25 Mar 12 by James Elson

Q&A with TP100 Winner Craig Holgate

I asked Craig Holgate if he'd be kind enough to answer a few questions for us following his 15:11 winning time at the inaugural 2012 Thames Path 100. His responses are listed, un-edited below. Hopefully a great insight into running at the pointy end of a 100 mile race and proof that hard work leads to success. 

I hope we'll see Craig back in 2013 to defend his crown and significantly better his own time, there is no doubt that that is possible reading through some of his answers. 


Can you give us a brief summary of your running background and previous ultra experience?

I have been running since the age of 6 and have done every kind of running / athletics you can think of from decathlons to fell races.

My ultra career spans less than 5 months. My wife bought me entry into the Thames Path as a surprise 35th birthday present in mid September, it took me a few minutes to say anything when I opened it, in the run up to Christmas I told her socks would be fine. I ran my first ultra, the Hereward 39 miler at the end of November and the Thames Trot in February. The lead guys in that race spent there time discussing previous ultra races while I said nothing, I wasn't being rude I just genuinely had nothing appropriate to add to the conversation.

What was you average training mpw coming in to the TP100? 
I started my ultra training in mid October as I was already committed to running the Peterborough half but from then on I averaged 100mile weeks for the next 20weeks leading to the taper.

What do you think is the most important element of running to include in training towards a 100 mile race?
Runs that I call 'unpleasant runs'. An unpleasant run is any run which is unpleasant by nature rather than its intensity making it unpleasant. Unpleasant runs include getting up at 3am Saturday morning for a very long run, getting off the train a few stops early on a Friday night to run a 20 mile cross country home with a heavy ruck sac and the treadmill sessions before a days skiingin the hotel gym which was like running in a very hot sauna (we had to convince the hotel manager to open the gym early for me).

These runs served two very different purposes one, it meant my training did not eat too much into my time with my kids and two, they prepared me mentally to race long.

What was your pre-race plan and did you manage to execute on race day?

My pre race plan was simple, stick behind the leader out of trouble until close enough to the finish to kick for home. This planned worked well in both my previous ultras.

The plan fell apart at Windsor when I went through the checkpoint quicker than anyone else. The last place I wanted to be was in the lead at this stage, I didn't want to stop completely to wait for them so I dropped my pace by 30 secs per mile and had some food while I waited to be caught. The guys didn't catch me so after Dorney (see below) I thought well just relax and save yourself for when the race starts. I assumed I would be caught and then I would revert to plan A, it was only on leaving the last CP I realised that plan A would not be needed. I ended up running 72 miles by myself, races rarely go to plan.

During the race did you have any particular low points and if so when/ where?
To be honest I didn't feel good at all on the day. I kept waiting for my body to warm up and feel good but it never happened. The first 30 miles were bad I was really struggling to get into my running, I felt sluggish and was hard to keep the negative thoughts under control, then I found myself out in front, this induced a minor panic. Dorney Lake was my lowest point. I felt rubbish, my plan had fallen apart, I couldn't find a route back to the path and ended going over a barbed wire fence and under a thorn bush. That thorn bush was my lowest point. As soon as I was back on the path I relaxed, its funny how quickly things change.

What was your nutrition/ hydration plan for the TP100 and did you stick to it?

Another pre race plan that went out the window. I suffered really badly with stomach cramps from about 40miles to 70miles, I ate very little. My plan was to eat real food early and drink at least a bottle of ucazade sport in-between checkpoints.

Thankfully I discovered I could stomach nuts and the big win was the large bag of chocolate peanuts that I bought on a whim the day before from Sainsbury's. The cold double espresso at 85 miles was fantastic.

What has been your proudest running achievement to date?

I have thought about this question more than any other and I still have no idea. It is very to compare different events over the years. The TP is high up there, I guess its the first race that is genuinely a team event I could not have won it without my wife crewing tirelessly for me. Others I guess, include 6th place at English Schools Decathlon and finally breaking the 34min 10k barrier, this was the biggest mental barrier I have ever had in running. 

Where will you be racing next and which key races do you have planned for the remainder of 2012?

Back in October my plan was to finish the TP without embarrassing or crippling myself and then have another crack at a sub 2.30 marathon. The journey over the last 5 months has changed things. I guess we will see what happens next, I will let my body recover as I tore a ligament in my knee during the race possibly, once recovered I may try a 100k or even attempt a 24hr race.