Q&A with ultra runner Max Willcocks - Fitty London

Q&A with Max Willcocks

Max Willcocks is a sponsored athlete and a sports brand consultant. Hes based in London, but usually found running sickeningly long distances in beautiful locations overseas. When hes not running (which isnt very often), he writes for the likes of Mens Health and Mens Running, and consults with sports brands like Mizuno. Weve caught him while hes stationary to ask a little about him.

so max, you’re an ultra runner. tell us a bit more about what you do.

I run. A lot. Ultra running is anything over a marathon, typically in mountains or across big national trails. In reality its more than a sport it sounds cliché but its a lifestyle choice to go out and do exciting things in amazing placesfor a really long period of time. Obviously its about the running, but ultimately its about embracing the pain and continuing regardless (he tells us while eating broccoli and carrots post run).


why do you do it?

HA, I wish I knew. For me its one of those things that I dont enjoy it while Im doing it, but I look back fondly. The irony is that the thing I love about the sport running in incredible locations – isnt the every day. Half the time Im training just to get my speed as fast as possible. So I might be on the treadmill figuring out how quick I can do a 12 hour run, or doing sprints and interval training around a track. And honestly I thought it would impress girls.


what’s your next challenge?

Race season begins in May, so Im training for that. Amongst others Ill be doing the Red Bull Wings for Life race where youre chased by a car, and once it catches you your race is over I hope to do 50-60km. Ive also for the Sierra Leone marathon and am aiming for a 2:40ish finish time, and a race called Lavaredo Ultra Trail in Italy, which is 119km, and Im hoping for a competitive time up there with the top runners.


let’s talk pace – how fast do you run?

I work with Lululemon Kings Road quite a lot, and I recently ran for 12 hours straight in their store window to raise awareness and money for Cancer Research. I ran 93.47 miles and beat the world record of 92.07 miles. Thats an average pace of 7:42 mins per mile (which works out as 3:24 per marathonfor 3 and a half marathons consecutively). It was a dark place. No stops (not even for the toilet). But on the store windows people wrote messages of support, names of loved ones who are fighting, beating or lost the battle with cancer, which was amazing.

 

what’s your training schedule like?

Over the next few months Ive got to hit 100+ miles a week, and get in some cycling and hill training. So Ill train two times a day, usually with an outdoor interval session in the morning, which is around 5-8 miles, then a steady run in the afternoon, around 10-13 miles outside. And Ill try and hit a VK too (thats one vertical kilometre on an incline treadmill to us non-runners).


how do you eat for that?

I eat a high carb diet it means I can store more carbs as glycogen. For endurance athletes, its the best way to eat. So I mainly eat couscous, eggs, veg, sweet potato, and avocado.

I always eat after training called back-loadingto recover and replenish my stores. Then before my afternoon training or any long run, Ill front-load so that my glycogen stores arent low. And if Im doing a long run over an hour, Ill have gels mid-run too.

Each day I burn 4,500 calories, but I only have eat half of those towards race day the goal is to be as light as possible. But every now and then I have a day of re-fuelling (readers note: if you want to make Max happy, buy him some sweets). 


we always hear that running’s bad for your knees. can you shed some light?

So, I spent a lot of time teaching myself how to run. Before that I went through a period of having sore calves, sore underfoot, but now I do high mileage and dont have problems.

Its a bit of an urban myth that runnings bad for your knees. If you have trouble, the root of the problems usually weak glutes, lower back, your alignment, or bad form. The key is mobility. And people think mobility comes from stretching, or from a yoga mat or pilates. But being mobile comes from doing movements with a good range of motion, and you can do it all on the track. If you spend a bit of time over exaggerating your stride and opening up your hips it will really help. Also you need good trainers that match your running style. ProFeet fit all my trainers, and Id recommend going there or somewhere where they study your gait and running style

Im actually a bit of an anomaly in the running world, because Ive never lost a toenail and I dont get blisters and thats pretty fu*king impressive. I think because I spent so long worrying about how I run, that I seem to run quite well.  

 

what’s your dream goal?

Thats a hard one to answer, because every time I achieve something, my goals move. I guess its to do as well as I can each race. One day I want to win a big one.


who’s your hero?

For someone that spends a lot of time on their own, I dont tend to idolise. I find it hard to hold one person up there theres a lot of impressive people, but I wouldnt say I have a hero.


what’s your biggest accomplishment?

Ive kept my dog alive for three years. True, my Siberian Husky, is my running buddy. She keeps up with me for 6-7 miles.


what’s the best advice you were ever given?

A friend wrote Do whatever it takeson the window when I was running at Lululemon, and thats stuck with me.

My father inadvertently left me with the phrase Alwayscarved into my consciousness. I love the concept of its infinite nature, like its going to go on forever. Its tattooed onto my ribs and seems to mean a lot to me.

 

If youre interested in keeping up to date with Maxs adventures, hes putting everything up on his new Facebook page here.