Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A flask of coffee with Marathon Man (but still a Fellrunner) Andy Davies

Sharing a flask of coffee with Andy at Stiperstones in Shropshire

Out training in mid Wales the other day, I was lucky enough to bump into Andy Davies. Andy is right in the middle of marathon training at the moment, as he'll be running in the men’s elite race at this year’s Virgin London Marathon on Sunday 23 April, thanks to a marathon PB of 2:16:55 (September 2015, Berlin).

FRB - But fell (and mountain) running must be your first love, Andy?

Andy - Yes, I love getting up into the mountains. Unfortunately I don’t get the opportunity very often at the moment. When I do get a cheeky chance it’s such a refreshing feeling being in the hills and mountains. Just going off track and getting in some views at the top.

FRB - How did you get into running?

Andy - I first started at primary school doing cross country and progressed there. 

FRB - And what about fellrunning, was it the influence of your brother Tim (Fellrunning British Champion in 2010)?

Andy - I was the first in the family to start fell running. So I think I influenced my Dad, brother and sister. I did my first fell race when I was 12, where a school friend introduced me to a local race. It was the Corndon Classic near Welshpool in Mid Wales. I remember finishing in 7th place and loved every minute of it. 

However, the following year (aged 13) I did the Cardington Cracker near Church Stretton in the Shropshire Hills and found it so hard. A tough 9 mile route. I couldn’t drop out because the wind was so strong on the way back it kept me running! Also, I would have to get back to the finish anyway. I think I came 5th to last. This is where it all started really.

FRB - Just to give FRB readers a clearer picture, let’s look at what running you’ve been doing over the last few years; Just some highlights……

  • World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship in Slovenia (June) finishing 9th

Andy Davies representing GB in Slovenia
  • IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) 50K World Championships in Doha (Nov) finishing 5th
    Andy at the 300 metre Aspire Tower or Torch Hotel in Doha


  • 2nd in the Three Peaks 2:53:53

  • Andy 2nd at the 2015 Yorkshire Three Peaks (@woodentops)
    • Marathon Commonwealth Games for Wales in Glasgow 2014 (2:18:59)

    Andy representing Wales in the Marathon (Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014)

    • 2nd in the WMRA Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge in Poland    
      WMRA Long Distance - Poland
    • 9th in the English Championship thanks to good runs at Loughrigg-Silverhowe (2nd) Duddon (4th) and Sedbergh (4th)
    • Joint Bronze in the British Championship with Darren Kay and Tim Davies
    So it looks like your move away from the fells happened in 2012. What made you turn from the hills to the roads?

    Andy - I started marathon running back in 2006 when travelling in New Zealand and loved them, so wanted to do one every year.  I did the Christchurch Marathon in 2:52 from 3 weeks training (in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney, Australia).  

    Back in 2012 I was fortunate to get an excellent coach (Steve Vernon), together we hoped I would be able to get to the Commonwealth Games by getting the qualifying time. So I concentrated more on the roads. My coach is pro-fell running so he does allow me to get into the hills, but much of my running is now done on the flat.

    FRB - Let's have a brief look back at your last fellrunning championship race, the Coledale Horseshoe, in 2012. You were 58th that day and over ten minutes behind winner Joe Symonds. Do you remember this race. Did something go wrong?

    Andy - Yes, I remember this race very well. I was ill in the week, I will spare the details but it wasn’t very pretty at the time! But I thought I had recovered. I remember going off strong and felt quite good but by the time I went up the first hill my legs were shot, everyone went flying past me. Not a good day out. Even on the way down where there was a little hill and I had to walk up it!

    FRB - Ah that will be Barrow! Do you ever wear your commemorative ‘coledade horshoe’ buff? (The company producing them was Spanish and misspelled the name of the race)

    Andy - Yes, I do wear it occasionally. I have a chuckle every time I wear it!
    The top 4 at 2015 Three Peaks (@woodentops)
    The finish field at the Three Peaks (@woodentops)

    FRB - What was the best result you ever had in a fell race?

    Andy - My best result was in the British Champs in 2010 in the Black Mountains race. My brother had to win the race to win the British Championships over Rob Hope. He told me just to follow him all the way around, so I did. We finished first and second quite ahead of third and Tim won the British Champs as a result.

    FRB - Do you intend to return to the fell scene!?

