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steve on his way to 100k

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Steve Way

13 November 2014

Two weeks ago we spoke to Steve Way, who was sitting in a hot tub at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon as he prepares for the World 100km Championships, which takes place in Doha tomorrow. This was exactly the medicine needed after a gruelling 40 mile, four hour run in his native Poole.

The 40 year old shot into the public eye at this summer’s Commonwealth Games, where he finished 10th and broke the long-standing 35 year old British veteran 40 record held by the legendary Ron Hill.  While his 2:15.16 clocking was extraordinary, it was his back story that captured the imaginations of the entire population. Rewind to 2007, Way’s life consisted of a diet of kebabs, chocolate and 20 cigarettes a day and his weight soaring to 16 and a half stone. Just a year on from a ballooning waistband, the Bournemouth AC athlete defied belief to finish 102nd in the London Marathon in 2:35.34 and despite the occasional vice, Way’s takeaway scoffing, party fuelled lifestyle is a thing of the past.

After his success in Glasgow, Way proclaimed to the masses that ‘fat boy done good’ and used his past to inspire those who are faced with a similar scenario to the one that confronted him seven years ago.

“Get off the couch, go and give it a try you never know. Underneath that fat suit of mine there was a marathon runner, you never know and you’ve got to give it a try,” said Way, who ironically was a former manager in McDonalds.  

After the intense media surrounding his story, he is now hoping that his next journey gets people talking about his “World 100km aspiration and not about the amount of takeaways and fags I used to smoke.”

This Friday, Way will arrive in Doha on a journey to be crowned the first British winner of the IAU World 100km Championships since Simon Pride’s triumph in 1999. In just his second race over the distance, Way took over 20 minutes off his personal best to break the British 100km road best clocking 6:19.20 at the National Championships in Gravesend. After a few setbacks in training, Way admits he is fighting against time but knows if he makes the start line in one piece, he’s got every chance of ending Britain’s 15 year drought in the men’s event.

“If I had a choice I’d say can I have a couple more weeks. With my other target races – the London Marathon, 100km National Championships and Commonwealth Games I executed my plans to perfection, so what I wanted to achieve, I achieved. That hasn’t been the case this time for the World 100km, which is probably an accumulation of what I’ve put my body through this year and I’m still trying to put the same pressure on it as I was earlier on in 2014.

“I get the feedback and the impression from my body that I’m done for 2014, but I’m persevering. I’m certainly not in a disaster area and I’m optimistic after running 40 miles, so to achieve that at the pace I want to shows things are going in the right direction.” 

In the last edition of the event, it was a 40 year old Italian that came out on top, and Way knows that for a British 40 year old to repeat that feat, he’ll have to take on some of the best ultra-runners out there including three-time runner up Jonas Buud.

“If I hit the start line anywhere near what shape I was in for the National Championships, I’ll be going there to win. I’ll have to be sensible, but along with five or six guys on that start line I will be there fighting for the win and that’s quite exciting.

“In big marathon events, I don’t have that opportunity to have that strategy, because a 2:15 marathon runner isn’t going to win a world marathon of any description. It gives me that extra buzz because if my race goes to plan, there’s no reason why I can’t come away on top spot.

“There will be a number of athletes thinking they’re in the same place, one of which being my GB teammate Paul Martelletti, who’s a very similar runner to me. He’s a 2:16 marathon runner and he’s in awesome shape even though he’s never actually flat out raced 100km. He’s an unknown quantity when it comes to the race and I know he’s going to be hard to beat. There’s also Jonas who I finished behind in a 90km trail race and three or four US guys who have got the pedigree to be at the top.” 

In order to acclimatise to the conditions that will face him in the warmth of the Middle East, Way has attracted some strange looks training on treadmills, minus air conditioning and wrapped up in his winter attire. Despite many people goading him to break the 6:13.13 world record, Way admits that the heat and humidity makes that target somewhat impossible.

“I’m certainly not expecting to PB that’s for sure, so it’s going to be a race and that’s it really. I’m not fussed about the time. The World Trophy 50km Final was held on exactly the same course and the winning time was just over three hours, which is at least 10 minutes slower than what you’d expect and that’s because of the conditions. I am expecting to be running slower, but I won’t be getting agitated if I find myself putting the same effort in as I did at the National Championships. I can most definitely 100% say the world record will not happen this time. I’m not saying this might not happen at some point in my 100km career, but Doha isn’t the place to be achieving that.”  

Many would describe Way as a glutton for punishment and they would indeed be right if they had known his 40 mile run consisted of 100 0.4 mile loops. However, there is method to his madness as he prepares for the toughest challenge so the year so far.

“It’s quite tedious to keep focused, but I know I need to commit to the time on feet and long runs and back to back runs. I spend most of the time counting laps or miles, assessing pace – I’d love to say I was solving the problems of the universe during those four hours, but I’m quite OCD when I get out there and it’s all about the run for me. As well as doing all those stats in my head, the other 50% is thinking about race day. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t enjoy running 100 laps, but I’m doing it because I want to get the best out of myself and be as competitive as I can on race day in Doha. It’s tedious at times, but it’s all worth it if it pans out when it matters.

“If you ask me to do a 40 mile one loop, that sounds far too daunting to me. People say that what I do is mentally challenging because I quite often do silly things like this, but it seems like how my head works. All I know is that I’ve got to run around that loop albeit 100 times but mentally I can embrace that. If you told me if I had to run 20 miles and come back again, that would sound horrendous. I like the short loops because I can get into a rhythm and I tend to maintain a much better pace rather than facing the varying conditions of a longer route. My race is actually on a flat 5km loop so I’m focusing my training on that, so I don’t need to go and find hills or anything like that.”

Away from his running, Way dedicates a large proportion of his time to documenting his training to his many followers on his website. While this could be seen as giving away his trade secrets, Way sees it as a way of motivation to pound the loops on cold, winter days.

“When people ask aren’t you worried your competitors are copying your training, I always say that if they’re able to do that then good on them, I’ll see them on the startline. My blog is like being at school with 600 teachers. When I was at school I was a bit of a teacher’s pet because I tried to keep everybody happy and my blog serves that purpose. People know the plan and what I’m meant to be doing, so it’s almost having that guardian over you making sure you do what you’re meant to do. Otherwise if I haven’t done it, I won’t be in trouble but people will think ‘well that isn’t what he said he was going to do, he appears to have got a bit lazy’.”

You can follow Steve on his journey to Doha on Twitter via @marigold_bac or at www.steveway.co.uk