Q&A With Ultra And Marathon Runner Steve Way

Our sponsored ultra and marathon runner, Steve Way, took part in a live Q and A on Facebook with Halfords…this is what he had to say!

Steve way

Jeff Clark: What would be the best ultra distance for a first timer?

Steve Way: The obvious answer to that one is a 50km as it is the shortest ultra. I did a couple before I moved up to the 100km and because I had previously been so focused on the marathon it was good for me mentally if nothing else to have to go beyond the 26.2 barrier but not by much! It gave me the confidence that my body wasn't going to explode once I passed the marathon barrier and was a good stepping stone towards my first 100km.

Steve way1

Sam Lloyd-Perks: what would you suggest is a good age to start Ultra running? Also what was it like donning the famous England vest in Glasgow last year? 

Steve Way: I don't think there is any "good age" to start ultra running, it's all down to the individual and where their strengths and passions lie. I am good friends with Jez Bragg who is a world class ultra runner known for getting into the sport earlier than average (early 20s)….he did it because he loves ultra running! I think it is true that you can be competitive at ultras later in your life so if you have ambitions at shorter distances then best to focus on them first while you still have the speed in your legs.

David Chittock A running legend ! I have 3 marathons early this year including Brighton & London only 2 weeks apart. Thinking of deferring Brighton to not mess London up, what do you think ? ….two weeks recovery enough ? 

Steve Way: If you really want to be at your best for London then I wouldn't suggest running Brighton I'm afraid. I know that probably sounds odd coming from a man who ran a 50 mile training run two weeks before London last year but even I wouldn't race a marathon two weeks before another one. With Brighton being a big massive event, even if you went with the intention of using it as a training run you would end up running harder than you planned as you would get carried away with the atmosphere. Choose one race, focus on it and nail it!

Steve way sand

Phil: Do you use running cadence?

Steve Way: Since the introduction of the cadence stats in the Garmin 620 and 920XT it is something I have played around with. Though monitoring my cadence during tempo and marathon pace sessions I can see where I'm getting tired and letting my form and cadence drop towards the end of the session and it helps me to try and focus next time!

Andy: What keeps you motivated during training?

Steve Way: Sometimes I really hate training…..there I've said it! I've got to go out for an 18 mile run as soon as I've finished this and I can't say I'm looking forward to it! So the question is, why do I do it and how do I motivate myself? The why is all about being the best I can be on race day and I know that means week on week of consistent training, there is no better feeling than a marathon PB and I'll do whatever it takes to get it. It seems silly but I also get a lot of motivation from my stats as well, when I come back from my run today I will upload my 18 mile run to Garmin Connect and sit there reviewing it while the endorphins kick in, comparing it to last week’s run – seeing the improvements in pace and knowing that I'm one step closer to my goal of PB'ing on marathon day!

Liam Bishop: Hi, I'm doing my first marathon in May and am looking at nutrition/hydration during the run (eg gels etc) and finding it a bit of a minefield! What would you recommend nutrition wise just before/during a marathon?

Steve Way: The key is finding a pre-race and during race routine that works for you. Unfortunately we are all different so there is not one hard and fast answer. Having said that, as an example this is what I do! Race morning I get up 5 hours before the race, go for a 12min jog and then have 3 slices of white toast with strawberry jam and a banana. Between then and race start I drink 1litre of SIS energy drink which I make from powder and keep quite weak. During the race I normally take 3-4 gels (SIS Go Orange) and I take then early around every 5km. All of this is very specific to me because I have worked out that this is the best chance I have of not having stomach problems during the race.

Ruairi O'Mahony How do you cut weight prior to a race while still being able to train? Do you follow a specific diet type ?

Steve Way: I do tend to have to drop my weight in the last month before my target race so it is something I have to get to grips with. I tend to follow a simple process of working out roughly how many calories I've burnt that day (Take around 2000 for just "living" and then add on what I have burnt through running using my Garmin stats) and making sure I eat less. I still have a mainly high carb diet apart from the week before the race when I do a carb depletion phase for 4 days. Generally in the last month before a race I'm constantly hungry!

Steve way beach

Stephen Wylie: Steve Way you're a top distance runner. Have you done many shorter runs such as ten and five k? What are your times for those distances? It's interesting. As a short/middle distance runner myself, I found speed hard to regain months after my one and only ultra. Does doing them regularly with list of miles majorly affect it for you? 

Steve Way: Check out my powerof10 profile to see all my races You'll see that I do race 10k's and 5k's but not very well compared to my marathon times! I don't think I have a fast-twitch muscle fibre in my body so when I train for marathons and ultras, this is actually how I gain my speed. Two weeks before the London Marathon last year I did a 50 mile training run which helped me to run faster over the marathon, very odd 

Mick Fereday: Hi steve 
What do you eat ?

Steve Way: Normal food! My diet is nothing special I have to admit. When I'm in a build up to a key race the thing I focus on is just trying to be healthy with my food which is actually a real challenge for me because of my past habits! Staying away from the processed foods and takeaways is a good start and trying to only snack on fruit and veg rather than crisps and chocolate. I always have a big bowl of porridge every morning which I find gets me off to a good start.

