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Interview with Neal Edmondson

Neal Edmondson in Rombald's Stride race (2014)

Interview with Neal Edmondson


Last updated: 06-Nov-18


Neal lives in Yorkshire and is competing in the Marathon des Sables (MDS) this year. He shared with us some unique aspects of his training for this race and his hopes and aspirations for his future running career. We wish him every success in the MDS race this year.

Your experience of ultra running 

Q. How long have you been doing ultras?
A. I've been running ultras for less than a year.

In November last year I ran The Beacons Ultra in Wales. It was the hardest one but I wasn't as exhausted as I thought I would be. A great ultra training event. Last August I ran from Liverpool to Leeds along the canal which was 130 miles - 5 days back to back. The most I ran was 48 miles in one day and I tried to run different distances each day to mimic the MDS so I ran from 18 to 47 and 48 miles each day.

Q. How did you first get started doing ultras?
A. I used to run as a kid - went to uni and played football and then I got the running bug. I entered my first marathon after I tore my knee ligament as it was a target to get me fit again while I was on crutches.

Q. What motivated you to start running?
A. I used to do triathlons and I was quite good as a junior and regretted not carrying it on at uni.

Q. When did you do your first ultra race?
A. My first ultra experience was running the canals in August 2013 from Liverpool to Leeds, but my first actual race was the Beacon's Ultra in November 2013. I also recently ran the Howarth Hobble which was very windy. It was off road with great scenery.

Q. Why do you keep running ultras?
A. All the ultras I've done are great training for the MDS. I like off road and long distance running.

Top Running Tips

Q. What are the essential ingredients to being successful in ultras?
A.  I am very lucky to actually enjoy running, and get out whenever I can. It's important to get the miles into your legs. Equally, it is hugely important to recover properly and eat plenty!

Q. What tips would you give to someone doing their first ultra?
A. Just to do it really - get to know people doing it so it's not all daunting. Don't take it too seriously - do it for the experience.

Q. What type of kit do you feel is essential for an ultra?
A.  My favourite kit is indeed my shoes, back pack and snood. I like the snood because it can be worn as hat, neck warmer or sweat band on my wrist. It's versatile!

Q. What is the one thing you never travel without?
A.  I would never travel without some food (cereal bar) to fight off hunger pangs, and depending where I am running I often take my phone. 

Running - The good times

Q. What is your proudest running achievement to date?
A. I don't tend to win races but I'm hoping it will be running the MDS. I used to say to my parents that I would run the canals and now I have so I'm proud of that.

Q. What has been your favourite ultra to date?
A. I've really enjoyed both races the Beacons race was 46miles and I was pleased with the Howarth result as I came 4th with my running team mate.

Q. Which type of ultras do you like best?
A. I'm not a big road runner so I like the off-road ones best.

Running - The rough times

Q. What has been the most challenging ultra to date for you?
A. The Beacons race was harder as I wasn't sure what to expect.

Q. What aspect of ultra running is the hardest for you?
A. Going faster and keeping going.

Salvation time

Q. Who or what has been your biggest help in doing ultras?
My fiancée Faye lets me go off training for hours and she is my chef - makes sure I'm eating all the right things.

Joining my local club has been great for advice and help. They meet twice a week - I usually run with them once a week. The are called Horsforth Harriers - based in a local club in North Leeds. One guy has done MDS in the past so was able to share some good advice.

Q. Have you made any significant sacrifices to complete ultras?
A. Both races have been local with normal training - but lots of sacrifices to do the MDS - including financial ones.


Q. What have you learned by doing ultras?
A. General health, fitness and wellbeing. I am quite committed, driven and organised. I have to plan the training - running to work and running to visit friends. Knowing what to pack - I started planning for MDS 6 months ago.

Q. How do you feel ultras have changed you and your life?
A. General fitness has improved and it has helped me in my job as an Account Manager. Everyone can relate to running and it's an easy conversation starter so it has been useful in my job.

Q. Any helpful sayings or beliefs that have helped your running?
A. I'm not that sort of person - some of my coaches used to say "Just one more step" and "Pain is all in your head" however I don't subscribe to that sort of thing.

Q. How do you get motivated to do the training?
A. Tend to know which race comes next - the running club gets you in to a rhythm.

Training and Prep

Q. How do you train for an ultra?
There have been three steps:

1. Getting the distance and fitness into my legs - this was why I ran the canals from Liverpool to Leeds.
2. Get used to running with weight - I started to run with a rucksack.
3. Getting used to the heat - in the heat chamber at Leeds University I have discovered more about running in high temperatures and how my body would react.
I plan my training all around the race I'm running next.

Q. How does your training differ for each type of ultra?
A. For the two races that I've done Ilkley Moor and Yorkshire Dales have been perfect off road terrain. I've not seen a beach for a year but I'm hoping the hill training should help with the sand dunes on the MDS race.


Q. What race are you doing next?
A. I'm raising money for the children's air ambulance on the MDS. I like to achieve my goals and I'm pleased I've reached my target.

Q. What do you hope to achieve with your ultra running in the future?
A. I hope to try new races, new areas and explore new places and to see a lot more of the country. The MDS has been a big commitment financially as I'm still relatively young.

Q. What would be your dream ultra event?
To run one of the national parks in North America or the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc - off road long ultra race.

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