Rowan Walker the Australian Road Marathon Champion of 2010 (2:18) crossed over to the Ultra dark side of running and tackled his first 100km event on a trail in the inaugural beautiful Surf Coast Century in Anglesea Victoria. Rowan Walker only decided to run the full 100km when is Duo Relay team mate pulled out a fortnight ago. After 5 trail stacks, tough but fast trail running he finished the inaugural Surf Coast Century in a blistering time of 8 hours 25 minutes.
Shona: You use to be in the Navy, correct me if I’m wrong you switched to the army so you can stretch your running legs, was that the only reason why you decided to switch Defense roles?
Rowan Walker: Actually, I still serve in the Navy on a part-time basis. I left he Permanent Navy at the end of 2005 after a little short of eight years service. I had actually served a few years in the Army Reserve for a few years but that was 20 years ago. I also worked as a Defence public servant for a few years.
Shona: You are also a father, how many kids do you have, what are their ages and how do you juggle your training and working with your better half?
Rowan Walker: I have one son, Lachlan who is ten. Things are pretty difficult at the moment as my wife is working interstate so I’m juggling a bit extra. I tend to be an early riser—typically up at 0500 or before to get a run in and perhaps another after work depending on the schedule. At other times I’ve run at lunch to get in the kms.
Shona. The Surf Coast Century was your first Ultra. What was the longest distance you ran in training before running your first 100km?
Rowan Walker: Prior to Bogong to Hotham I actually ran four 40k runs and two 50k runs in the You Yangs during the months building up to the run. This year however I haven’t running over 3 hours and in the last few months I’ve not run more than 2&1/2 hours and about 35k. I was getting ready for a marathon, not an ultra so knew I’d be underdone and was taking a bit of a chance.
Shona: What was your main motivation to entering the Surf Coast Century initially with your friend?
Rowan Walker: I think it is important to support local events wherever you can, plus, it’s a great area with some really nice trails. Logistically it was easy, with no travel or accommodation costs to worry about so that helped as well.
Shona: Have you entered any trail events in the past?
Rowan Walker: Bogong to Hotham back in January was my first and I did the 30k event at the You Yangs a few months back. Bogong of course ended in disaster (I would have had to pull out had the race not been cancelled) so the Surf Coast was the first serious distance trail run I’ve completed.
Shona. What is your favorite race? Road or trail?
Rowan Walker: It is probably a little early to say that I favor trail over road but I do love the sense of journey and adventure you get from these runs. Obviously I love the marathon and believe it remains a true test of strength and your training
Shona. Which event have you learnt the most about yourself from?
Rowan Walker: I don’t know if I can definitively say but distance events certainly exposure you to greater fatigue and mental challenge so you tend to see how you stand up in difficult circumstances.
Shona. Do you like to train in a group or on your own? And Why?
Rowan Walker: Work schedules typically mean that I’m predominately a solo runner, and I do enjoy the solitude. But typically, training is more enjoyable if shared.
Shona. What is your favorite training session?
Rowan Walker: Probably the cut-down tempo style runs of around 20k or more. I typically start these at slow pace and then ‘roll-on’ letting the pace build as the run progresses.
Shona. What are your most cherished achievements?
Rowan Walker: Winning Melbourne Marathon in 2007 was pretty special as was coming third in 2010 when I ran 2hrs18min. 2010 was a highlight as I had come off a bad knee injury in 2009 and wondered whether I’d ever get going again. I’d also been overseas for about six months where training circumstances had been less than easy, so to come back and run that time was probably the most cherished.
Shona. What characteristic do you think go into making a great Road Marathon Runner? (Please help me. I’ve never entered a Road Marathon I’m a bit scared of them.)
Rowan Walker: Consistent training and focus on the goal without getting sidetracked by less important events. If you want to do well you need to be prepared to do the right mix of hard running and good consistent mileage. I personally think there is little substitute for ks.
Shona. What sport did you play as a kid?
Rowan Walker: I did the usual, footy (AFL), cricket, golf, surfing and whatever was going at school.
Shona. I’ve read that you started marathon running quite late. How did you get into Marathon Running?
Rowan Walker: I didn’t start running until I was in my twenties and the first marathon was the Sydney Olympic Trial in April 2000. I was based in Sydney with the Navy and it seemed a great chance to be part of something special in the build-up to the Olympics. It hurt like hell after I hit the wall at about 34k but I was hooked.
