We recently interviewed Ian Sharman the winner of this year’s Leadville Trail 100 Ultramarathon. He has run over 180 ultramarathons and marathons in over 30 countries. He is a certified running coach and writer for irunfar.com.
In addition to winning Leadville this year, he completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning -four 100 mile races in one summer – beating the previous Grand Slam record.
Here are a few of the questions we asked Ian:
Tell us a little about yourself. You’re from the UK originally but live in the US right?
I’m 33 and I’ve been in the U.S. since 2009 currently living near the edge of the San Fransico area. I lived in London for many years . . I got into running when I was about 24 after I saw a T.V. show about the Marathon de Sables -a seven day stage race across the Sahara Desert.
Did you start with the Marathon de Sables?
It’s what got me into Ultra-running. The first race I did was a half marathon, then about a month later I did a marathon, then two weeks later I did another marathon. The idea of adventure got me into it rather than the idea of running itself.
Did you move to the U.S. primarily for the great ultras?
No, that was just a convenient bonus really. I moved over to get married. My wife is from Bend, Oregon.
What’s your day job? Do you run full time?
I would love to just make money from my running but the ultra world has such a small amount of cash in it. So what I do is coach ultra runners through the internet . . . so I managed to find a job where I get to talk about running. It’s more interesting than what I used to do as an accountant.
Do people run ultras because they are mentally tough or does running an ultra make you mentally tough?
Probably a little bit of both. I think the people who do it are generally driven people who want to test themselves but the more races you do, the more you force yourself to keep going and finish, I think it definitely builds your mental toughness.
So what’s it like to win Leadville?
When I crossed the line I was drained of emotion from having spent so many hours on a roller coaster of ups and downs -feeling like hell, then feeling better. When I got to the end, there was a little bit of relief but virtually no other emotion. I took a few days for my body and mind to recover enough where I could enjoy it. [The win] was unexpected because it was in the middle of the Grand Slam so it was the third 100 miler in a seven week period. Because of that I was not favored to win.
Can you tell us what the Grand Slam entails?
It’s basically one of the old ultra challenges. Back in 1986 a guy named Tom Green decided to run all of the 100 milers available in the U.S. at the time. That was four different races and they were all in the same summer. Now there are some 120 hundred mile races in the U.S.. The four that the Grand Slam involves are three from that original series -Western States 100 in June, the Vermont 100 in July, Leadville 100 in August, plus the Wasatch Front 100 in September (which replaced the Old Dominion 100).
This year I was aiming to break the overall record (of 74:54:16 set by Neal Gorman). A good friend of mine, Nick Clark, was also trying to break the record. He and I have had a lot of close races. We have both been at the front of Western States a few times and he’s won plenty of 100 milers so I knew it was going to be a tight race. In the end, we both went quite a way under the record but luckily for me I just edged him out. So, in 70 hours of racing I was just 1/2 hour ahead in the end.
[Ian’s official Grand Slam time was 69:49:38. Nick Clark’s time was 70:21:50].
Tell us about your friendly rivalry with Nick Clark
It’s a weird story almost written for Hollywood. Two guys from the U.K. moving to the U.S., we both started doing Western States the same year (2010) and this year we decided to do the whole Grand Slam. We ended up being very close in all the races. Three of the races we were only one position apart. He beat me in two and I beat him in two. I won Leadville and he won Wasatch.
Was there ever a moment when you thought he would win the series?
Most of the time! That was the stressful thing about the entire summer. He’s a very consistent very strong runner. He doesn’t really have bad patches.
So what’s it like at the top of the ultra running field? Do you guys all get along?
Yeah, I’d say that one of the nicest things about ultra running is that it’s a small sport so you get to meet almost everyone in the sport at some point. I’d say pretty much everyone is friends. It’s a laid back community.
Have you ever been in the midst of a 100 miler and thought “I’m never going to do this again!”?
Every single time! It gets really hard. Unlike a marathon where it gets tough and you’ve got 1/2 hour left. With 100s it gets tough and you have seven hours left or something ridiculous like that. But the fact that you get to enjoy the weeks and months afterwards makes those few hours worth it.
What kind of advice would you give a new runner, maybe someone to whom the thought of running one marathon is still scary?
It should be! A marathon is not easy. I think there should be a healthy level of trepidation before every race. I remember the first time I ran thirteen miles in one go. My knees hurt, my hips hurt, everything that could possibly hurt hurt. I couldn’t imagine doing a marathon at that point. Yet in two or three months I did my first marathon and it felt ok. The main thing to bear in mind is just how amazing the body is. It can deal with so many things. Your body does adapt pretty well to the training and you’ll be amazed at what’s possible.
Also Mentioned in this Episode
Marathon and Beyond Magazine -Run longer better stronger!
Sugarless Chocolate Recipe
- 15g Stevia
- 200g Raw Cocoa Paste
- 100g Almonds (Whole)
- 15g Coconut Oil (Cold pressed)
Line baking sheet with cling film or wax paper and grease. Melt chocolate over double boiler and remove from heat. Add coconut oil and stir until melted. Blend in stevia and stir until cooled. Add chopped almonds until combined. Pour into a baking sheet and spread evenly. Allow to set at room temperature (or in fridge) until it hardens. Break into pieces and enjoy!