I hope you all enjoyed reading last month’s interview with double olympian Eilish McColgan. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find it on our website with all the previous newsletters.
This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with athlete, coach and content creator, Ben Parkes. Some of you may already be aware of Ben and might have seen a few club members sporting his running caps, but for those of you who haven’t heard of him before, Ben is a established runner with a Marathon PB of 2 hours 25 minutes. He also produces some fantastic youtube videos focusing on his personal running journey, tips for improvement, nutrition and more. He has his own range of merchandise including caps and singlets and also offers coaching plans for all distances and abilities. Make sure you check out his website after reading this article.
Ben, you completed several marathons growing up, but didn’t really start running seriously until your early 30’s. What motivated you to take up running as more than just a hobby?
I had reasonable success in my running at school and early 20s. Once I got back into it during my early 30’s I had learnt so much more about the sport and just wanted to see how far I could take it and see if there was any talent there! I was just curious to find out how good I could be if I really threw myself into it!
Completing the Valencia Marathon in a time of 2.25 is a phenomenal achievement, but aside from that, what would you say is your biggest achievement or thing that you’re most proud of?
I ran the London Marathon in 2019 and filmed the whole thing for YouTube and that was the first video that “blew up” for me and essentially kick-started this whole journey. It showed me I had potential on YouTube as a platform and made me realise I could potentially make a living from running, which I’d been told time and time again was impossible.
You are a keen ultra-runner, completing several 100-mile races. What advice would you give to our club members that are interested in taking on an ultra-marathon?
Run back-to-back long runs on the weekends. Do your research on the race - read race reports and watch race vlogs from other people’s experiences. Also practice with your gear and tweak everything until it’s right because even the smallest issues can become big big problems over long distances and you want to minimise that risk. For your first one, just have the goal of finishing and don’t put yourself under any more pressure than you need to.
You recently suffered a bad ankle injury, which you have managed to recover from. Was it tough to remain focused during your time without running and what would you say to anyone suffering with an injury at the moment?
Even though I couldn’t run, there was always something that I was doing instead to help me in the recovery process so I could ultimately be running sooner! Loads of strength work, reading, research, watching videos, interacting with other injured runners, that all combined was more than enough to keep me focussed. My advice for someone going through an injury is to get as much professional advice as you can afford. Put a plan of recovery in place based on the advice and stick with it. Treat it as an opportunity to learn about yourself and your body, it’s not all doom and gloom and you can come back a far better, more knowledgeable runner!
You’re obviously very busy filming and editing videos, sending out merchandise etc. How else have you been passing the time during lockdown?
Ah there’s always something going on whether it’s coaching our athletes, developing new training plans, designing new products… it’s been a very busy time for us! The routine has changed very little, the lack of travel and lower volume of runner is all that’s changed.
Your partner Sarah is also a fantastic runner with a marathon PB of 3.19. She’s also recently done her first YouTube video. Does it help having someone else that shares your love for running?
Yes of course it’s great having the same interests and we really understand each other’s goals and motivate each other. We’re never short of things to talk about, although on the flip side, running is work AND a hobby for BOTH of us so most of the time it ends up being the ONLY thing we ever talk about!
Do you have any pre-race nutrition tips?
I personally have 2 bagels a few hours before most races, but the one piece of advice I would say is just have the same breakfast you usually have before a run of that distance. For instance, if you always have porridge on your long run days, have porridge on race day too because your body is used to it and you know it’s something that works well for you. What works for me might not work for the next person. People always want to try new things on race day.. but these rarely result in success stories!
Running has taken you all over the world. What are your top 3 places to run and why?
Chamonix in France has some of the most stunning trails the best backdrop for an athletics track anywhere I’ve seen in the world.
South Downs Way because it’s beautiful in the spring, summer, autumn and winter, and it is always runnable and peaceful.
We also love running in the south of Spain around the Granada/ Andalucia area. Lots of amazing hilly trails, good food and it’s the perfect temperature over there when it’s winter here in the UK!
You are a huge parkrun fan, what do you love about parkrun and could we convince you to come and see us at Daventry Parkrun one day?
I love parkrun because it’s so inclusive, there are people from all different backgrounds with no judgement and everyone is treated equally.. everyone is a hero whether you’re trying to break 15 mins or 60! Once parkruns are back up and running, Daventry will be on the list!
Sticking with 5K, a lot of our members also regularly attend the parkrun, what tips do you have for people trying to improve their parkrun times?
You need to be doing a speed session once per week. Run fast to get faster! Something like 6x 3 minutes at goal 5k pace with 2 mins recovery. Also don’t feel like you have to race every parkrun, you can incorporate parkrun into a long run by running nice and easy there, then running parkrun at a nice tempo pace and then run home nice and easy too!
You’ve done several videos where you review running shoes, what are your favourite running shoes?
At the moment I really like the New Balance 1080 v10 for the roads, and for the trails the Nike Pegasus 36 Trail.
What does the rest of 2020 hold for Ben Parkes and what can we look forward to seeing next year?
A few new products are in the pipeline for the second half of this year and then hopefully when everything is back to normal again we can do some more race vlogs for the channel! We will be putting on some events where we can meet people as well, as soon as it’s safe to do so. All very exciting times and I’d like to wish all your runners the very best for 2020 and beyond!
Huge thank you to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions, I hope you found his interview interesting! If you'd like to follow Ben or purchase some of his merchandise please visit www.benparkes.com or www.youtube.com/benparkes.
Keep your eyes peeled for our special Ben Parkes competition coming soon...