Ultrarunner Ian Sharman – What to Tell Yourself When the Going Gets Tough

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In this episode we speak with Ian Sharman the winner of the 2016 Leadville Trail 100 Ultramarathon -a race he’s won three times.

In this interview you will hear Ian describe what it’s like to run 100 miles, tips on recovery and nutrition, and what to tell yourself when the going gets tough no matter what distance you are training for.

Interview with Ian Sharman

How did you get into the crazy world of ultra running?

I saw a t.v. show about the Marathon Des Sables race in the Sahara Desert. I wasn’t a runner but I was living in London and felt like I wasn’t getting enough exercise so I needed some kind of incentive to head towards. The adventure side of things appealed to me so I started running and got hooked.

How did you place at your first Western States 100?

I was 8th that year. I’ve been top ten every time.

Is Western States harder than Leadville or is that even a good question to ask?

The are difficult in different ways, it depends on what your body is suited to. If you’re bad at running in the heat Western States is harder. If you’re bad a running at altitude Leadville is harder.

How do running celebrities in the running world, like Shalane Flanagan and Paula Radcliffe, view celebrities in the Ultra world?

I don’t think they know who we are at all. Celebrity is a relative term.

How is at the top of the ultra world right now?

It depends on what distances and types of terrain you’re talking about. I’m a 100 mile guy. The guys in America who’ve done the most impressive stuff recently are Rob Krar who won Western States twice, he’s won Leadville and is ultra runner of the year two years in a row. Jim Walmsley who’s got to the top of his game getting a lot of course records. These are guys who have fast track backgrounds.

photo credit: Ian Sharman

photo credit: Ian Sharman

Can you give us a blow-by-blow of this year’s Leadville 100.

I was pretty much in second place (to Max King) the whole day. I caught up a little bit over Hope Pass, I think I was 12 minutes behind . . . and had 40 miles to catch him. No rush, just stick to the plan and keep doing the tortoise and the hare type of race. At mile 70 he doubled his lead to 24 minutes ahead so I started thinking that he wasn’t going to slow down. He was under the course record pace (set my Mat Carpenter in 2005) for most of the day. I was getting a little bit demoralized at that point.

So 24 miles left, about 4 miles later I caught him. And he was lying by the side of the trail. So I checked that he was ok, luckily he didn’t need medical attention, he was more concerned about where 3rd place was.

I was thinking at that point “this is not how I wanted to pass him but now I’ve got to really put my head down in case he starts feeling better in 5 minutes”. So at that point you start running scared. I have to assume that he is back to running super fast and feeling great . . . and thinking that kept me moving faster and gave me an incentive to push.

I finished in 16:22.

So, what do you tell yourself when it get’s tough out there an your body is begging you to quit?

Sometimes it’s just a case of easing off a little bit and see if that makes it easier. And tell yourself it will get better. It’s not like you are going to hit the way at mile 18 or 20 and it’s going to be horrible the whole way in. You will come out the other side. Tell yourself, “This is what makes the marathon a big deal! The fact that it isn’t easy . . . that you must tactically run it, pace it, and look after yourself -that’s why it means so much to finish the marathon.

Do you have any favorite running mantras?

Whenever I get negative thoughts I try to find a counteracting positive one. Instead of thinking “I’m so tired”, I’ll think “This is why I do 100 milers because this is what makes it valuable”. The same applies in the marathon when you go through the ‘wall’. You can tell yourself, “This is why I’ll care about the result afterwards”.

Be sure to listen to our full interview with Ian using the podcast player on this page and subscribe in iTunes!

photo credit: Ian Sharman, Twitter

photo credit: Ian Sharman, Twitter

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Ian Sharman online: http://www.sharmanultra.com | @sharmanian | Instagram sharmanian

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