DECEMBER 2018: Will Cork is a man on a mission. Having only got into competitive running quite recently, his parkrun PB (completed on Hove Prom) is now down to 15:30. And last Saturday he finished 10th in the South of the Thames Cross Country Championships, representing the winning team, Brighton & Hove AC.
Will, firstly, congratulations on yours and Brighton & Hove AC’s success last week at the South of the Thames, one of the oldest cross-country races in the world. How was that experience?
Despite the terrible weather, it was a really great experience. Standing at the start was probably the only bit I didn’t enjoy but, once I got going, the rain was the last thing on my mind. The competitive side of running is what keeps me training, week in, week out; and when I have a good race like this one, it makes it all worth the effort. Obviously, I was over the moon to win a team medal, the first time Brighton & Hove has done so in 40 years!
Where did your running begin? Is your talent in the genes?
Running has never been something the family has done; it’s a bit of a mystery where my passion for it came from. I started my running at parkrun when I was about 15. A few of my friends and I decided to give it a go at my local parkrun, back in my home town of Norwich. I remember immediately realising how much I loved the atmosphere from the moment I started. Being part of this wave of runners gave me a new buzz that I hadn’t experienced before. However, it wasn’t until the last couple of years, since joining AB training group, run by Allison Benton, that I’ve taken my running to the next level. Being part of this group gives me the motivation to train so that I can compete at the front of the races I participate in.
I know you performed well in your track races over the summer. What was the highlight of the track season for you?
The highlight for me was breaking 4 minutes for 1500 metres. I had a relatively short season as I was out at the start with injury. Despite the track season starting in April, it wasn’t until July that I started racing again. The short amount of time I had until the season ended made me work extra hard to get my fitness back, and it came back just in time. I managed to run 3:58 in my last race of the season, made extra special for me as it’s a target I failed to achieve last year.
What would you say is your preference… road, track or cross-country?
I definitely feel most at home in the mud and on grass. I feel much stronger when running up and down the hills in a cross-country race, than in any other. As soon as the cross-country season is over, I’m immediately thinking about what I can achieve next year.
And your best distance?
I’m still not sure, to be honest. I feel my times for each distance are relatively consistent. However, having done so many parkruns, I find 5k a much easier distance to pace now than any other.
I understand you train twice on some days. What do you do for work and how do you fit your training around that?
I’m currently on a placement year at an architect’s practice in Hove, run by fellow runner David Kemp. As part of my university course, I’m required to take this year out, to gain some valuable work experience. I manage to fit in double days of running by making it part of my daily work routine, and I find the easiest way to do this is to run to work. It’s about 3k from my house in Brighton to my workplace. I feel this is a nice distance to wake up my legs in the morning before a hard session in the evening.
What about cross-training and strength & conditioning? I know you regularly attend classes at Riptide, in Hove Park. To what extent do you think the non-running components of your training help your race preparation?
At work, I have access to David’s exercise bike. On occasion, I will do a session on the bike if my legs are tired or if I’m taking time out with injury. This is not quite as good for my training as running, but it’s a good substitute. I attend classes at riptide, once a week, to improve my strength, so it’s easier for me to stand up tall and find that extra speed when I’m running. I’ve noticed a massive change in my running efficiency since starting these classes and consider them a vital part of my training.
As someone who is coached by Allison Benton, whose group includes some incredibly talented runners, all going from strength to strength, what would you say are the key benefits of being part of such a group?
It’s important to have other runners around you, especially when they’re of a similar ability and have the same motivation to train as yourself. I find it difficult to motivate myself to run on my own, so having this group around me is the reason I’m still running. Allison, my coach, is highly motivated herself to get the best out of us. She writes training programmes, and plans out every session. Having this makes it easier for all of us. Just turn up… and run to the plan.
How do you switch off from running? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Running isn’t the only sport I enjoy. I’ll often head to the Amex Stadium to watch Brighton play, or to some of the smaller clubs like Lewes. At home, I’ll watch films, play games and listen to music. However, I would consider my work in architecture my other hobby. I enjoy the tasks that come with working at the practice, and the design of buildings is something that has always interested me.
What’s next in your race diary?
Next big race is the Sussex Champs Cross Country. This is my chance to qualify for a place in the Sussex team at the Inter-Counties Cross Country at the end of the season.
Will, once again, very well done with what you’ve achieved so far. I look forward to witnessing lots more PBs and successes over the next few years. And best of luck in the Sussex Champs!
By Mike Bannister