The Long Run Interviews continue this month and the first interview of 2014 is with Dave Knowles, creator of the Doolist website, fundraiser and an endurance athlete. After first reading about Dave’s ‘Trafalgar Run’ in The Northern Echo (which saw Dave running a marathon a day – for 13 days!) LRY was keen to find out where the motivation came from to attempt such an epic ultra run, and how Dave managed to undertake such a feat of endurance. You might be surprised to hear that the Hobbit principle of a ‘Second Breakfast’ was key to his success. Read on to find out more!
Interview with Dave Knowles
LRY: Hi Dave! Thanks for taking the time to talk about your ‘Trafalgar Run’. But before we hear about the ultra running challenge you created, it would be interesting to know how you became an endurance athlete and runner in the first place?
DK: I think running has always been in the background of my life. I ran cross-country in school and then later joined the Royal Marines Reserve. But it wasn’t until 2005 that I completed my first half marathon and after that I was hooked! After that year I went on to complete my first marathon in Dublin, 2008, where I ran 3:33:13.
LRY: Can you quickly outline exactly which endurance events you completed in 2013, and why?
DK: The goal of 2013 was to raise £13, 000 for charity by completing thirteen endurance based challenges. I wanted to raise money for the charity that had supported my wife’s mother during her battle with Motor Neurone Disease, the Motor Neurone Disease Association – who are completely run by volunteers.
It all started in January last year with the Tough Guy in Wolverhampton, and ended with the 13 marathons ‘Trafalgar Run’ in December. In between I completed: Dent Dale Run; Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks Race; Coast to Coast bike ride; Edinburgh Marathon (3:36); Great Manchester Swim; London Triathlon (2:37); Great North Bike Ride; Ironman 70.3 Ripon; Great North Run; Kielder Marathon (3:47); and Movember.
LRY: How did you cope with 13 days of continuous marathon running?
DK: Basically I worked out a routine that I would stick to for each day of the run. It meant I knew exactly what I was doing when. For example: get up at 7am; have breakfast; have a second breakfast; check gear; start running. At the end of each I would stretch and have an ice bath, two factors I found essential to being able to get up the next morning and run again.
LRY: What were the high and low points of the run?
DK: The lows were on bad weather days, and usually when I had to change my routine. There was one day in particular (the Nottingham to Leicester leg) when I set off slightly later than usual. It meant that by the end of the day, when it was dark, I was still out running. The route unfortunately involved running on a section of road where I had to run on the grassy verge to avoid traffic – not ideal. The highs however were just being out there, running, listening to music and feeling a sense of achievement after travelling on foot from A to B. Of course the main highlight was seeing all my family and friends at the finish in Trafalgar Square!!
LRY: What were your favourite things to eat & drink whilst you were running?
As a celiac I have to be careful not to eat wheat or dairy. A typical day during the Trafalgar Run would include: breakfast at 7am – porridge, banana, honey & treacle and then a second breakfast of hash browns, bacon & baked beans.
It was difficult to start running with a sense of ‘feeling full’ after a double breakfast but it was so important to consume the fuel for a day on the roads. It literally gave me the best chance, and enough energy (in terms of calories) to do the mileage planned and ensure that I would make it to London.
Also, throughout each day I stuck to a plan of running for one hour, then snacking on three of four ‘Eat Natural’ bars at 2 hourly intervals. I was also eating energy gels to supplement the bars, which seemed to work! For hydration I ran wearing a CamelBak filled with three litres of electrolyte drink.
LRY: Did you have any other ‘survival’ techniques during the 13 days of running?
DK: I always tried to find a running groove, and wouldn’t stop if I was feeling good. Kinesio tape did prove to be really useful, and I taped up my hip, knees & Achilles when needed. I also used Tiger Balm to relieve aches and pains, but only ever had one blister, which was from an old pair of shoes. The shoes I used were Asics GT2000, and I switched out between two pairs – I can highly recommend them! For clothing to run in, I used lycra & dri-fit layers, and always wore a high-visibility jacket or vest of some kind. I wore bike lights, and carried a phone for emergencies – always having a contact number to call in case there was a problem.
LRY: Which phrase would you say to someone who was thinking about doing an endurance-based challenge?
DK: ‘Forward motion’ which means no matter what just keep on moving forward and you’ll eventually get there…as long as you don’t take any wrong turns 🙂
LRY: The big question is what does 2014 have in store?
DK: I’m actually planning to do my first IronMan event this year in the UK, in Bolton! It’s always been a goal of mine, and so I’m looking forward to getting started with the training and preparation.
LRY: Brilliant! Good Luck! Finally there are just a few fun questions for you!
LRY: Tea or coffee? DK: Tea at home, coffee if I’m out and about.
LRY: Apples or oranges? DK: Apples.
LRY: Mountains or Oceans? DK: Mountains – I love snowboarding!
LRY: Juices or smoothies? DK: Juices.
LRY: Track, road or trails? DK: Trails.
LRY: Compression gear, or none? DK: No compression gear – I’ve never used it.
LRY: Thanks Dave for a great interview, and congrats for raising such a great amount of funds for MNDA!
So far Dave has managed to raise much more than his targeted £13,000 in 2013, and currently his total sits at £16, 515. To make a donation please see the following link: Doolist 2013 challenge for MNDA.
The Trafalgar Run was created by Dave to commemorate the lives of Admiral Collingwood and Lord Nelson, and the last time they saw each other alive – at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Starting at Collingwood Monument in Tynemouth, the Trafalgar Run ended after 13 marathons in 13 days, at Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London.
To see footage from Dave’s Trafalgar Run check out the video below. It’s a great insight to the highs and lows of ultra running across densely populated countries – such as England! Read more about Doolist, Dave’s own personal doolist, and how to set up your own on the website: Doolist.