‘The Fastest Man in Cairns’
“I am a firm believer that champions are born, and then they are made…”
Morning Phil, now isn’t this bizarre? After many years watching you run and win races in many different capacities, weather conditions and distances, you have never failed to amaze me with your consistency. It is particularly notable that in the 10 years I’ve been here, you remain to this day, the man to beat.
💬Now you don’t have to answer this, but what is your age?
💬…and where were you born?
💬It’s funny, I know you as Phil the athlete, but I’m sure you have a day job. What do you do for a living?
💬How do you fit in your running training, and maintain a balance with full time work and family commitments? This is something many of us battle with.
🏃🏻Well, it used to be easy until kids came along. Now I do much less and usually go early in the morning before everyone else gets up. You have to eat your carrots though, because the street lights aren’t great.
💬 Haha. Running in the dark.
💬I guess it has been said, “It’s what you do in the dark, that puts you in the light”. So tell me what it feels like to be the fastest man in Cairns?
🏃🏻Well, I’m not all of the time and it’s when I race in one of the capital cities, or back in England, that I usually come somewhat down the field. Unless you are Mo Farah, there are always people out there who will beat you, often soundly. Some of my best races are when I’ve come down the field, and some of my worst when I’ve won.
💬Well in the capital cities you are competing with the best runners in Australia and on occasions, the world. How do you maintain your current standard? I imagine sustaining race pace at an elite level wouldn’t be easy?
🏃🏻I do think my current standard has slipped a bit.
💬Have you noticed AGE effect your performance in any way?
🏃🏻My legs are stronger than they have ever been, but they simply will not go as fast as they used to. I suppose you have to start gauging your current performance against recent results as opposed to what you used to do. When you get your head around that, you don’t get too depressed. Slowing down is inevitable, but that does not mean that you gain less enjoyment from running, in fact, you get to enjoy the scenery more.
💬Have you ever had the opportunity to pursue your running career to a higher level?
🏃🏻This has never been an option.
🏃🏻I mean, how many runners can make a living out of it. I’m sure I could have gone faster had I devoted more time to it, but work gets in the way and you have to work to buy running shoes. I don’t think I’m biomechanically efficient enough to win any BIG races.
🏃🏻I’m a firm believer that champions are born and then made❗️
💬 Interesting. They do say genetics is everything when it comes to champions. Michael Phelps for example is rated as having a one in 2 Billion genetic advantage when it comes to body biomechanics and physiology. Are there any other athletes in your family?
🏃🏻The vet says my dog is the fittest one he has ever seen, and my little lad is a mean football-sorry, I mean soccer player!
💬Were your parents sporty?
🏃🏻They say they were, but I don’t believe them.
💬Have you ever done an Ironman?
🏃🏻Does a half count?
🏃🏻I’ve done two of those. The problem with Ironman is the time you have to devote to training, I simply do not have it. I think that is why lots of people get into it when their kids have flown the nest, plus by that age, you can afford a cool bike.
💬Have you ever done a Triathlon?
🏃🏻I used to enjoy the sprint distance ones.
🏃🏻Swimming was always my weak point. There isn’t much need to swim growing up in Stoke-on-Trent unless you fancy a dip in a cold canal full of rusty shopping trolleys. I think they call swimming “not drowning” over there.
💬Do you enjoy them?
🏃🏻It’s a great sport, and you feel a real sense of achievement when you finish. I love watching the Brownlee Brothers, they’re awesome.
💬Who has pushed you most in Cairns? Or who is your greatest rival here?
🏃🏻There used to be a few good young lads a number of years ago, but they all moved on. To be honest, I’d love someone young to come through an beat me, it shows the future of the sport is in good hands.
💬Well I believe there ARE a couple of those, who have you in their sights, as we speak. There is a young lad by the name of Gordon Milne. Watch out for him. He attempted the Cairns Parkrun record last weekend…but just missed it, and of course Jimmy Hilton has won the pyramid race 3 years in a row now. Do you ever get nervous?
🏃🏻The shorter the race, the more nervous you get. The older you get, the less nervous you get. If I do a marathon when I’m 83, I won’t be nervous one bit!
💬Have you ever had injuries?
My feet are my week point. Again down to biomechanics. The older I get, the longer the injuries stay around for. I have seriously rolled the same ankle three times. That foot doesn’t land smoothly any more.
💬What do you do to prevent them?
🏃🏻Not a lot.
Rest if they hurt, go for a run if they don’t hurt too much. It’s important to listen to your body, but I don’t think any of us are as attentive as we should be on that note.
💬Do you believe in massage?
🏃🏻Not too close to a race.
It can help recovery during heavy training and I think that this is where it’s major benefits lie.
💬What is the secret of speed?
🏃🏻Speed is the secret of speed.
If you don’t train at a tempo that you want to race at, you aren’t going to race at that tempo. . . Simple!
💬What is the secret of endurance?
🏃🏻Again, you have to train for long periods.
One long run a week of over 1.5 hours will enable you to cope with many distances. This is important even for shorter races. 1500m runners will still do 2hr runs.
💬Believe it or not, the question everyone wants you to answer is the following:
💬What is your running shoe of choice?
🏃🏻Never listen to anyone’s recommendations, each person is individual. I don’t like New Balance or Asics, but many people swear by them. I go for Adidas and Saucony.
💬What is your gel of choice?
🏃🏻I don’t really use them, they give me indigestion.
🏃🏻In fact, when I did the half ironman, I strapped Cadburys Boosts to my bike.
💬What do you think of barefoot running?
🏃🏻I say do what the pros do-and they all wear shoes.
💬Where is your favourite training spot in Cairns?
🏃🏻I like running around the bike tracks at Smithfield
💬What is the hardest run you have done in Cairns?
🏃🏻Race wise, probably the Turtle and the Lamb at Davis Creek. Great race, it’s got some serious climbs in it and it’s at night.
💬What race in the world would you like to do if time and money were no object?
🏃🏻Probably the Boston or New York Marathons
💬How many kilometres would you run in a week?
🏃🏻Not as many as I used to.
🏃🏻I used to get up to about 150, now I aim for about 60.
💬What is it about running for you? Why do you run?
🏃🏻It’s always been for enjoyment and fitness.
💬What is your PB for 5km?
🏃🏻15.04-but I’ve never done it on the track.
💬What is your PB for 21Km?
💬Holy Cow, that’s fast. Just a little side kick to show you’re of the human breed-What is your favourite dessert?
💬…and your favourite food?
💬Do you believe in training in the heat if your race is going to be run in the heat, or do you think one should get up super early to train when it is cooler? This is a hotly debated topic.
🏃🏻In the summer, believe it or not, it can be better to train in the middle of the day.
🏃🏻The humidity is at its highest at dawn and it can be like running through soup and really knocks your body about. Of course you need to train for the conditions, but training all summer in the heat is not good for your body. You must cut the distance and speed down during the summer, go long and fast in winter.
🏃🏻Don’t expect to run your best in Cairns, you need to go somewhere much cooler for that.
💬If you weren’t a runner…what would you be?
💬Thanks a million PHIL for your time and insight. All the very best of luck for the future, whatever it may bring. You have become a household name in the running fraternity, and brought us many years of excitement and admiration.
🏃🏻 Thanks. See you on the track then?
💬 100. %