Britain’s world trail champion takes on the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships at the end of a busy year

Most of the competitors in Saturday’s World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships will be running on relatively fresh legs powered by months of specific training. That certainly won’t be the case for Britain’s world trail running champion, Jonathan Albon.

The Norway-based runner has just completed a season of skyrunning, the last race of which was followed by three world-class obstacle course races (OCR) on the previous two weekends.

Recently Albon placed fourth in the Skymasters event in Limone, Italy, and finished third overall in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series rankings. Doing so involved running, scrambling and climbing his way around 233km of the toughest terrain on the planet in five races over a six-month period.

“For the last five years my legs have always been a bit screwed … I’m always a bit tired,” said the runner who had won the OCR World Championships Short-Course the week before Limone. “With obstacle racing, it’s that pounding on your body. It’s really harsh.”

He added of the world mountain championships: “I’m sure most of the athletes would have trained all summer and autumn for that race and I’m coming off the back of a pretty hefty running season.”

Yet the man who only came into running when he entered an OCR at the age of 20 would have it no other way. He believes the variety boosts his running not only physically but also mentally.

“In the sense of race nerves, last weekend I was having to think about a set of obstacles, hypothermia, swimming, all this stuff that can go wrong,” said the 30-year-old, who last year was one race away from winning a $1million bonus in Spartan OCR.

“In skyrunning there is a lot more to think about with this in terms of a road marathon, but this is like one foot in front of the other, eat some gels, run as hard as I can, I’m going to finish. It’s a lot less to think about, so in that sense I’m more relaxed.”

When he doesn’t have monkey bars and mountains in his way, Albon is respectable on the roads too, with a 2:26 marathon in Bergen – with plenty of twists and turns and more than 500m of ascent – to his name.

He is intrigued to see if he could beat 2:20 on a good course but said: “I don’t think I could put myself through that restrictive training because I love to be out running and if [a coach] said, ‘you’re not allowed to run today because you have to run these intervals on the track tomorrow’, I don’t think I’d enjoy that.”

However, he admitted: “I’m not the absolute best in the world at any type of running, but I think I can do all types of running pretty good. So I think in a sport like skyrunning or obstacle racing I can get by and perform well because you need a wide range of skills.”

Talking of that road marathon, he will be on much more familiar ground when it comes to the global mountain event over 42km in Villa La Angostura, Argentina, on November 16. The course is a similar distance to that on which he took the world trail win in Portugal this year.

“I’ve heard it’s pretty runnable, especially at the beginning and it turns a bit more mountainous in the second half,” he said. “It’s
a really similar course to the trail world champs, I think. I went well there and let’s hope I can go well again.”

» Look out for an interview with Albon in the forthcoming AW ultra-running guide

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