Like many of us, ultrarunner Tom Evans has struggled with the lack of races in lockdown. The former army captain burst onto the ultrarunning scene in 2017, coming third in the six-day Marathon des Sables, and last year he set a new record in the Tarawera 102km Ultra Marathon, in New Zealand. But he has had to adapt to circumstances and is now setting his sights on the marathon in the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.
We talked to the 29-year-old about swapping the trails for the pavements, his mental strength, the Olympic marathon trials and his role as a Garmin ambassador.
You’ve set your sights on the Tokyo Games. How did this happen?
‘At the beginning of the pandemic, Tokyo was not on my list whatsoever – I very much planned on staying on the trails and running long rather than running fast. I guess what the pandemic has taught me is that I like structure and I’m a very goal-orientated athlete and person. I have to have goals, whether it’s “Today I’m going to list 10 things on eBay” or something bigger; I have to set goals and achieve those goals. It’s the same with my running, with there being so little opportunity to race, I thought I need something to set my sights on and if something is going to happen, it’s going to be the Olympics.
‘[With the lockdown restrictions] we couldn’t drive to run or go on training camps, which is how I would normally do my trail running and my ultrarunning. It’s all been very much running from the door, so I’ve been running a lot more on the road, which has led to running a bit quicker and that’s opened my eyes to what I could run at the marathon trials at the end of next month.’ [The event will take place on a looped course in Kew Gardens, London, on Friday, March 26.]
How do you feel about the trials?
‘I’m really excited – for me, it’s really unknown. I think I’ll be able to take a lot of lessons I’ve learnt from ultrarunning into the race and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. It’s been great fun training for it and to now get the opportunity to push myself to the limits and see what I’m capable of.’
What are the lessons you'll take into the race?
'Ultrarunning has given me two things – I have the ability to suffer and I don’t mind hurting. I know it’s going to happen, I’m not going to explode; if I want to stop, I can stop and the pain will go away. I don’t necessarily enjoy it but I have the ability to do it. I am comfortable with being uncomfortable and I think looped running, having to do the same thing time in, time out, is pretty tedious, but so is running for 15 hours without stopping. I think, mentally, this really plays to my strengths, so there’s everything to play for.'
I like the way you talk about embracing the pain of a marathon!
‘You know that during a marathon you’re going to hurt and you know that when it starts to hurt, the training that you have done before is what’s setting you up to keep doing it. I go into a race saying, “I know this is going to hurt” and when it starts hurting I think, “Bring it on; I’ve done the training, I trust myself and I knew this was going to happen and now it’s happening, it’s no surprise.”’
You're now a Garmin ambassador and have been involved in the testing of the new Enduro watch – what is your go-to Garmin?
‘Pre-Enduro, it would be the Forerunner 945 – it was kind of like me, I guess. It’s not overly basic but not got too much crazy technology; I reckon I used all of the features on it and the battery life was good. The Enduro is just one step up from this. For me, training is more than just running – it’s nutrition, it’s stress, it’s sleep, it’s managing all of these things and what the Garmin watches do is monitor all of that. With the 945, I’m charging it once, maybe twice a week, so that’s one or two nights a week where I’m not tracking my sleep or tracking my step data; with the Enduro, it lasts for 80 hours in GPS mode or about 80 days of normal use. It means you can track all of these metrics and all of this data the whole time without needing to recharge it.
‘People have got very used to charging their phone once a day and their watch twice a week and this is completely different – the Enduro shows what is possible. It’s still a normal watch, it’s still the same size as a normal watch, but it’s got these features that mean you can have this 360-degree tracking the whole time, which is going to boost my performance as a professional athlete, but also boost the general wellness of those who are using it, whether it’s for running or not.’
Will you be wearing the Enduro for the trials?
‘I’m still slightly undecided. One of the big things you’re looking for with the Enduro is that battery life and I’m hoping that I only need a watch that’ll last two hours and nine minutes something. I’ve used the 945 forever and I’m so comfortable with it on my wrist, so I think, for me, the Enduro is going to be a bit of a treat when I go back onto the trails and start running for a bit longer again.’
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