The 26.2 mile race is run on ice in temperatures below -40 Celsius, and the exact choice of route involves keeping an eye out for open water, polar bears, and shifting ice. Raising money on behalf of Crystal Palace Physio Group, Stuart and Sport Relief will help to transform people’s lives across the UK and the world’s poorest communities.
CPPG: It’s a worthy cause but have you done anything like this before?
SP: Yes, I started doing marathons and ultra-marathons about 15 years ago. I fell into it by accident really. I had a friend who had a spare entry into the London Marathon, and I became hooked from the outset. Since then I have done several ultra-marathons including the Marathon Des Sables in Morocco, Comrades in South Africa, and Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in France. The North Pole Marathon is my first ‘Polar’ event. I grew up reading about the fascinating adventures of polar explorers such as Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton (from Dulwich no less) and as such, I have always wanted to have a small taste of experiencing it. I always try and raise money for a charity and/or worthy cause such as Sports Relief, as it gives me further motivation when I am running.
CPPG: What have you found most challenging in your training?
SP: Probably the most challenging part of training has been scheduling the time in so that it doesn’t impact too much on family and work commitments. I set my alarm for 5.30am most mornings and get out for an hour or so, and I’m usually back in time to have breakfast with the kids.
CPPG: Have you any new or pre-existing injuries to manage?
SP: No, touch wood. I don’t think I run anywhere near fast enough to over strain or sprain my soft tissues.
CPPG: Have you needed to see a physio?
SP: I haven’t needed to see a Physio as yet, as fortunately I think as I have got older, I have got better at listening to my body. If I am sore after a harder training session, I will now take a day or two extra rest day. When I was younger, I wouldn’t listen to the aches and pains, and just pushed through. This resulted in many overuse injuries, through sticking too rigidly to my training plan.
CPPG: ‘My body is a temple’. Super foods or Fast foods?
SP: Mostly super foods, but occasional fast food. During the week, I usually have a breakfast and lunch Nutri bullet shake that usually consists of spinach, blueberries, almonds, chia seeds and almond milk. At the weekend, I might have an Indian curry for a treat.
CPPG: What will be your race day nutrition?
SP: Plenty of water, SIS Gels, caffeine and beef jerky.
CPPG: Have you lost any weight with all the training?
SP: I’ve lost about 5-6 kgs, but I’m not sure if that is from the increased running or from reducing my alcohol intake since Christmas, or both.
CPPG: Self-talk. When it gets really tough what are your strategies to keep going?
SP: When things start getting tough, I usually focus on positive memories such as times I have spent on holidays or travelling. If that doesn’t work, I just tell myself that I need to stop having negative thoughts, and I just need to ‘harden up’ and get on with it.
CPPG: Have you heard of ‘mindfulness’?
SP: Yes, of course. I guess that running is a form of ‘mindfulness’ for me. It eliminates the ‘white noise’ (such as technology, social media etc). that we experience in our day-to-day lives. Running ultra marathons are great for pushing yourself to extremes, so that you learn your physical and mental limitations.
CPPG: ‘Lucky socks’. Any OCD’s?
SP: No lucky socks, just trail shoes and 3 layers of warm clothes. The warmest Winter in years, how have you been specific (arctic conditions) with your training in London? Whilst we are undoubtedly experiencing the effect of global warming, the current temperature in the Arctic is still about -40 degrees. It has been hard to replicate those sort of conditions in London. Does eating a tub of Ben and Jerry’s really quickly, and then dealing with the resulting ‘ice cream headache’ count as specific training?
CPPG: You went on the Annual CPPG company ski trip in February with 30 colleagues, did you find time to train in Austria?
SP: Yes, in between the great skiing, fun and socialising that we had on our CPPG Annual Ski Trip, I managed to I sneak out at 5.30am one morning. I think that was about the time that a large group of the CPPG team members, were just crawling into bed.