David Miller speaks to Tom Evans, one of Britain's most promising trail stars
Rising through the ranks with some stunning performances, Tom Evans has been making some waves within the ultra running scene of late. Racing and competing with the best on the planet and setting new course records, Trail Running caught up with Tom to chat about his rise to the top.
TR: Hi Tom, thanks for talking to us here at Trail Running magazine! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
TE: Hey, thanks for having me! I’m Tom Evans, a 26-year-old British Army officer turned ultra-runner. I have always lived in the South of England and been interested in the outdoors. I went straight to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst after leaving school and have served in the Welsh Guards for seven years. I drive a VW Polo, have a terrible choice of music and love coffee!
TR: What made you want to start running?
TE: I have always enjoyed staying fit and exercising. I ran when I was at school but also played other team sports. After joining the British Army in May 2011 I started to run more. Fitness in the Army is a big deal and very important for the job. During my time in the Welsh Guards I spent 10 months in Kenya. During my leave I went to train in Iten, and this is where I really caught the running bug.
I started racing more seriously in 2016/17 doing track, cross country, road and then discovered trail running. I did my first ultra-marathon in the Brecon Beacons in November 2016, it’s been a roller-coaster ride ever since.
TR: Was there a particular moment where you realised you had a talent and could compete at the highest level?
I signed up to the Marathon des Sables in 2017 as a bet with some friends who had completed the race the year before. They finished in the top 300 and I said that I could beat their position. I managed to have a great race despite being pretty unprepared. After finishing third I wanted to keep on running in different environments so I could see what I was able to achieve. I love the atmosphere surrounding ultra-running and pushing my body. It’s amazing what your body can do when you really put your mind into it.
TR: What’s your reflections from 2017?
TE: What a crazy year! It was completely unexpected. I hadn’t planned to race after MdS but I couldn’t turn down the amazing opportunities. I raced the Eiger and CCC (both 100km-plus and over 6000m ascent), which both went well. Finishing third in the Ultra Trail World Tour rankings was a real shock. It was superb getting to race with some incredible athletes who have become good friends of mine. At the end of 2017 I decided that I wanted to dedicate more time to training and racing to see what I was capable of. I raced some shorter races on the road and cross country, this is something that I believe is key in my training and will help me to develop as an athlete.
TR: Tell us more on your sensational win and course record at the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge in February this year.
TE: Thank you very much. The Coastal Challenge was such an epic race. The course was so varied and diverse, it was great to be able to see the country from the ground. I went out pretty gently and had a race plan to build my pace during each stage. I ran a lot with Hayden Hawkes and managed to get a four-minute lead on day one. From there I raced smart and just kept running with Hayden. He is a really strong athlete and we were both pushing the pace. I somehow managed to break the course record by over 45 minutes. It was such an amazing race and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a serious challenge.
TR: What’s your plans for 2018 going forward?
TE: I have a busy race calendar. I’m going to be racing the South Downs Way 50 in April. Then my “A race” for the first half of the year is the Trail World Championships for Team GB. It was a huge honour being selected to race for Great Britain and I’m really looking forward to racing in Spain with the team. I’m spending the summer in the US and then I will then be back for the CCC in September before focusing on some shorter cross country and road races at the end of the year.
TR: How does it feel now you’re starting to get sponsored by some of the big brands?
TE: It’s pretty surreal. Working alongside these brands is a huge opportunity and I’m being well looked after. I genuinely use the products and kit from my sponsors and trust them all to withstand my training and racing. The support has been amazing and I really hope that I can inspire a younger generation to take up trail and ultra-running.
TR: What does a typical week's training look like for you?
Mon: AM – 16km, PM – 9km, strength and conditioning
Tue: Speed session (e.g 8 x 1km with hill reps) with the AB Training Group
Wed: AM – 20km, PM – 9km, strength and conditioning
Thu: Long run. 35km+
Fri: Recovery day (physio, massage, strength and conditioning) at St Mary’s University
Sat: Cross-country specific session with the AB Training Group
Sun: Long run 35km+
I do all of my ‘sessions’ with the AB Training group, who are based in Brighton. My coach, Allison Benton, has done an amazing job developing athletes, from 800m to 24 hour. I’m so lucky to be involved with such a strong training group. We focus on ‘process not outcome’ - if you get all the key sessions ticked off, train hard and stay dedicated, the result will look after its self.
As well as the running, I add in a couple of swims and cycles to keep my body moving. I stretch and foam roll every day to stay flexible. I also do two yoga sessions per week. For me, staying injury-free is vital. I’m very lucky to be supported by St Mary’s University, who provide lots of support to keep me performing at my best
TR: And finally if you had to pick one last trail to run anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
TE: I love racing in extremes as I think it adds complexity and another dynamic into the racing. I also really enjoy preparing specifically for a race. Getting nutrition, acclimatisation, your race plan and training right is such a skill. The race at the top of my bucket list at the moment is the Western States 100.