Tom Evans: 10 running tips from Britain’s new ultrarunning star

Mark Bailey
Tom Evans winning the Courmayeur Champex Chamonix earlier this year

Former British Army Captain Tom Evans, 26, shocked the global running community with his third place in the brutal 250km Marathon des Sables last year and victory in the iconic 101km Courmayeur Champex Chamonix (CCC) race around Mont Blanc this summer. He tells The Telegraph ten simple ways everyone can become a better runner

1. Build up your running volume every week

“I am lucky enough to be a full-time athlete now so I do 180-200km of running per week. But I only ever increase my weekly volume by a maximum of 10 per cent. If you are running 10 miles a week, don’t try to jump to 25 miles. Build up slowly because it is these slow, incremental gains that really make the difference as your body learns to adapt to the new distances over time.”

2. Sign up to a race next year

“If you have done a 5km run and want to do a 10km event I would sign up to an event, whether six months or a year down the line. That will give you purpose because if your body is used to running 5km events, increasing that volume will make it cry out a bit. Having that goal means you know why you are doing this training session when it is cold and raining and dark. That strong purpose of knowing ‘why?’ is really important.”

3. Use running as a way to explore

“Running is such an incredible way of exploring a new place. You get to see so much. I have been lucky enough to train across the world from South America and Costa Rica to Arizona and the French Alps, which is amazing.

"Living in the Alps over the summer, if I went on a 5-6 hour run I would bring my phone and take 10 euros and some food in my pack and just go and discover new trails. You can do the same wherever you live so every run feels fresh.”   

4. Think like a British Army soldier

“I spend a lot of time on the psychological side of things by doing mental visualisation before races. That is something that serving in the British Army taught me: you have to focus your mind as well as your body. Without both, the other can’t perform. But my approach has changed. I used to visualise on having the perfect race but I have never had one! So it is now about visualising things that could go wrong. I have a Plan A and Plan B so if I get a stitch or cramp I know what I will do in order to react to that.”

5. Fuel up with oats

“On a busy training day my main source of food is carbohydrates so I tend to start with an oat-based breakfast like porridge with berries and Greek yoghurt. My post-training dish tends to be whole foods meal like a salad with sweet potato and a chicken breast. My evening meal might be pasta with sauce and some fish and salad. I eat lots of salads and experiment with random things in them.”

6. Beat nerves with statistics

“When you are on the start line, 99pc of the hard work has been done. I told myself that I had done 25-30 hours of running every week for 10 weeks for this 10-hour race. Percentage wise, the racing is actually pretty small and the conditions have already been set.”

7. Take the plunge at your local swimming pool

“Running is high impact on the joints and I am reasonable swimmer so I like to do some work in the pool too. It means I can get a good workout aerobically in the pool but with minimal stress on the joints, so I get good volume without extra stress on my body. I also use aqua-jogging and swimming if I am injured to maintain my fitness while still allowing myself to recover.”

8. Break down the distances

“For any fitness challenge, whether it is a 100-mile race, a 5km Park Run or a Tough Mudder, when you see it as one race in isolation it is pretty difficult to motivate yourself. So I like to break everything down to 10km chunks or 10-minute chunks. I do the same in my training. I like to focus on the finer detail, aim for the next stop or check point and focus on the here and now. Focus on the process, not the outcome.”

9. Strengthen your core muscles

“My core is definitely not the finished product and I can get stronger. So I do 20 minutes of core exercises at the end of my strength sessions. I also like to do 5-10 minutes of core whenever I can, like a little plank routine, going from a front plank to a side plank and some leg raises afterwards. It is good to do that before or after a run to tell my core it can’t relax and shouldn’t get too comfortable.”

10. Build a team around you

“Getting involved with running groups will make your weekly mileage more fun as running can be a lonely sport at times. Sunday is my longest run of the week and I do it as part of a group. It is good to find some people to run with, even if just for an hour at the beginning. It really helps my motivation. There are so many great running groups in this country. Running is an individual sport but I couldn’t do what I do without people alongside me.”

Tom Evans is a Red Bull athlete. To find out more on using Red Bull to support your training visit www.redbull.com