Blog 38- An interview with recent Thai National record holder Tony Payne from Sunday’s Frankfurt marathon!

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Mate, before we launch into your amazing run yesterday can you please introduce yourself to the readers?
I’m Tony Payne, 29 – a marathon runner representing the Thailand national team.
Where are you currently living? Where have you lived and what’s your heritage?

I’m currently living in London. I was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and lived there for my first 22 years. From there I moved to Auckland for 4 years before moving to London in 2016. My father is a kiwi and my mother is from Thailand – which has given me the opportunity to run for Thailand.
What do you do for a career? How many hours do you work a week?
I am a qualified lawyer and practiced corporate / commercial law. I worked a few years at a large law firm in Auckland where I worked very long hours (I was often finishing my run commute homes after midnight). The last 2 years I have worked in house in Soho London at a Sports tech company where I worked a more reasonable 40 to 50 hours (with the odd week that was much larger).

 

However, I recently left that role to train for the Asian Games and run Frankfurt…Unfortunately, I might need to be looking for some employment soon. Got to pay the mortgage…

 
How many years have you run for? What times have you run from the 1500m to the marathon?

 
I’ve been running since I was 14 at school. I wasn’t particularly good at running until the last couple of years. I actually pride myself on my slower times at shorter distances relative to my marathon!

 

1500m, 4:04, 3k, 8:28, 5km, 14:48, 10km, 31:15, Half marathon, 67:46, marathon 2:16:56. One of those times stands out a bit doesn’t it?!

 
Haha it sure does! 2:16:56 at the Frankfurt marathon on Sunday just past, you must be so happy, were you expecting to go this fast? What was the plan? Training must have gone well?
Training was going very well. I was aiming for 2:16 flat based on my training leading in – so to run 2:16 high in difficult conditions was in line with my pre-race goal. My time was a Thailand national record beating a mark set in 1995!

 
In late August I ran the Asian Games marathon in Jakarta for Thailand. I had trained full time for 6 weeks at altitude in Colorado for that race which was still with me on Sunday.

 

Can you outline what a typical marathon training week would look like to the readers?

 

My training weeks pretty much consist of 8kms of reps on Tuesday, a marathon session on Thursday or Friday where I run 3km reps at near marathon pace with 1km floats at maybe 3:35 pace and a Sunday run of about 18 to 20 miles at 3:30 to 3:45 pace per km. Easy days I run very easy doubles of about 10km each run at 4:50 to 5:05 per km. This totals to be about 100 miles per week.

 

Were there any big training sessions you completed in your prep that you were pretty proud of or that indicated that you were ‘ready to go’?

 

The Asian Games marathon in August showed me that I was in great shape.

 

However, I also ran a half marathon in training in 68:10 at marathon effort which gave me great confidence.

 

Ok so we now know what typical week looks like for you now. What did a typical training week look like back in 2014?

 

In 2014 I was running about 200kms per week and working about 60 hours or more. So lack recovery was a huge factor here. My tempos are now longer, long runs faster and easy days much easier. And running 40kms less per week now too.

 

Wow Tony, that speaks volumes about the need for recovery!!!! So, essentially you are running less, working a more sustainable amount and as a consequence absorbing your training better! So good to hear that training more or harder is not necessarily always better! It’s a trap us distance runners, who so readily push ourselves, often fall into.

 

I spoke to you quickly a couple of days before frankfurt and you were worried about the weather, how was it? How did the race pan out? Can you relive it with us!? Did you have anyone to run with? Were you happy with the course? Did you nail your in race nutrition?

 
I was very happy with the result. I woke up to quite a windy day, so to run such a big PB was fantastic. The fact that many ‘barriers’ on the course were getting blown over, give a good indication of what the wind was like.

 

The plan was to go out at 68 flat (actual half split was 68:06) so I was on pace. There was a head wind from 27kms home but thankfully I had a group of 4 to run with where we shared the work into the wind. The course had a lot of turns in the first 5kms and in the last 3kms, but in-between it was flat and fast with long straights. I didn’t miss a drink bottle which I think is a first!

 

How many kilometres per hour was the wind at Frankfurt?

 

The wind was about 25kms per hour with some decent gusts. It was manageable working together in a group sharing the work though.