Andy Morrison: What do you eat to refill , I'm constantly hungry please ?

Steve Way: Me too! Even with the high mileage I do I still have to watch my calorie intake as I am a greedy fella! I try to ensure my evening meal directly after my run is large enough to keep me satisfied for the evening and to prevent further snacking. Double the veg,rice and pasta portions and that should help stop you from going for the cereal cupboard at 10pm! I also have a massive bowl of porridge in the morning!

Victoria Bourne: Hi I'm running the London marathon as a complete beginner how many times a week would you recommend training I'm up to about 5 miles and going out 3 to 4 times per week. getting very worried! Thanks.

Steve Way: Don't panic just yet, you have still got enough time to get yourself prepared! As a beginner running 3 or 4 times a week is fine but the key thing is to make one of those runs your long run which you try and progress week by week. Just adding a mile to that one run every week is the key and before you know it the prospect of running 26.2 will be a lot less daunting. If you can also try and use one of your other runs in the week as your "speed work" then that would be great to, keep that run shorter but make a concerted effort to pick up in the pace compared to your long run pace so that its "comfortably hard". Good luck!

Oliver Notes: Do you have watch your medicines or diet now for worry of getting drugs tested?

Steve Way: I have a simple way of ensuring I'm not taking anything on the banned substance list, don't take anything! Never been one to take medicine anyway, I'd rather complain instead  Seriously though, I do have a website available to me where I can look up any over the counter products to make sure they are not on the banned list, very useful.

Richard Hayes: Hi Steve, the last year has been a whirl wind for you, how have you found adjusting to being something of a celebrity and inspiration to a lot of runners. I use how far you've come as a goal. I've personally gone from 20st down to 11 and been running since 2012 current HM PB is 86:03 and still want to get faster, do you find it humbling hearing other runners stories?

Steve Way: First of all, congratulations on your journey so far – great work! I have to say, I do find being an inspiration to others as being ridiculously odd. Coming from the background I have, to think that the 33 year old fat smoker I was might one day be inspiring people is still quite hard to comprehend but it is fantastic knowing that I may have encouraged some others to get off the sofa and "do a bit" as well, makes the journey all that more worthwhile.

Rebecca Warren: What is your post work out stretching routine and how long do you stretch for after a run?

Steve Way: I know it is not the role model answer that I should give but I'm all about being honest. When my training is going well and my legs are in good condition I don't normally do any at all! If I'm doing some speed work within my run then making sure I do a decent warm down is more important to me than stretching. Having said that, at the moment I have been having some real problems with my hamstrings and glutes so I have been doing a mini stretching routine on them after every run which lasts around 10min and it has really helped. Would certainly recommend stretching after runs rather before, you can do more harm than good by being too aggressive with static stretches before a run.

Richard:  I've heard good reviews about Garmin's 920XT, how has technology like that helped your running?

Steve Way: I've always been a fan of GPS watches and have had a Garmin watch of one description or another ever since I started training properly in 2007. I'm actually using the Garmin 920XT which is a stats lovers dream! When I'm coming back from asmall break and my fitness has dropped, I pay a lot of attention to the pace/HR ratio of my runs as it gives me a really good idea of where my fitness levels are and I can also see the numbers improve week on week as my fitness improves. The 920 also does its own calculations based on that through a VO2 Max estimate so its nice to see that score go up as you get fitter as well.

Steve way 920xt

Stephen Lee: What value do you place on cross-training and the use of core exercises and/or gym work to aid your running?

Steve Way: Apart from my actual running, the only other training I do is a core stability and strength routine which when I'm being "good" I normally do around 4 times a week. I see real benefits in terms of both performance and injury prevention when I am doing this work consistently and it generally makes me a stronger,better runner. Which does make me wonder why I still find it so hard to motivate myself to do it, as with most runners I'd much rather strap the Garmin on and get out the door rather than sit on a mat doing planks in the lounge but it really is essential in my opinion.

Sandra asks: How can I get through ‘the wall’?

Steve Way: The bad news is if you hit the real wall (i.e your body completely runs out of glycogen stores and energy) then you are in big trouble as your body will find it very hard to recover from and get the energy back into your system. The good news is that 99% of people who think they have "hit the wall" haven't! If you do some sensible carb loading before the race and take on a small amount of energy during the race either through gels or sports drink then when it starts getting tough in the latter stages of the race it's really just about digging in and mental toughness…..as long as you have done the training!

Alex asks: I’m stepping up to a full marathon from a Half – any tips?

Steve Way: It's all about the long run, both the slow ones and the one where you practice your target marathon pace. Gradually build up that long run, initially only worrying about time on feet and getting the distance in the bag but when you are capable of running 20+ miles then it's time to start adding chucks of marathon pace into some of your runs, the pace that feels okay at the start of a 20 miler but can be really challenging towards the end! A 20 mile run with 10 miles at marathon pace (either in one section or split across the run) will go a long way to getting you ready for race day.