Shona: In your family do you have a strong history of amazing athletic ability? Like a long lost uncle or granddad/grandma or dad/mum who excelled at sport? Or are you just the “Stand Out Kid/Freak” in the family?
Rowan Walker: Mum was pretty active across a range of sports but I think it fair to say that opportunities for women where not as they are now and once school was done that was probably as far as it went. My brothers and sister are pretty active.
Shona: Do you have a coach or a mentor that you work with to keep you motivated? Or is your success self driven?
Rowan Walker: I’m pretty driven, not in a sense of ‘victory at all costs and crush the opposition’ mentality but I like to strive to be the best I can.
Troopy (Lee Troop) coached me through 2006-2007 and I credit him with a lot of the success I had in those years and beyond. Prior to that a friend, Rohan Perrot – guided me, and set me on the path of the Chris Wardlaw type of training fundamentals that I still largely adhere to. These days I’m basically self-guided but the things those guys put in place remain the cornerstones of my program.
Shona. What is your hydration and nutritional plan when you are racing? Is it different from when you race a 25km through to 100km?
Rowan Walker: One of the great challenges I faced at Surf Coast was getting the nutritional plan right. After 10+ marathons I’m pretty well squared away with the lead up and race over distances up to the marathon however 100k is a completely different event.
Prior to Bogong to Hotham I researched the possible nutrition strategies and tried the products out in the lead up training. I became a Hammer convert and use Perpetuem, Endurolytes and gels. As a rule I aim for an intake every 20mins, relying primarily on a concentrated Perpetuem mix with gel the back-up. I used plain water in the bladder and also grabbed an extra bottle with a mix of electrolyte drinks at a few of the checkpoints.
Shona. Is your nutritional plan different from when you are training compared to racing?
Rowan Walker: I won’t generally take on any fuel during training up to 2&1/2 hours (i.e. the long run in marathon training). If running longer I will generally use the products I intend to race with and maybe try a few new things to see if they work or at least don’t make be sick.
Shona: What sort of injuries have you had to work through over the years?
Rowan Walker: I reckon I’d be double figures on lower leg stress fractures. I’ve had an array of niggles and issues that have blown out to run-stopping levels, including the knee that put me out for four months in the second half of 2009. For the last two years I’ve struggled with Achilles issues that in part caused me to withdraw from Six Foot Track and The North Face 100 earlier this year.
Shona: What sort of rehab or cross training are you doing to get you up and running and racing again?
Rowan Walker: I ride as a way to give the legs a bit of a break – I’d like to get more massages and probably need on going treatment but the cost and trying to find the time to do these things keep me away.
Shona. What is the biggest recovery tip? Food? Rest? Ice Baths? Recovery Jogs?
Rowan Walker: A massage is great and as a rule I try to get moving the days following a race. As long as it is easy I think this is essential.
Shona: What is your favorite quote, or a few words that you have made up that you may say or remember to keep your mind focused when you are racing or training?
Rowan Walker: I don’t have any particular quote but I’ll sometimes push myself to ‘harden up’ (or words and thoughts to that effect) to keep on pace.
Shona. What would you say is your biggest strength when you are racing?
Rowan Walker: Probably the ability to hold pace and not drop off by too much in the latter stages of a marathon. I don’t have much of a ‘top-end’ but I can also hold well up slight inclines without dropping pace and use things like Heartbreak Hill in the City to Surf to pick up a few places.
Shona: What is your running schedule for the rest of the year?
Rowan Walker: I’ve got Melbourne Half Marathon (as long as I feel recovered) on 14 October before I head to Auckland for a marathon at the end of the month. After that I’ll take it as it comes with the focus on establishing a base and looking to finish at Bogong to Hotham in January.
Shona. What shoes do you like to wear? You can list them if you like?
Road Shoes – Asics Kayano and DS Trainer
Racing Flats – Asics DS Racer
Trail Shoes – Asics Fuji Sensor
Ultra Trail Shoes – I wore Asics Fuji Racers at SC 100
Shona. What are 5 stand out tips that you would like to give any runner about training and nutrition to keep them racing regularly as you?
- 1. Consistency – year round training, year after year. Running isn’t a sport where success comes quickly.
- 2. Post session or race refueling – don’t forget to quickly replenish
- 3. Don’t skip the long run – no other run is as important for building strength and endurance
- 4. Don’t race every training session, you train to race not the other way around
- 5. Mix things up and enjoy it
Rowan Walker Walker thank you so much for taking the time out to speak to me.
I really appreciate it