Richard coming into Mile 6 of the NDW50 (Photo Credit: Jon Lavis)
Having now run several Centurion events, there is one name that consistently registers in the top five and that name is Richard Lacock. Richard is a very consistent performer but until Saturday was not the top performer.
With a win at the hot and tough 2014 North Downs Way 50 mile event, he has cemented himself as a top UK based Ultrarunner. Last year’s course record time of 6 hours 47 minutes by Craig Holgate was deemed unbreakable with second place coming in 40 minutes later in 7:26.
However, in much hotter and less runnable, more sandy conditions for the first 15 miles, Richard went on to better Craig’s time to halfway by five minutes and despite slowing in the second half, was only 18 minutes outside of this exceptional course record to finish in a sterling 7 hours and 5 minutes.
Richard is South African by birth and clearly responded well to the heat on the day to make a real name for himself in the UK ultramarathon scene.
Congratulations on a fantastic win- were you racing for the win from the start or did it just go your way on the day?
Thanks! I was hoping to improve on my South Downs Way place (6th) so when I saw the weather forecast for the race I knew a top 3 was in my reach! I left South Africa years ago, but after the harsh winters here I do get a longing for the heat. Over the last few years I’ve built a reputation for running well in the heat. When the race started I wanted to be amongst the front runners, but I wasn’t thinking of winning it until actually taking the lead for the first time. From there on everything felt in place. I also had no idea of how far back the trailing runners were. In order to keep up the pace I just made up a fixed distance gap of 2 minutes.
Did the course record enter your mind, with a blazing first half?
It did enter my mind, but I told myself those thoughts are premature. Instead I just kept focusing on running my own race.
Tell me about the day itself from your perspective
I didn’t have any race plan at the start. I was quite happy following couple of the other runners until about 8 miles when they suddenly dropped off. All of sudden I found myself in the unfamiliar territory of leading the race, unsure how to run a race from the front I quickly decided to make the best of it and try to build a gap by increasing my splits. I knew I was running good splits, but I was surprised to see I ran 3:01 @ 24 miles. After conquering Box Hill I still felt strong enough to keep a decent pace, but I also kept in my mind that my fast start will catch up to me at some point! And it did at roughly at 36 miles. From there on it was a hard slog till the finish!
Obviously a lot went right, but what went wrong and how did you deal with the low patches?
I was feeling pretty flat between miles 36-42. I was expecting to hit the wall at some point so it was just a matter of mental strength dragging me through low patch. Credit to the volunteers at the Aid Stations they were really supportive and gave me real boost to keep things going! I struggled with a stitch and some cramping too, but that was to be expected. I also got lost with less than 2 miles to go, but luckily I had the course on my GPS which got back on track only losing a couple of minutes.
Richard at around Mile 10. (Photo Credit: Stuart March/ Centurion Running)
Did you run with a crew or using the aid stations like everyone else, or a combination of the two?
I never run with a crew. I did arrange with my brother (who lives near the finish) to come and pick me up. Unfortunately he wasn’t there when I crossed the line as I was obviously ahead of schedule! Like I mentioned before, the support from the Aid Stations were amazing! There was always plenty encouragements to keep me going. Centurion does an excellent job on stocking the aid stations with everything you could possibly need! Which usually in my case is 2 cups of coke and a mixture of oranges and watermelons.
To give an idea of your strength and speed, for example did you run Reigate Hill and Botley Hill, or walk these like the rest of us?
I ran halfway up Reigate Hill. I’m disappointed I wasn’t strong enough to run it all the way as I need to build strength and confidence for when I’m going be climbing much bigger hills in Andorra, less than 2 months away! I was struggling with cramps at Botley Hill. I did make some attempts to run it, but my calves were giving me the white flags! Power hiking instead!
What is your favourite distance to run?
50 miles is good ultra distance.
How did you get into running and then ultrarunning?
I started running to live more healthy and to spent more time outdoors. I never had any race ambitions. I used to jog 4 miles a day for almost a year until one day I got bored and decided to challenge myself to see how far I could run in a day.
I remember running something like 12 miles and thought that was a lot. I really enjoyed challenging myself so I started looking for some endurance races. My first Ultra was actually on the North Downs Way, a 66 miles 2 days race. I ran it with a 6 kg back pack too. It’s crazy thinking about it now.
I hadn’t even run a marathon before that race, the longest distance I covered was about 18 miles and my weekly mileage was about 30! I was very naïve! Somehow I survived day 1. On day 2 we had to run in the snow and It wasn’t long before I got badly lost…eventually finding a train station and heading home. I’ve come a long way since!
How long have you been based in the UK?
13 years and still got my South African accent!
What is up next for you?
The South Downs 100, I might pull out from that race as I’ve recently signed up to run a 112 km race in Andorra. I will be completely out of my comfort zone! 9000 meters of climbing! That’s 3 times the amount I’ve ever done in one day. Realistically I’m just hoping to finish, my back has given problems in other hilly races so I’m expecting the worse but hoping for the best!
Do you have a dream race?
The Namib Desert Challenge a 220 km 5 stage race with stunning landscapes, endless blue skies, barren deserts, rugged mountains and the desert wildlife. Just an amazing place! I have a lot of family in Namibia and spent some of early school years there too. I would also like to run a 100 miler in the USA.
Has the win sunk in yet? It seemed you were pretty overwhelmed with the win?
It’s a day I will never forget. I’ve had plenty of top 10 finishes in the past so to finally have been able to win a race means a great deal. I’m really happy to have made my family proud, their support has been incredible!
Was there any one piece of equipment or clothing you would never run an ultra without?
What is your key advice to people looking to get faster?
Mix up your training sessions, it’s not just about the long runs!