    Andy - Yes, definitely. I can’t wait to the back to the fell scene one day (don’t know when). I’m still looking to get revenge on the Isle of Jura race and want to do loads in the Lake District and the Dales as I haven’t really done too many races up there.
    FRB - Do you have any iconic races that you would love to win? (Apart from the London Marathon of course).
    Andy - I would love to win Jungfrau, it's such an amazing race with unbelievable scenes. 
    Andy at the Jungfrau Marathon
    Transvulcania would be amazing to do, but the quality of runners there would make it very difficult. Also, I would like to be the first Welsh man to win the Yorkshire Three Peaks, that would be a sweet victory.


    FRB - Without wanting to give away any secrets to your competitors, could we have a little chat about training....? Do you live in the hills?

    Andy - Yes I kind of live in the hills – I live in Newtown, Mid Wales so there are small hills everywhere (getting up to 500m on the Kerry Ridgeway) but the big hills like Cader Idris are about an hour away.

    FRB - Do you train in the hills?

    Andy - I mostly run on a canal path on the flat, but will venture up in the hills every now and then. During the summer when I do get the chance then I go quite regularly. I do miss going up in the hills to get some views.

    FRB - What kind of mileage are you doing (summer / winter) and how much of it is road?

    Andy - In a 10 week build up to a marathon I will be doing between 95-100 miles a week quite consistently. For a ‘normal’ week the rest of the year I will be doing about 80-85 miles a week. Most of this is canal path, track one a week (during marathon build up) and a long run on the Sunday run (approx. 20 miles) or sometimes a cheeky run in the hills on grass.

    FRB - What ‘sessions’ do you mix in?

    Andy - During a marathon build up, most of it will be ‘easy’ miles (approx. 7:15 min miling). I’ll be doing a track session once a week (something like 2 miles, 8x400m then 2 miles to finish), usually on a Tuesday with a long run on a Sunday, approx. 20 miles, usually around Lake Vyrnwy in mid Wales (it’s a lovely quiet 11 mile loop). I also add 2 core sessions per week in addition to this.
    Men's GB Team after the Slovenia World Long Distance Mountain Race 2016 (Mark Croasdale)
    FRB - Just for the stats fans, what’s the most mileage in a week that you’ve ever done?

    Andy - The most I’ve got up to was 129 miles – I was knackered by the end of the week. I did 10 miles in the morning and evening from Monday to Friday. 6 miles on the Saturday with a 23 mile run on the Sunday. I don’t want to do that too often either!

    FRB - This may seem a silly question, but do you have pavements where you live? A lot of fellrunners don’t live in cities or towns and training in the winter can be quite difficult.

    Andy - Fortunately, I live 100 metres from a canal path. I can either turn right and run into Newtown or turn left and go on the canal path for as far as I want. I’m pretty lucky where I live. I’m sure my dog who runs 25-30 miles a week would disagree with me. She’s a Jack Russell but I think she does enjoy coming out too!
    Scrappy the dog - "Marathon? Easy!"

    FRB - How are you dealing with training this Winter?

    Andy - I’m not a big winter fan. I  much prefer the hot summer nights to run in. I just get on with it and count down the weeks until the clocks go forward. There’s always something to focus on through the winter, so it comes and goes pretty quickly.

    FRB - Do you get creative and try to create shapes out of your gps tracks?

    Andy - I have done a bit of Strava art but it turns out rubbish. The xmas tree was a bit pathetic. There is a run I do from my mum and dad’s house which looks like a devil with horns (but I’m sure no one else can see it).

    FRB - And a quick question about your diet, are you a 'clean eater'? do you drink pomegranate juice and such like and more crucially, do you drink alcohol?!?

    Andy - Yes, I’m pretty clean when it comes to eating. I try and be good in the week with plenty of fruit and vegetables. But get a bit slack at the weekend. I love a Chinese at the weekend or the occasional Indian. I don’t buy crisps on purpose as I know they wouldn’t be in the cupboards very long! 

    I’m going to sound right boring, but generally I don’t drink alcohol, not because I’m strict, but my taste buds don’t really like the taste of it. Although I do like a bit of pear cider occasionally.
    Andy's tipple of choice, mmmm refreshing!

    FRB - Lastly, have you got any races between now and London? Just so we can keep an eye out for you.

    Andy - I’ve got the Trafford 10km (Sunday 5 March), Wilmslow Half Marathon (Sunday 19 March) and Liverpool Half Marathon (Sunday 2 April) all in preparation for London Marathon  (Sunday 23 April)

    Andy we wish you luck in London and (along with many other fell runners) will be cheering you on via the TV.

    Andy - Thank you very much, I’ll need it! I’m looking for a sub 2:16 which will hopefully get me a place at the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year.

    Well I hope you get it, we'd love to see you run in Australia too, taking you back to your marathon roots!

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