Max Willcocks is a sponsored athlete and a sports brand consultant. He’s based in London, but usually found running sickeningly long distances in beautiful locations overseas. When he’s not running (which isn’t very often), he writes for the likes of Men’s Health and Men’s Running, and consults with sports brands like Mizuno. We’ve caught him while he’s stationary to ask a little about him.
I run. A lot. Ultra running is anything over a marathon, typically in mountains or across big national trails. In reality it’s more than a sport – it sounds cliché but it’s a lifestyle choice to go out and do exciting things in amazing places…for a really long period of time. Obviously it’s about the running, but ultimately it’s about embracing the pain and continuing regardless (he tells us while eating broccoli and carrots post run).
HA, I wish I knew. For me it’s one of those things that I don’t enjoy it while I’m doing it, but I look back fondly. The irony is that the thing I love about the sport – running in incredible locations – isn’t the every day. Half the time I’m 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.
Race season begins in May, so I’m training for that. Amongst others I’ll be doing the Red Bull Wings for Life race where you’re chased by a car, and once it catches you your race is over – I hope to do 50-60km. I’ve 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 I’m hoping for a competitive time up there with the top runners.
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. That’s an average pace of 7:42 mins per mile (which works out as 3:24 per marathon…for 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.
Over the next few months I’ve got to hit 100+ miles a week, and get in some cycling and hill training. So I’ll 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 I’ll try and hit a VK too (that’s one vertical kilometre on an incline treadmill to us non-runners).
I eat a high carb diet – it means I can store more carbs as glycogen. For endurance athletes, it’s the best way to eat. So I mainly eat couscous, eggs, veg, sweet potato, and avocado.
I always eat after training – called back-loading – to recover and replenish my stores. Then before my afternoon training or any long run, I’ll front-load so that my glycogen stores aren’t low. And if I’m doing a long run over an hour, I’ll 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 (reader’s note: if you want to make Max happy, buy him some sweets).
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 don’t have problems.
It’s a bit of an urban myth that running’s bad for your knees. If you have trouble, the root of the problem’s 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 I’d recommend going there or somewhere where they study your gait and running style
I’m actually a bit of an anomaly in the running world, because I’ve never lost a toenail and I don’t get blisters – and that’s pretty fu*king impressive. I think because I spent so long worrying about how I run, that I seem to run quite well.
That’s a hard one to answer, because every time I achieve something, my goals move. I guess it’s to do as well as I can each race. One day I want to win a big one.
For someone that spends a lot of time on their own, I don’t tend to idolise. I find it hard to hold one person up there – there’s a lot of impressive people, but I wouldn’t say I have a hero.
I’ve kept my dog alive for three years. True, my Siberian Husky, is my running buddy. She keeps up with me for 6-7 miles.
A friend wrote ‘Do whatever it takes’ on the window when I was running at Lululemon, and that’s stuck with me.
My father inadvertently left me with the phrase “Always” carved 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 you’re interested in keeping up to date with Max’s adventures, he’s putting everything up on his new Facebook page here.