The 6ft Track Contenders – Part 3: Alex Matthews

As we draw into the final week ahead of 6ft track, we interview one of the real gun runners for this year’s race, Alex Matthews. A former winner and with speed to burn, Alex is the real deal as well as being one of the younger guys out up the front of the pack. By his own admission, he’s shocking on the downhill descent at Nellie’s Glen, and has been the butt of some shouting at the front of wave 1, but when the trails wider and the terrain flattens out, he puts his abusers to the sword! There’s probably very few in the starting list that can match the speed of this guy as he flies up the King of the Mountain section. With a sub 2:30 marathon to his name, you know why.

By his own standards, Alex didn’t hit top gear in 2011, and as some will know, his training leading into that race wasn’t the best – but with a change of scenery here in Sydney’s Inner West, it sounds as if he’ll be back to his best for this year’s race and around the form of when he won in 2010. You know the drill, take it away Alex…

How has your training build-up gone this year? Have you stuck to a typical routine or done things a little differently?

This year, I have not been stuck in Alice Springs for January and February (alike in 2010) where I was forced to run at 4am in the morning to avoid the heat and didn’t have many options for hill training. Therefore this year, now living in Sydney’s Inner West, I have been able to incorporate more hills into my training and run at a more reasonable hour in better conditions. I have also made an effort to do 2-3 speed sessions weekly and a few tempo runs which I think has improved my flat speed. I think the balance of speedwork rather than purely long runs has enabled me to remain injury free and I have consistently been able to do so double-up days which has helped me increase my leg strength, add mileage and my ability to recover quickly between sessions.

By his own admission, Alex isn't the greatest downhill runner, but watch him fly uphills
By his own admission, Alex isn’t the greatest downhill runner, but watch him fly uphills, one of the best in the business here in Australia

What kind of kms are you doing per week? And at what kind of intensity?

I am doing approximately 120km weekly which involves a mix of commutes to and from work ~ 10km each way, hill sessions, speed sessions, tempo runs and double days to add mileage. This does vary depending on my work commitments and whether I am doing days, evenings or night shifts. I have tried to increase this to 160km/wk if I have a few days off in a row.
As a lead runner, what do you think is most important training aspect for 6ft?

I am lucky in that my long lever-length seems to help in the long hills in six foot track and I don’t need to undertake to many hills-specific sessions. I think the most important aspect of training is consistency and the ability to remain injury free is vital to a successful race in 6FT more than anything.

6ft is quite a tactical race, where do you see your own specific strengths?

Knowing how limited I am in technical downhill (and the raft of abuse I have received from holding others up) but on my success in previous 6FT attempts, I guess I can say that my strength lies in the uphills and the Black Range where I can stretch out and use my flat speed. I think therefore this race suits a running who can run hills well and recover well enough to stretch out on the flats.

Much is made of saving enough in the tank for the Black Ranges, where do you believe the race is won or lost?

I think the race is won in the last 20km and lost in the 1st 15km especially if you get too excited and either blow-up or break an ankle!

What nutrition do you use for the race?

Whatever is at the aid stations (bananas, isotonic drink and I will carry 3 gels.

Likewise, do you consider trail shoes, or is 6ft ‘flat’ enough for road shoes?

I will be wearing Inov-8 X-talons this year as I expect it to be damp but could consider Inov-8 F-lite 195’s if dry.

Care to put out any predictions for your time? If not, what kind of time do you think will win 6ft this year?

Sub 3:20

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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