The November Athlete of the Month blog is here and I’m pleased to be introducing you to Josh Griffiths, this month’s featured athlete. When Josh stormed across the finish line of the Virgin London Marathon in April 2017 history was made. The Swansea Harrier joined the World’s Marathon elite as he completed the 26.2 mile race in 2 hours and 14 minutes, and then went on to finish 39th in the IAAF World Championships Marathon later on in the year. Here’s what Josh has to say about his training, racing and more.
How did it feel to be the first Briton to cross the line of the London Marathon? Had you planned to achieve this? How did it compare to your World Champs debut later in August?
It was a huge shock to me to cross the finish line of the London Marathon as the first Brit. I never even considered doing so in the lead up to the race, my sole aim was to try and run under 2:16 which was the qualifying time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. To then qualify for the World Championships was beyond my wildest dreams. The World Champs was an amazing experience and I loved every minute of it. A home championships is a high pressure environment as you literally have thousands of fans all cheering for you, but I tried to embrace it rather than let it frighten me and I was able to place 39th at the World Champs. Whilst I would have liked to have finished a little higher, it feels pretty good to be ranked amongst the 40 best marathoners in the World!
Have you always dreamed of a career as an athlete?
I always dreamed of becoming professional and competing all over the world, I guess everyone does but for it to come true, you almost can’t believe it. Now I just have to continue to train hard, believe in myself and hope the results go my way.
What does a training typical week look like in terms of mileage and sessions? Have you always self-coached?
I train 2 per day Monday-Saturday, then do 1 longer distance run on Sunday. Training is hard but it is all worth it when races go well. I run up to 125 miles per week, every week apart from race weeks where I run a little less in order to freshen up. I started coaching myself back in September 2016 and almost instantly made big gains as the training was all specific to me, and I responded really well to the new level of specificity. I would never have been able to get to that point however without the help of my former coaches; Delyth Brown and James Thie.
Your favourite session:
I don’t really have a favourite session, but I do like a hard long run or a tempo run. I dislike speed sessions more than anything because I’m not that fast really, but I know that all types of sessions are important so over time I have learned to like them all, even if some hurt more than others.
Strength training is increasingly being used to reduce injury and improve performance in athletes. What’s you favourite exercise that you would recommend to all runners?
I actually don’t go to the gym at all. I prefer to spend my energy running as I believe for the marathon, you just can’t beat good consistent mileage. I do however spend some time stretching and doing core exercises in my house on most days just to stay supple. I think all track runners should incorporate 1 gym session per week, but it’s really down to the individual, there is no correct answer as every athlete is different, you just have to find out what kind of sessions work best for you.
It’s clear that diet is also an important part of an athlete’s lifestyle. Have you had to adjust the sort of food you’re eating as you’ve moved up the ranks?
Obviously diet is important in order to provide energy and recovery, I try to watch what I am eating and make sure I eat enough fruit and veg, but this is only in addition to good training, if you aren’t training hard enough, it doesn’t really matter what you eat. My advice would be make sure you get a good balance, you can eat bad every now and again, but not in the days leading up to a race. Personally I like to have a meal of my choice after a target race.
How did your running progress whilst at university? Was it easy to balance the work alongside training?
When I moved to university, I joined the group of James Thie at Cardiff Metropolitan University and improved a great deal in my first 3 years. For me it was quite easy to balance work and training, as long as you keep on top of things and not leave them build up, you’ll have no issues. There are a lot of distractions whilst at university so it’s important you set some goals and prioritise what is most important to you. For me, it was to gain a good degree and improve my personal bests, to do so you have to bear these in mind when any potential distractions arise. For me, I always liked to celebrate the end of each season (XC/Indoors/Outdoors) with an end of season social with the athletics team.
What advice would you like to give to any younger athletes reading this post?
For younger athletes, my main advice would be to enjoy it as much as possible and not train too hard when you are young, you have lots of time on your side, try and progress training every year and do so in a patient manner rather than doubling your training schedule or training like someone a lot older than you.
What’s in plan for the future?
My next aim is to run well at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia next April. After that the European Championships take place in Berlin, but for now my eyes are set firmly on the Gold Coast and running to the best of my ability there. I never like to plan too far ahead as you never know what can happen or what your progression is going to be like, I just give my training 100% and do everything I can to improve and race well.
And finally, what’s your favourite bit about being a full-time professional athlete (apart from being a full-time professional athlete)!?
Being a full-time professional athlete is as good as you can imagine it being, training is the focus of my days and I am currently training in Font Romeu (France) preparing for my next block of racing. I am all to aware however that I must continue to perform well if I want to continue my life as a professional. Whilst it’s great to have this sort of lifestyle, I also see it as a privilege, therefore I try and do everything possible to help me improve (training/recovery/diet)
I would just like to say a huge thank you to Josh for answering these questions- it has been amazing to read about marathon training and racing. The wait is now on for next month’s athlete feature, but in the mean time you can read more about Josh using the links below.
Josh Griffiths Marathon Training Video Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAiLMXZPvkg&feature=youtu.be