Runner Interview: Ira Rainey
Location: Bristol, UK
When and why did you start running?
I started running in 1999 when I saw the Bristol Half Marathon mentioned in an article in the local newspaper. A guy I worked with said if I entered, he would enter too. I entered, he didn’t. I didn’t really do any training and while I did finish it hurt. I didn’t run again for a couple of years, but when I started back up I joined a running club and really started to enjoy running. That was about 13 years ago and I’ve been running ever since. In 2013 I started running ultras with my first being the Green Man Ultra around Bristol. I’ve been running mostly ultra distances since.
Describe your ideal race or adventure challenge
I love the idea of running an ultra that is warm, sunny, and with great scenery that has amazing fruitcake at every aid station and a great pub, next to an Indian restaurant at the finish. Quite honestly it could be anywhere. It’s about the event and the people you run it with that matters.
Tell us about your favourite trail
I’ve been lucky enough to run on lots of great trails over the years. The West Highland Way has to be my favourite though. It’s just stunning. I ran the Highland Fling a few years ago and the section along Loch Lomond is just stunning. It’s what trail running is all about.
I started running in 1999 when I saw the Bristol Half Marathon mentioned in an article in the local newspaper. A guy I worked with said if I entered, he would enter too. I entered, he didn’t.
What has been your biggest running / adventure challenge to date?
I ran the Centurion Running South Downs Way 100 last year which was an epic adventure. I loved every minute of it and it changed the way I look at all events and what I’m capable of. The whole idea of running 100 miles is just insane if you ever stop to think about it, yet now I have conversations with people as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to do. Once you finish something like that your perspective is changed forever.
Tell us about your greatest running fail, we’ve all had – or will have – them at some point!
The biggest fail I have had while trail running was when I took on the Transgrancanaria 125KM.
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The race ran through the mountains of Gran Canaria, from the north of the island to the south. Despite being in good running shape when I took it on, I completely underestimated the elevation of the mountains and how hard it was going to be. After eight hours of running through the night I had only covered twenty-one miles even if I had climbed 11,000ft. Despite being in reasonable physical shape to carry on, my head was broken and I had mentally given up on myself. I dropped out at the third checkpoint and spent the next three days in a bar. Returning home made me realise that not all races are created equal and make me question how I approached such challenges.
What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan?
When I’m training for an event I tend to structure my own plans based around a four week cycle or increasing mileage with a quieter fourth week. I always do a long slow run on a weekend, then factor in a mixture of run commuting, evening club runs, parkrun and lunchtime hill sessions. For long runs I like to come up with different ideas such as catching a train somewhere and running back, or running through the night. It’s good to mix things up so it doesn’t become stale.
What advice would you give to a new trail runner?
I think the most important piece of advice is to remember to enjoy it. The beauty of trail running is that your pace will always vary with the terrain, so you don’t become a slave to splits or pace. It just becomes about the adventure of the journey. To me trail running is about escaping from everything and just enjoying the environment. Oh, and don’t take it too seriously.
What is your favourite bit of running kit, and why?
I have a Ron Hill Trail Tempest jacket which is amazing when it gets wet and windy. It folds up into itself so you can carry it easily and it will keep you dry and warm when you need it. It wasn’t cheap, but it was an absolute investment.
For long runs I like to come up with different ideas such as catching a train somewhere and running back, or running through the night. It’s good to mix things up so it doesn’t become stale.
What challenges / races / adventures are you planning for the coming year?
I’m currently training for the Centurion Thames Path 100 at the end of April. That will be a great challenge. I do like to travel when I can for a running adventure too. After looking at running the Ultra Trail Mount Fuji a few years ago (but ending up in Gran Canaria), I am hoping to go to Japan to run the Shinetsu Five Mountains Trail in September. It’s 110km around five different mountains in the west of the country.
Whats your favourite running/adventure book, and which songs keep you going when things get tough?
I’ve read lots of running books over the years. Dean Karnazes’ Ultramarathon Man for me was the one that opened my eyes up to ultra distances, but James Adams’ Running and Stuff is a fantastic book that covers some amazing adventures and in a totally honest way. A great read.
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I don’t often run to music, but when I am out on a very long run I do have an iPod to help provide some distraction. I don’t have anything particular that keeps me going, but anything where I can sing along out loud as I’m running tends to work.
Finally, What do you get up to when you’re not running or adventuring?
When I’m not running, I do like to write. Over the years I’ve written all kinds of things, from magazine articles, stand-up comedy, books and all kinds of other things. I enjoy the idea of creating things. I’ve always got ideas buzzing around in my head and enjoy nothing more than seeing people enjoy things I’ve created.
Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed Ira, and good luck with the Centurion Thames Path 100 in April! Happy Trails!
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Running books by Ira that you should definitely read:
Mentioned in this Interview and recommended by Ira: