JULY 2021: For most runners, it’s a constant learning curve, as we look for ways to make training and preparation more efficient, and get the best out of race day.
At 64, Mike Gibbons has completed a range of marathons, and has also represented his country at the Duathlon World Championships. And he’s been a regular member of RunBrighton since moving down here, five years ago.
Despite his experience and performance in endurance events, Mike admits he’s still identifying ways to improve.
What is it that appeals to you about training in a group, Mike?
I really enjoy RunBrighton.
I find solo, long runs pretty soul destroying – tired at the end and always feeling that performance could be better.
I like the social aspect of RunBrighton, right from the moment I arrive on a Sunday morning. We set off and start chatting, and I find that forty minutes have gone by without realising it.
The different timed groups are great. When I first joined, I really didn’t like the idea of dropping down a group – seeing it as some kind of failure. But the difference between hanging off the back of a group and running comfortably in the next group down is immense – and only a few seconds per km different. And it doesn’t matter how fast you are – there are always runners faster than you, and others slower. Now, I move up and down groups without a care, depending on how I feel or if I’m nursing some sort of niggle.
I know you’re a keen cyclist too, so I guess you’ve always been sporty? How did you first get into distance running?
On the contrary – I was the non-sporty kid at school!
Although I have always cycled, I never did any competitive events – so it kept me sort of fit, and meant I was able to do endurance events. When we were fifty, my wife, Christine, and I rode from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I started running when I was 52, after Christine joined a local running group where we were living in Wales. The first event I entered was in 2009.
Which, would you say, is your favourite event, or best experience?
My favourite event is the Conwy Half Marathon in North Wales, which has about 300m of elevation gain. I’ve run it seven times. It starts with a flat section leading to the bottom of the Great Orme. There’s then an 80m climb over 2km. Pacing that correctly is the key to getting a good, overall time. Once over the top, the view opens out for a long descent to run back along the estuary. In 2015, I did it only two minutes slower than my PB for a flat race, in spite of the climbs – probably my best overall race performance.
And your best marathon time?
I was never that enthusiastic about marathons, but decided to do one so that I could say that I have. I didn’t feel the need to do any more. A few years later, in 2016, when looking up Boston qualifying times for a friend, I saw that that the cut-off for my age group – 3:55 – was something I might be able to hit if I knuckled down to some serious training. I was aware that Boston qualification was something that impressed proper runners! I put in the work and ran my PB, 3:44:56, at Gloucester in August. That got me into Boston and, as an added bonus, Good for Age direct entry into London. I ran Boston in 2017, and London 2018, and then called it a day on my marathon career.
What motivates you?
I do like targets, particularly improving on my own performance. One of the advantages of coming to running late, was that from 2009 to 2016 I improved my life time PBs each year, when my more experienced contemporaries were watching their times getting slower. Now, I use age grading to keep track.
Is there anything you’ve changed recently, to help improve performance?
At the start of the year, I needed something to focus on, in the absence of races. I committed to a block of six weeks’ training, including running, strength and flexibility, and cross training. The aim of the plan was to improve my 10k time. I found the structure, mix of activities and monitoring really helped. And I ended up with a faster 10k time!
What race is next on your agenda?
I usually do a lot of races and particularly enjoy overseas events. I’ve raced in South Africa and Iceland and many spots in between. Of course, my schedule has been curtailed over the last 18 months – part of the reason that I’m running so frequently with RunBrighton’s summer programme. The next significant race is the Brighton Half, in October. I’m also qualified in my age group for the World Duathlon Championships in November, but who knows if that will go ahead!?
What prompted your move to Brighton, and what were you doing previously?
My working career has been starting and developing Information Technology companies. In 2017, I decided to retire from the company I was running in Manchester. Christine and I had no major ties to any area, so we started to work out where in the world we wanted to live. We’d always enjoyed our visits to Brighton and Hove, so, after a tick-list exercise, that’s where we chose.
How do you spend your time when not running or cycling?
Although I no longer have a nine-to-five commitment, I’m involved in three companies, and Chairman of two of them. I founded an Artificial Intelligence company, three years ago, and am fascinated by the work we’re doing there. Several of the projects are in the health sector, and it’s great to feel that we’re doing work that so directly improves people’s lives.
We also love the live entertainment in Brighton and are looking forward to its return – we’re great fans of the Festival.
Mike, it’s been good to chat. I look forward to seeing you on our run next Sunday. Good luck with your continued preparation for Brighton Half Marathon and for the World Duathlon Champs later in the year!
By Mike Bannister