DECEMBER 2020: Rick Evans, of Arena 80, is one of the awesome foursome who run the Watchmaker’s Arms micropub in Hove. He has also been a RunBrighton ambassador for the last 10 years.

Running and beer – a good combination, Rick?

I would say so, Mike. I think that running, and other exercise, earns you the right to enjoy life’s pleasures, such as eating and drinking. It’s all about maintaining the balance. Judging by the number of runners who are regular visitors to the Watchmaker’s, it’s a view shared by many others – some of them are quite good at both!

Had it been a long-term ambition of yours to run your own pub?

Definitely not, although I’ve always enjoyed drinking good beer. We were camping in Kent with our friends, now business partners, six years ago when we visited a new micropub in Whitstable. We were taken by the idea and the unique atmosphere, and decided to look for a suitable property in Hove. The Watchmaker’s has been very successful and serves as a community pub for many of our regulars.

To what extent has the coronavirus pandemic affected the business?

Being wet-led (we don’t do food), we were closed throughout the first lockdown and have been closed again since the second lockdown started in November. Having reopened in July with limited numbers, table service and other safety measures in place, we were doing surprisingly well, and our customers really appreciated the efforts we had made to stay open and to keep them safe. It’s obviously frustrating to be closed again, especially when you look at how busy shops are, but the government support has worked well for us and I still have a full-time job away from the pub.

How and when did you originally get into running?

I started running when I quit smoking, 24 years ago – I originally used running to help me cope with cravings. I noticed that after a run I didn’t get a craving for a few hours. I’d been plodding the same routes along the prom and occasionally in Hove Park for years when parkrun began. I was one of the 17 who toed the line for the very first event in Hove Park, and I’m currently stuck somewhere around 350. Parkrun made me realise I could go a bit faster; I eventually broke 20 minutes, around five years ago – just before we opened the pub.

And what motivates you now? Do you aim to finish in a specific time, or is it more a case of running to enjoy the experience?

Having achieved most of my PBs in 2015, I’m on a steady decline in terms of my personal performance, but I still enjoy running enormously. I really enjoy helping other people to achieve their goals, which is why RunBrighton is a good fit for me, and I love pacing at parkrun. I’ve also helped Ruth, my wife, achieve some running and cycling goals, and I’m currently running with my daughter, as she wants to improve her 5k time and extend her distance.

What would you say has been your best running experience, to date?

I’ve had so many great experiences, it’s hard to single any out, but the two marathons I’ve done in France stand out for very different reasons. The Marathon du Mont Blanc was so tough, but absolutely stunning. I’d run 3:24 at Brighton in the spring, so was in good shape, and I had a 6-hour goal for the event. I completed 20 miles in four hours, but the last six miles were gruesome and I finished in 6:20. The finish line is at the top of a mountain where you get free beer and then a cable car back down to Chamonix.

My other French marathon was the Marathon du Medoc, which is held in the Bordeaux region and passes through 21 chateaus, all of which offer wine and food to the competitors. Runners are encouraged to spend at least six hours on the course, and Ruth and I completed it in 6:32. It’s really a huge fancy-dress party and I would recommend anyone who likes running and loves wine to try it at least once.

How many marathons have you completed?

I think around twenty, Mike. I’ve done London three times and Brighton seven or eight times, but I’ve also done some off-road marathons and ultras with Sussex Trail Events and 209 Events, which I have probably enjoyed more, just because of the lower numbers and the great scenery.

What do you enjoy most about your ambassador role with RunBrighton?

As I mentioned earlier, helping people to achieve their goals motivates me, so RunBrighton enables me to do that. I’ve also met lots of people over the years who I am now good friends with, yourself included of course. The fact that we see so many people come back, year after year, and move up to faster pace groups is testimony to the great job we’re all doing, and you deserve enormous credit for the work you do to keep us all organised – particularly this year!

Thanks Rick. RunBrighton wouldn’t work without such a fantastic team of ambassadors.

Appreciating that it’s difficult to set running goals, currently, with so few races, what do you think your next challenge will be?

I had places in London and Brighton marathons this year and have deferred them to 2021 and 2022, so I’ll be doing my first ever autumn road marathon in London next year. I don’t enjoy running in the summer as much as winter, so the training will be an interesting challenge for me, as well as for lots of other people.

And what’s Christmas going to look like for you and your family, this year?

For the last five years, I’ve opened the pub for a couple of hours at lunchtime on Christmas Day, which is always great fun, so this year will be much quieter. Ruth and I have our son and one of our daughters at home at the moment, so there will just be the four of us. My dad is in Kent, so the latest restrictions mean we won’t be able to visit him on Boxing Day as we were planning. The weather looks great, so I’ll probably head out for a run on Boxing Day with my son, and then RunBrighton on Sunday of course!

Rick, great to chat. Thanks very much for all your support of RunBrighton over the years. Have a great Christmas, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday for our next group run.

By Mike Bannister