Why we run: meet Gareth Snelson

Welcome to the first in a series of Q&As with people who have taken part in Ultra:5K, aiming to give us all a glimpse of what it’s like to take part, what motivations people have to run and keep fit, and some running hints and tips… meet Gareth Snelson, who has taken part in our running event a number of times…

Hi Gareth, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi! I’m Gareth and I live in Milton Keynes. I am the founder and co-event director of the Milton Keynes parkrun. I have the best family and friends in the world, and I am proud of turning 50 this year, even though I will be forever 28! I love music of all sorts, with a particular fondness for heavy metal and The Spice Girls. I am a personal trainer by profession, working primarily with runners and chronically injured and ill individuals.

When did you start running and how did you get into it?

I hated running as a child. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was ten, and was always, always, last to finish when running at school – my lungs and throat would be burning and I felt terrible. I never had any problems cycling, so that, and rugby, was my thing in my teens.

I distinctly remember going for a couple of runs in my second year at uni. Both were awful experiences, no different from at school except I chose to go out. It was only once I had joined a gym and was generally fitter and stronger, around ’93, that I started to find that running was actually an enjoyable experience.

What are your favourite things about running?

Everything! Being in the moment, the sights and sounds, the sun on my back, the blinding rain. The dichotomy of strength and relaxation. The sense of accomplishment. The mental gymnastics when you want to give up, but know you will feel worse if you do. The competitive element against yourself.

What are your short and long term running goals?

Having let my speed slide in the past few years, my aim is to be running consistently around 20 minutes for 5k by the end of the year, and maintaining that speed for as many years as I can.

What are your experiences and memories of running Ultra:5K? 

I loved the idea when I first heard about it, but the inaugural and second event clashed with family holidays. After that I ensured it was in the diary well in advance. My first attempt ended up being focussed on simply getting around after an innocuous little trip on the first lap sent my calf and hip into spasm. Before the last two laps I was on the treatment couch until the bell went, leaping off and joining the back of the horde. Last year was perfect. Nice and hot on the day, training had gone well, and I was able to improve on my speed of the previous two years. It was a relief to actually take part in events during the pandemic, so I was extremely grateful for those rare experiences, and the support was wonderful. Making new friends, and simply interacting with other people, was such a big deal.

What advice would you give to an Ultra:5K virgin?

Train! Distance is useful, but stop/start training is incredibly helpful. Specific focus on recovery and eating, both of which are really important for all runners, but tend to be neglected, come to the fore in an endurance event like Ultra:5K.

Get used to running with small amounts of food in your belly. See what foods work for you, aiming for easily digestible plants on protein. How are you going to stay cool? How are you going to relax? I have a comfy chair, UV50 Umbrella, water spritzers, headphones to help me meditate, espresso, and coconut water.

– Gareth will be taking part again in the 2022 edition… good luck Gareth!

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