, how did that happen? Is this real?” It was incredible – I was getting emails, saying “the hotels for the England team are…” and I couldn’t believe it was for me! The England team! I was dead chuffed to be there at the race, I came third in the England team, and we scored a team Bronze medal. To represent my country, and win a medal – well, where do you go from there?! I couldn’t be prouder.
Also winning the Quakers Running Club championship five times (so far!) I’m always proud to put my Quakers vest on.
I’m also incredibly proud of my wife Sandra – her own running has come on amazingly, she’s tough, she’s a really good runner, and she supports me through everything. I couldn’t have achieved what I have without her.
What’s your idea of running heaven?
It’s having a good run, getting a PB when you don’t necessarily expect it – then afterwards having a drink and a chat (and chocolate!) with fellow runners.
What’s your idea of running hell?
Carrying a rucksack! Getting injured just before London was pretty low, after the build up, it was such an anti-climax, and I’d hate to go through that again.
Or maybe it’s missing the start of a race – like I did at a marathon, on the club trip a few years back! Everyone was on the start line, bar one person – I was on the bus, relaxing, talking to the bus driver. Sandra phoned me – “What are you doing Brian, why aren’t you starting the marathon?!” “Oh bloody hell!” I rushed up to the barriers as they were closing it all up – I had to loop all around, and make a start… It was actually really good fun, I really enjoyed it. There were lots of people I passed, saying “What are you doing back here?!” I won’t do that again!
Any advice to newcomers?
Get a life!! No, seriously – TRY IT. Try parkrun, see if you like running, come to club, try a session or a steady, get chatting to others. Do that for a little while – don’t let times get to your head, decide what you want to do – whether you want to take it seriously and see how fast you can get yourself, or be more relaxed.
Quakers Running Club is one of the best things to happen to me, I mean that. So many people were great to me when I first started, there are too many names to mention individually.
Also – nobody else cares about your time, just you. There will always be somebody quicker than you, and usually somebody slower – just run at your own pace and enjoy your running.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough in a hard race?
The quicker you do it, the sooner it’s over! Try to stay positive, in your mind. It’s amazing how much of your performance is psychological – if you can keep yourself positive and your head in the right place, you’re more than half way there. Encouragement from friends, club members, can really help this – like so many fellow Quakers shouting and screaming for me near the finish line at London! I had to keep on going – I don’t want to be called names for giving up, or letting them down!
Also, I feel lucky I’m able to run – some people can’t, some people would love to, so I feel fortunate for what I have, and want to give it my all.
What do you think is the best route into racing for newcomers?
Again, do the club sessions, throw in some track work, then try local 5k and 10k runs. There are plenty of people at club to help and give advice. I think you just need to be at the club sessions and get the runs in.
Best way to relax/reward yourself after a race?
Having a beer, a nice meal, having a chat with fellow runners, and making more plans. It’s always easy to make bold plans after a few beers! I enjoy a gentle little recovery run the next day.
If you were given six months of professional training, nutrition and perfect health – how fast could you run 10k?
I think I’ll get the club coaches to work through this with me, and I’ll see what I can do! Maybe sub 37 mins, now. Current PB is 37:25, last year. I have done 37:48 at Dewsbury this year – and that course was long, so that should have been a PB! I’d like to knock off that 25 seconds.
Apple, Water, Banana or Mars bar in your ideal goodie bag?
Easy one – anything with chocolate!!