Ben Fish, a Level 2 UK Athletics Endurance coach and half/full marathon distance runner recently won the popular Bath Half Marathon which is a 4.4 rated event on racecheck. We happily took the opportunity to have a chat about his background and see how he does it. Ben represented England on four seperate occasions, and has been competing for his local club Blackburn Harriers since 1997.
What brought you to running?
I took up running 20 years ago when I was 15 years old. I played a lot of football back then, running was something that helped me improve and I soon discovered I had a passion for it – far more than football as it turned out!
Do you think that a sporting background as a child is important in order to be competitive in racing?
Not always, but I do think that if you've stayed active from being a teenager, then your body has adapted well to training, which I think helps in coping with injuries.
Where do you live now and what benefits and/or limitations does your area have for training?
I live where I grew up, which is in Darwen, Lancashire. The clear advantages are the hills and having the moors on my doorstep, which is great for building up leg strength, plus, it's very scenic and enjoyable to get away from the suburbs. I suppose the drawback is that doing even-paced tempo runs are difficult, I've tended to do hard 6 milers on an athletics track if I want somewhere flat.
How many hours do you train per week? Do you also work fulltime? How do you manage to balance everything together?
I don't tend to log hours with my training, I tend to aim for 90-120 miles per week, I'll drop this to 70-80 in the week of a big race. I guess that brings it to about 14-15 hours per week of running. I work full-time, as manager of Up & Running in Clitheroe. As most people who work realise, getting the training in around work and home commitments can be tricky. I do most of my training by commuting; I live 14.5 miles from work. A typical day would be a 5-6 mile run to Blackburn train station in the morning, then a 10.5 mile run from Clitheroe to Blackburn after work, or the full distance home. I find that it doesn't eat into my day as much, whereas, if I travelled and then did my running I would be having breakfast and evening meals at awkward times and then it impacts on recovery time. Getting in speed sessions can be logistically trickier if I want to use the track, but I try to get to there at least twice per week for sessions. I aim to do 25-30% of my training at race pace, so that requires frequent sessions and hard (aka tempo) runs.
Do you feel that running eats into your social life? How do you feel about that?
It can do, but I never had much of a social life before I started running, so I suppose that's never been a big problem for me! On a serious note, having said that, I'm lucky that my wife is very supportive, as holidays tend to be planned around races, or even incorporated with a race as a weekend break.
Was there ever a time when you were close to quitting?
I don't think I've ever considered quitting, but 2014/2015 was a low point for me, I was getting regularly ill and was constantly spraining my left ankle. I was hoping to make it to the Commonwealth Games and I badly sprained my ankle a week before my target marathon (Manchester) to try and qualify. I seemed to lose a bit of motivation after that. Only recently in these past 6 months do I think I've got that “drive” back. That drive is the ability to really push yourself, I was doing the training, but it was just lacking that aggression. Going off recent form, I feel like I'm back on the up!
Do you have a visualization/race specific meditation routine?
I do visualize, but I think that's more to do with me obsessively thinking about the race coming up, it's not a deliberate thing, sometimes I wish I could switch off thinking about it altogether. I'm very specific on the morning of the race; I like to be up at least 4 hours before, then I do a light 10-15 minute jog and have a bowl of cereal and 1 slice of toast. I eat a small handful of coffee beans (need to rinse down with water) about 40 minutes before.
How do you spend your off-season? Are there sports that you enjoy doing that you feel compliment running?
I guess I've always been addicted to running, I tend to race all-year round, I usually have an easy month in November. I like badminton and if played seriously at a high tempo, I find it very helpful for speed.
What is your favourite race and why?
There's so many!!! Even though I really enjoy doing Bath Half, the crowd are great, the course is fast and it's a wonderful scenic place to race. Hastings Half just pips it for me, not as fast, but I love travelling down there to compete, again the crowd support and atmosphere is amazing. My favourite marathon is Paris, I prefer this to the British marathons, really well organised, and it's a faster course than London in my opinion.
Share with us any unexpected/funny events that happened during racing or training?
I remember the day before Amsterdam marathon, I was at a tram stop and as I went to get on I tripped over my bag and somehow crashed into the side of the stationary tram, not as dangerous as it sounds, but it was very embarrassing. Thankfully I didn't do any damage, to myself or the tram! As for incidents during racing, I have been sent the wrong way twice, one cost me a win and the other cost me a pb, I suppose I didn't find that funny at the time!!
What are your next goals?
I will switch my attention to the track season from April, with the aim of tackling my pb's at 3,000m, 5,000m & 10,000m and will then do more road races in the Autumn. I need to work on my speed, so I'm taking a year out from marathons and hope to run a pb (2hr 19) when I next have a go at one in 2018.
Major race achievements in the past
3rd in U/20 UK junior rankings 5,000m (2001)
Inter-Counties 10,000m champion (2006)
1st Hastings Half Marathon (2010)
1st Liverpool Rock n Roll Marathon (2014)
1st Potteries Marathon (2015)
1st Chester Marathon (2011 & 2016)
1st Bath Half Marathon (2017)
Pb's, Marathon: 2hr 19:22. 20 Mile: 1hr 43:19. Half Marathon: 65:16. 10k: 29:38.