Meet Jonathan

IT Superstar Completes Superstar Marathon

Jon Watts, one of our Senior Support Engineers recently completed a double-marathon. We interviewed him to find out his motivation and drive behind running the race.

What is Race To The King?

RTTK is an ultramarathon that starts at Goodwood and ends on the steps of Winchester Cathedral. Run mostly along the South Downs Way, it's 53 miles long and includes 5000ft of hills.

What motivated you to want to run this particular marathon?

I wanted to be fit again. In 2018 I was heavier than I wanted to be and at the time I didn’t exercise unless I had something to aim for, so I decided to go big and enter the 2019 RTTK. When my wife collected me at the end of that race, I said "never again"...and signed up for the 2020 race a few weeks later! I'd been well and truly bitten by the ultra bug.

How much training and what sort of preparation did you do leading up to race?

When the 2020 events got cancelled because of COVID, training became a bit disjointed for a while. By the time the race happened, I'd been running about 130 miles a month for 18 months or so. Not a huge amount but it takes time out of family life and I didn't want to sacrifice much more. I did a couple of 50km events as training and I also tried to do as much training as possible on hills. I've come to love the South Downs. I'm happiest on a hill.

This is the second time running the race, how did it compare to last year and what were the times you ran?

The race in 2019 was my first ever ultra and I made a few mistakes, purely down to inexperience. This time around I knew what to expect so the whole experience was better. My pacing, fuelling and conditioning were all better this time. Also, my running shoes were more suited to the conditions; my feet took an absolute battering in 2019 but this time not a single blister - not all running shoes are the same! Finally, colleagues meeting you with snacks at half-way is very good for morale :)

In 2019 my finishing was about 15.5 hours. This time it was about 13.5 hours.

What do you think about during training and competitions?

Everything and nothing. It's hard to say as most thoughts are fairly transient when I'm running. I'll think about things I've read, things I need to do, things I've done (or haven't done). Occasionally I'll listen to podcasts during training so I may be thinking about what I'm listening to, or even just getting to the end of the run.

Sometimes I try to not think about anything and just run mindfully. There's something special about being on the top of a hill just after sunrise, with amazing views, a breeze blowing and no-one else around. It's magical and I appreciate being there in that moment.

During the actual events, I initially try to stay focused on my plan so that I don't get carried away and start out too quickly. As the distance increases it becomes more about keeping a positive mindset and not giving in to pain or negative thoughts. Accept what's happening and keep moving forward. Focus on getting to the next aid station or even the next mile marker. Just keep moving forward.

Do you have a ‘go to’ pre-marathon meal?

It tends to be pizza. Something not too spicy though - that's not something you want to deal with in the middle of a race!

What’s your favourite post-race treat?

A doner kebab. It's become a bit of a family tradition since my sons were playing in football tournaments - we'll all have a kebab after a big sporting event.

What is a good marathon to run for a first timer?

Of the ultras I've run, the most beginner-friendly was probably Run To The Sea Bournemouth 50km. Very well organised, water stations every 10K or so, they'll take your own nutrition to the stations for you, and perhaps most importantly for beginners the whole route is completely flat and ends next to Bournemouth beach.

What's next?

I'm looking at a 100km event next year. I need to make sure my body is up to it and that I'm prepared to devote that time to training and away from family time, but it's an exciting thought. After that, who knows....