Athlete Interview: Reece Edwards Interview Tarawera 100km winner

In the following interview we chat with Reece Edwards who just recently won the Tarawera 102k in what was his first attempt at the distance in a cracking time of 8.22. We talk about his history with running, training, why he decided to run Tarawera and his plans for the future. Reece currently lives in Coffs Harbour and is part of Team Telford Elite which is headed up by Coach Dick Telford. Thank you Reece for taking the time to answer our questions and congratulations again.

You are quite well known within the Australian road running scene (incredible versatility with the following personal bests, 5k – 14.36, 10k – 30.02, Half Marathon – 65.37 and Marathon – 2.16.43) but less so within the trail community, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and also your history with running?

I only became known in the Australian road running scene last October after Chicago Marathon. I am traditionally somebody who has never won any big events and normally battling out for a top 10 position in 10km road events and half marathons around Australia. I grew up playing field hockey until the age of 18 then started competing in triathlons from the age of 20. I didn’t start training for running specifically until about 3 years ago (25 years of age) when I joined a local running group in Canberra coached by Dick Telford. My progression was quiet slow and it has not been until the last 12 months my times and performances have really progressed.

You just broke onto the ultra trail running scene with a first place at the Tarawera 102k, why did you decide to run this race?

I chose Tarawera because I needed a new and exciting challenge to refresh my running. After running Chicago Marathon last October I struggled for motivation and had relocated from Canberra to Coffs Harbour meaning all my training is now solo. I had heard nothing but positive feedback from many people about the organisation and location of Tarawera. Plus as the race is flatter than most Ultra Trail events, it seemed like the perfect event to debut.  

How do you usually structure your training and what did you do differently for Tarawera?

I normally structure my training week with a longer tempo session on Tuesday’s such as 4 x 10mins. I do a shorter fartlek or hills session on Thursday’s. Saturday’s consist of a 5km threshold at my local parkrun or 1km reps, then a long run on Sunday’s of 2-2:30hrs. I jog every other day of the week to keep the legs moving and blood flowing. My training only differed on Wednesdays, which became longer than normal (2-3hrs instead of 90mins), otherwise I trained almost identically to my marathon.

How did you find the experience at Tarawera and would you consider more ultra events in the future?

Tarawera was a very fun and tough experience. I didn’t feel any pressure, as most people didn’t have any expectations for me to have a good result. This was my first event in a long time where I was not chasing a time or a specific result, so I was able to enjoy the experience at Tarawera. I am definitely considering including more ultra events into my race calendar from now onwards.

For someone so new to the distance you ran an incredible race and paced it amazingly, did it feel this smooth during the actual race?

I have received a lot of feedback about how I paced the event perfectly. I never actually had a pacing strategy and was just out there to race. The first 40km felt nice and quick, but the single track between 45km-65km was a real struggle and never felt smooth. I found the technical terrain difficult to find any rhythm and the short time I followed Cody during these sections was quite stressful. I decided to relax and give Cody time, and back myself on the final 25km when the race turned into more runnable terrain again. There are many changes I will make for my next ultra, however adopting a conservative pacing strategy is not one of them.     

What are your racing plans for the immediate future? Is the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics on your radar?

I don’t see myself as a realistic contender in making the Olympics in the marathon. Australia is about to see a renaissance of marathon running talent during the next 18 months with the likes of Brett Robinson, Jack Rayner, Chris Hamer, Liam Adams and many others who I have not mentioned. I believe we will see multiple Australians run sub 2:12 marathons this year, which is well and truly far away from my capabilities. Personally I will race Lake Biwa marathon in Japan at the start of March, then many road races from 10km to the marathon in Australia throughout 2019. I have also been juggling the idea of running UTA.

I like to think that we are all just ‘runners’ at the end of the day but society often has a tendency to label us according to our preferred terrain, how do you respond to such remarks? What do you think trail runners can learn from road runners and vice versa?

Tarawera was my first time coming across the concept of “roadies” which I find quiet hilarious. At the end of the day, I don’t see why an individual cannot be successful in both disciplines at the same time. Trail running is definitely more relaxed and people tend to put a big significance on finishing, compared to the road scene. However I do believe the road running training approach of tempo runs, threshold runs and intervals on flat terrain is something that more trail runners need to adopt.   

You were based in Canberra until recently and are part of Team Telford Elite, what do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages of training in a group?

Training with a group makes it so much easier to stay consistent with training and in my opinion significantly improves the quality of every session. I made some very good mates training in Canberra and we treated ourselves with social outings afterwards at either a café or pub, which always made turning up and staying consistent much easier.

What are some of your running bucket list items for the future? Any chance we might see you take a crack at the Six Foot Track Marathon soon?

Six Foot Track Marathon is definitely on the bucket list, just was unfortunate to clash with Lake Biwa Marathon this year. I use running, as an excuse to travel so my bucket lists is quiet extensive with a mixture of road marathons and now some trail races. I am not well educated on trail races, however from my limited knowledge, I know Western States is a race I see myself doing very soon.

Finally, in an age where so much information is available I often think we overcomplicate things, especially training and nutrition. What are a few pointers that you think everyone could benefit from?

I am definitely a believer in “keep it simple” when it comes to training and nutrition. Training should be fun and addictive. So instead of trying to complete fancy and really tough sessions every now and then, I would recommend doing sessions you enjoy but also challenge you. In the end, it is the consistency of your training that makes the biggest difference. My race nutrition at Tarawera consisted of 10 Gu gels, which afterwards I found out was only around half of what the other competitors consumed, so I am probably not the best person to be taking nutrition advice from.     

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David Longo
David is a Canberra-based ultra runner who has also lived in Hong Kong. He races regularly both on the HK and Australian ultra scene.

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