Owain Williams: How I shed 6st and became ultra running champion
If you are looking for inspiration and motivation in 2018, Owain Williams, aka Scottish Runner, is a great example. In his late 20s he was overweight and unfit. So he took up running and lost six stones. His first marathon time was five hours. This year he ran a 2.52 Stirling Marathon and he won the Running the Blades 50k ultra race.
Owain, now 36, lives in Edinburgh although he grew up on the Isle of Tiree. He is married to Mandy, who is also a keen runner.
Owain’s bid to lose weight
It was in 2008 that Owain started running. He says: “I was 27 and I very overweight at 18.5st. I had always enjoyed the outdoors and fresh air living on Tiree but when I was at Napier University the weight piled on and I realised I wasn’t happy with my life and my size. So, I decided to do something about it.”
His first aim was a marathon. Owain admits that it was a big goal and perhaps not the right one for everyone but he entered the Edinburgh Marathon and set about training.
He says: “At first I found the running hard. I didn’t want to be seen outside by others because I was embarrassed about my weight so I ran on a treadmill in the gym. I found the exercise hard because of my weight but I was determined.
“The weight came off pretty quickly to start with. I didn’t change my diet though so it happened because of the exercise, running three times a week.”
“Even so there were times when I wanted to give up but I had a few reasons to keep going. I have signed up to the marathon, I was raising money for charity as extra motivation and I had bought proper running shoes. They cost £80 from Run and Become and that felt like a lot of money to just leave sitting in my wardrobe.
“Also, I didn’t allow myself time to think about whether I would run after work. I would come home from the office, get changed and go out the door straight away. I wouldn’t sit down because if I had done that, I wouldn’t have gone out.”
Owain also recommends joining a running group if you are starting out. He says: “I highly recommend jogscotland. They introduce you to running in a well structured way which helps to prevent injury by overdoing it.
“It’s also a good idea to start small with your training. My first target was just to run a complete lap of my local park without stopping. Then, once I achieved that, I would aim to do one and a half laps of the park.
“I know that I signed uo to a marathon as my first race goal but I recommend that people start with a parkrun or similar and then build up to a 10k, half marathon and on. Having an achievable race goal is a great focus.”
From 5hr marathon to sub-three hours
Owain’s five-hour marathon was achieved in May 2008 in Edinburgh. Four years later he ran a sub three hour marathon at the Loch Ness marathon. However, due to the course being reclassified as a downhill route, it never officially counted. It was earlier this year that he finally achieved his official sub-3 marathon at Stirling.
Owain says: “After I found out my sub three hour at Loch Ness didn’t count I had another sub three attempt in 2013 at the London Marathon but I could only manage 3:11. I was gutted.
“In 2014 I trained hard again and went to the Amsterdam Marathon, which is a flat and fast course and although I ran better than London, I still only managed 3:05.
“I then took two years away from the marathon distance and focussed on shorter distances. The aim was to get my 5k times faster, which would lead to faster 10k, faster half marathon and eventually an official sub three hour marathon. I finally did so this year and I was delighted.
“I believed that I could get a sub three marathon time and I still believe I can go faster than 2:52. You do need to be a bit selfish to achieve it as well though.
“I spend many hours out training. Luckily, I have an understanding wife, who also runs. Without her support I doubt I would have been able to spend so many hours pounding the streets in the pursuit of the sub three hour goal.”
Owain also worked with Sally at fitnaturally to get a bespoke eating plan to help him train harder but also recover quicker from his harder sessions. He says: “I think this really helped as I constantly felt I had the energy to put in another hard session, week after week.”
Owain’s training schedule
He runs six times a week, taking Friday as a full rest day. Mondays and Wednesdays he runs twice a day, four miles in the morning and six miles in the evening.
Tuesday and Thursday are speed work on the track or a specific training night such as marathon-paced running.
Saturday is either parkrun or a short, fast run and then Sunday is a long run, usually around the 16-mile mark.
Owain’s ultra race win
Owain has 10 marathons under his belt and decided this year to try his first ultra-distance race. He says: “The ultra distance appealed to me because my first ultra was 31 miles, which is not that much more than a marathon.
“I love running off-road along trails and most ultras seem to be exactly that, long trail races. I can’t think of anything better than going off road for 30-plus miles. I entered the Running the Blades 50k ultra race and I don’t mind admitting it was hard. I was very pleased to win it.”
His time for the 32.4 mile race was 4:07.
Owain appears to have been bitten by the ultra running bug. He has signed up for the John Muir Way Ultra and also the Run the Blades ultra again.
He says: “I may venture into longer ultras towards the end of the year but just now these are good starts. I’m also looking forward to working more with Trailfest and Harvey Maps with their #mapsfortrailrunners project.
“I would say to people they should never let anyone tell them that they can’t do something. If you believe in yourself then that’s all you need.”
Find out more about Owain at the blog he shares with Mandy at Running Beside.Me