Photo: Paul winning the SDW50 in 6:11 (Credit: Mark Navesey)
Paul Navesey was the star of the show on Saturday 5th April, winning the South Downs Way 50 mile race in a course record time of 6 hours and 11 minutes.
As ultrarunning in the UK goes from strength to strength, new names are bursting on to the scene with regularity and Paul is just getting started.
Paul runs for the Centurion Ultra Team and this was his debut at one of his own crews events. The pressure was certainly on and being race favourite in James Elson’s pre-race email meant there was a target on his back.
One of the things I love about ultrarunning is how humble most runners are, and Paul epitomises this. I wanted to find out a little bit more about him as this will not be the last time we associate the name with wins and course records- and if he isn’t interviewed, he isn’t going to shout about who he is.
Relatively few UK runners, aside from Jez Bragg, Steve Way, Lizzie Hawker and a handful of others, have made a significant impact on the international ultramarathon scene but the list of contenders is growing and Paul is one to watch over the next few years, along with fellow Centurion Team runners such as Robbie Britton.
Here, Paul talks about his race and his plans for the rest of this year.
Congratulations- I have seen you at many Centurion events but this is the first you have run at. How does it feel?
Every time I help out at one of the races, someone seems to do something brilliant and it’s a lot of fun just being there. Whether it’s rushing back from Eastbourne to pace Robbie Britton to a 15:43 CR on the SDW100 after entering 2 days before or following the race aid station to aid station as Ed Catmur and Anthony Forsyth battle a 100 miler like a 10k on the NDW or seeing girls like Jean Beaumont and Eddie Sutton turn up and compete for top positions overall.
As fun as it is to follow and watch, you have to want to be part of that!
Why did you choose this event?
Having tried a few race distances, I have started to really enjoy the 50 mile distance. Plus, with living pretty close to the South Downs I do a lot of my training on various parts of it and thoroughly enjoy running there.
The Centurion races are always exceptionally well run. James does a fantastic job of putting on his races and is supported in doing so by some great volunteers. As a plus side a great group of runners entered- and as much as I enjoy just running, I really enjoy racing!
You were race favourite and it was your debut run on the Centurion team. You must have been nervous?
I think there were plenty of great runners at the race who were capable of winning, which is becoming more common at UK ultras now.
Usually I get nervous before races but I had spent a lot of the previous 3 months training with THE Robbie Britton (applause). We have a similar view on training and racing so we got out and trained hard. We had a lot of fun coming up with training sessions, everything was covered. Fast short reps, long reps, hill sessions and race pace runs. Obviously some good easy runs and resting too, usually playing Fifa until I eventually beat him in a game and immediately announced my retirement.
I also spent a lot of time running with Richard Ashton and Eddie Sutton on the course. Both great runners and very likely to be up front on race day so plenty of good quality long runs with people who know a thing or two about ultra running.
All in all, I knew I had trained well and with some great runners too. By race day I was just really looking forward to it.
What did you learn most during the race?
I have always been OK at just running but not so good at managing myself during races. Eating, drinking, acknowledging issues and treating them.
I had a couple of small issues during the race and actually thought about them and worked to resolve them. I didn’t get it perfect but it was a huge improvement so I’m happy about that.
It did help that I had Gary Dalton issuing instructions like “You have to eat and drink more”. Not a suggestion, but an instruction. Nice and simple so I can understand. Seeing as Gary got himself to the finish of The Spine race just a couple of months back I figured he must be talking some sense!
Did anything go wrong on the day and how did you deal with it?
It was pretty uneventful really, I ended up with a pretty bad stitch a couple of hours in so neglected the food and drink for a while. With plenty of energy at the time I didn’t think too much of it. Later on I started getting bad cramps in my calves on all the uphill sections, I figured I was just a little low from the time spent being a bit thirsty trying to get rid of the stitch. I took a couple extra S-caps and that made it manageable but stopped me running the long climbs in the last quarter of the race as fast as I would have liked.
On to other areas- how did you get into Ultras? Have you always been a runner?
Ha! Well, I read a Dean Karnazes book. Read the bit about qualifying and running Western States and thought I wanted some of that so I went and found a couple of races to enter! I slowly ran London to Brighton having an absolute stinker at the end and hurting a lot, then repeated the process at Lakeland 100 6 months later!
What are your long term goals?
I just want to get to some races and have fun racing the fastest guys I am capable of competing with and figuring out how to catch the faster ones. I would love to get my hands on GB vest of any variety… well maybe not the 24 hour one!
Pine to Palm is a race I have my eye on big time for 2015 and you and James Elson are set to be the first Brits to run it in September. What made you choose this race?
I heard that no Brit has run it yet! 🙂 I just really like the look of the race, I ran Rocky Raccoon last year and the American races are just a huge amount of fun and I get to see 100 miles of Oregon trails. Well, 99 miles of Oregon and 1 mile in California. Plus I need a Western States qualifier.
P2P will be your first mountainous 100 miler and is not an easy one- how will you prepare from a 50 mile speedster to this?
I actually finished Lakeland 2011 and Rocky Raccoon 2013 but I certainly didn’t run a text book race at either. Hopefully Pine to Palm will be a better run. In the Centurion Team there are so many people with experience from lots of long races so I will plan to get a few tips from them, plus heading out with James who is pretty handy over the 100 mile distance.
You are also off to run Celestrail (83 km) in Andorra in a couple of months- what’s the plan?
I can’t wait to get out to Andorra! I have watched plenty of YouTube videos and it just looks better each time. I have no real idea what to expect from a European mountain race but would love to be able to get out there and compete. I guess at this point in time I would say top 10 would be a good result.
If you want to try and get close to Paul in races (good luck), here’s what he used for the SDW50:
Inov f-lite 195 shoes
Drymax lite mesh socks
Inov8 race elite shorts
Inov8 race Ultra vest
Mule Kicks Gels