Wednesday, 8th February 2023
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Interview with Tom Payn

by editor
Tuesday 13th June 2017
Tags  Tom Payn   |   World Trail Championships   |   UTMB   |   Race to the Stones
After finding success as a road and track athlete Tom Payn turned his hand to trail running, and found he was rather good at that as well! Just back from the World Trail Championships, we asked him about his experience there and his exciting future plans. 

1. Tom, you’ve just returned from the World Trail Championships in Badia-Prataglia, Italy. What was that event like and how did it go for you? 
Running for GB is always a huge honour. This was my second GB vest after I competed in the World Trail Championships last year in Portugal. It was a great event, well organised with a fast but very tough course (50km with about 3000m up & down). I had my own set of aims of which I reached my minimum target of improving on my placing from last year (I was 43rd man last year and 38th this year). I had spent some time on the course and felt if it had gone perfectly I could have run all but the steepest of sections, unfortunately I had a slight overheating problem at just over half way which led to me hiking most of the last big climb. I believe this lost me between 10 & 20 minutes which would have positioned me somewhere between position 10 - 25. All in all I had a great few days in Italy, the GB team were a great bunch and I had the honour of carrying the Union Jack for the opening ceremony!
2. Did the course suit the British contingent? What specific training did you do to try to prepare for the course? 
The course was quite fast but with 3000m of climbing over 50km its something that is hard to train for in the UK. I was lucky enough to spend three weeks out in Badia Prataglia some got to get to grips with it as much as I could. For me the heat played a role and is something I'm currently working out in terms of hydration & nutrition. I now live in Chamonix, France so have plenty of good trails to train on. Due to this race being quite short for an Ultra I wanted to stay fast and kept some road work in my training (and competed in London Marathon, 2.22 and Hackney Half, 68). I also spent time working on up hill running and fast descending, as these (especially the downhills) are what wreck your legs in these types of races.
3. You obviously carved out a very successful career running road marathons (2.17 pb) and half marathons (64 min pb). What made you want to do more trail/ultra running?
Back in 2012 (I think) I entered my first ultra marathon which was the 135 mile "Ring of Fire" which is a multi day ultra around Anglesey. I had such a good time and won the race that I knew I would do more of it (I would highly recommend that race by the way!). Fast forward to 2015 and on a trip to Chamonix with my girlfriend Rachel we discovered running in the mountains which feels like where I belong. I now live out in Chamonix with Rachel where we run our own business www.runnamasteeat.com. After only spending a year in the mountains I still have a lot to learn (they are quite unforgiving!) but I love the challenge of the trail ultras. You get to visit some of the most beautiful remote places in the world, can be at the top of a mountain in the middle of the night with only the wildlife for company. One of the things I love the most about the ultra trail running is the community, it doesn't matter if you win or come in as the last finisher, every one gets the same respect and gives the same respect for each other. It's quite a difference from the world of road running that I was involved in.

Tom collage

4. Now that you’re focussing more on trail/ultra stuff, have you changed the way that you train? What does an average week look like for you?
Although I do more ultras now I still really enjoy racing on the road and can see myself doing road marathons for quite some time. I believe the training for marathons and ultras can be beneficial to each other. The main things that have changed about my training over the last few years are that I do more long time on feet runs in the mountains, more big hill sessions and yoga. When I'm in full training an average week in Chamonix would be about 120miles with three hard sessions. These sessions could be one long hard hilly run (i.e. 30km with 2000m of climb), a track session (i.e. 10km steady followed by 20 x 300m at 10km pace off 60s) and an uphill session (i.e. 8 x 3min hard/2min easy all up hill).
5. What other events do you have coming up this year? (I believe that you’re entered in the OCC again). 
So far my plans for the rest of the year look like this:
June - Mozart 100 (Austria)
July - Race to the Stones 100km (UK)
August - OCC (Switzerland/France)
October - 100 mile Sud De France (France)
Probably will be one or two others thrown in there!!
6. Do you have a bucket list of epic races you’d like to do? As Marcus Scotney’s doppelgänger (his words!) would you fancy doing Dragon’s Back? 
Haha, I saw Marcus's comment! I'm going to do my best to stick away from races where any sort of self navigation is involved! I'm planning on doing UTMB next year which is probably on every ultra trail runners bucket list. Apart from that there are a few races I fancy doing like Western States 100 and the Comrades Marathon but I don't have a bucket list. I like to keep things interesting and do new races and challenge myself, this doesn't necessarily mean going further or higher, it could mean I decide to try and break my 5000m pb on the track for instance.
7. If you’ve been a highly competitive road runner, is it ever possible to do a trail race ‘just for fun’? Or is that competitive demon always telling you that you should be pushing hard? 
I've always been competitive when it comes to running and I love to race and compete, I do really enjoy racing the trails but whenever possible I will push and try to do my best. Saying that the more I enjoy the races the better I do so it may not be running "just for fun" but more often that not you will see me racing with a smile on my face :-)

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