Kevin Bowen Athlete Ambassador
Kevin is an ultra-runner who has tackled some incredibly difficult but impressive trail marathons. He talks to Sundried about all things training, racing, and life as a long-distance runner.
Have you always been into sport?
Yes. Growing up, I participated in team sports with rugby being my main focus. I played for Surrey at county level and won caps for Welsh Exiles before a fracture of my lumber vertebrae prevented me from playing for several years. I did return to rugby but at a more social level and eventually decided to stop playing in my late twenties. I then started running and discovered I could be competitive if I trained properly. More recently I’ve introduced a lot more strength and conditioning and yoga into my training. This has without doubt improved my overall health and fitness. In turn not only improving my performance but also my ability to recover from events.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
Whilst I cycle and run I’ve yet to complete a triathlon. One of my main sporting goals is to complete an Ironman but I need to improve my swimming first. At the moment I’m having too much fun competing in trail marathons and ultra-running events but I will get around to triathlon at some point.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
I have so many favourites but if I had to choose one it would have to be The Fellsman. This is an off-road ultra-run over rugged terrain in the Yorkshire Dales covering 62 miles and 10,000ft of elevation. Despite the race having been run in April every year for 56 years it is still relatively little known and only attracts a small number of hardy ultra-runners each year. It is also very tough and my own personal success rate is 50% having finished twice in four starts.
And your proudest achievement?
My 2017 Spine Challenger finish is easily my proudest achievement. This is a 108 mile run from Edale in Derbyshire to Hawes in Yorkshire along the Pennine Way national trail. The race is run in January so the weather can be very testing with deep snowdrifts, sub-zero temperatures and extreme wind-chill. A real test of mental and physical endurance.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
I’ve had some tough days racing and things haven’t always gone to plan but I wouldn’t call any of them disasters. I really believe that when things don’t go well or quite as I had planned it is just as valuable a learning experience as those days when everything seems to fall into place. I’ve hit the wall in marathons, been lost on remote mountains and freezing cold in bad weather conditions but each time I’ve evaluated what went wrong, ensured I’ve learned from the experience and in turn I’ve been better prepared in future races.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I believe it’s important to take time to think about what went wrong and work out what could have been done differently. I don’t see the point in beating myself up over a setback. Sure, I’ll be disappointed but I’ll learn from the experience and be a better athlete next time I compete.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Be flexible! I don’t mean physically (although that’s obviously important). I have learned that very rarely does training or racing go exactly to plan. There will be unforeseen obstacles to overcome, these could be injuries, work and family commitments, or a whole host of other things. Every athlete faces these challenges, those that are flexible and adapt their training or racing are ultimately those who are more able to continue competing to the best of their ability.
What are your goals for 2018?
I’m running the Boston marathon in April and want to race well there. Then I’m focussing on more ultra-races such as the Maxi Ultra Race in Annecy France, South Downs Way 100 miler, 50 miler Lakes in a Day and the two day Peak District South to North race. I’ll also be taking on the Fellsman again in an attempt to get my finish rate above 50%. All of these events are big challenges in their own right but they are also part of my preparation for the 268 mile Spine Race which I’m taking on in January 2019.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I find many of the world’s top athletes inspirational with the Brownlee brothers, Chrissie Wellington, Greg Rutherford, Jess Ennis-Hill, David Weir and Lizzy Hawker being amongst my most inspiring. I also take great inspiration from many of my own friends and club mates who overcome their own personal obstacles such as poor health or disability to compete. I always think if they can do it, what is there to stop me?
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I love all the kit because it is ethically sourced, really well made and brilliantly hard wearing. My teenage daughter also thinks it’s cool, which is rarely her opinion of my choice of clothing!