 

I saw you donnned the Nike 4%ers, what did you think?

 

When I first wore the 4 percents I improved my PB from 2:25 to 2:19. This time it’s from 2:19 to 2:16. I hope if I ran in some other shoes I won’t be a 2:25 guy again!

 

In all seriousness the best thing about the shoe is that it is super light whilst offering significant support for the marathon.
Incredible mate, so Tony take us back a few years. When were you a 2:25 guy? Back then did you envision being a 2:16 runner?

 

In 2014 my best marathon time was 2:26. And I had kind of hit a wall running 2:26/27. I thought maybe one day sub 2:20 would be possible, but definitely not 2:16!
You ran 2:19 at the 2017 Berlin marathon which in itself at the time was a big marathon Pb.

 

You mentioned a huge factor in your improvement has been no longer working crazy hours in a large law firm and that getting more recovery and sleep has been key. Has anything else helped?

 

Another factor was starting to train with a really good marathon group in London, consisting of mostly runners from my running club; Serpentine. I was getting a lot of help on those long sessions.

 

I also started taking easy days super easy to make sure I was recovered for sessions.

 

Tell us about team serpentine, how’d you get involved with them? Who and what are the calibre of some of these runners you are training with?

 
There is a good group of marathoners that I linked up with on my Thursday marathon sessions. There is an email group that most marathoners in London subscribe to. The main Serpentine men are 2:15 man Nick Torry who represented England at the 2014 Comm games, Jonathan Poole and Andy Greenleaf who are both 2:20 guys.

 

As you mentioned earlier, your marathon time is really impressive in comparison to some of the times you have run at the shorter distances. Do you feel you could go faster at the shorter events now? Or do you believe you just getter better as the race gets longer?

 

A little from column A and a little from column B. I think I could likely beat all my PBs if I did the proper speed work – but I am definitely more suited over the marathon distance.

 

I really want to run a sub 65 half soon though – I think I ran a half PB somewhere in the middle of Frankfurt so I think I could go close.

 

You living with anyone?

 

I’ve really branched out in London by living with 2 other kiwi lads (Callan Moody and Ben Anderson) and my Mrs (also a kiwi). Callan is a 65 half runner and former NZ XC and road champion, Ben is a 1:49 800m runner. Not too bad a flat in Southwest London.

 

What’s your girlfriend, Julia do?
Julia is a Radiographer in London. She’s not a runner, she leaves all of that to me!

 

As you mentioned before you spent the first 26 years of your life living in New Zealand, how special is New Zealand to you?

 
New Zealand is my home, and always will be. My parents and brother still live in Dunedin and many of my friends are of course in NZ. It’s a beautiful country and has some of the best running in the world.

 

London, is this a permanent thing or will you be back to New Zealand at some stage?

 
I see myself in London for quite a while longer. It’s great being based over here for proximity to the big European marathons. I will probably return to NZ at some stage but unsure when that will be.

 

Do you currently have a coach? Who have been the most influential people on your running career to date? And why?
I am currently self-coached, but previously worked for years with Craig Motley, a New Zealander who is a NZ selector. We still keep in close contact and he provides feedback on my training plans.

 

Craig has been the most influential person on my running career and helped me dream big. I remember when I was running high 2:20 marathons he told me that I will run sub 2:20 one day, but I think I might have even surprised Craig with my 2:16.

 
So, a new Thai National marathon record! What’s this mean to you? Does this mean you are a legit shot for competing at the 2019 Doha world champs and 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

 
To hold a national record is pretty awesome. It’s something that I can truly be proud of. Thailand is experiencing a running boom despite the oppressive weather, so I have received a lot of support from the Thai people which has been amazing.

 

If I make the IAAF criteria for either world’s or the Olympics Thailand will select me, however, unfortunately the IAAF have made the marathon (particularly at the Olympics) much harder to qualify for than Rio.

 
The Rio standard was only 2:19 flat. If that was still the standard, I think I would have just tried to run 2:18 at Frankfurt, so in a way the standard is helping me push my limits to see what runner I can be.

 
Tell us more about coming 8th at the recent Asian games marathon in Jakarta, how was that? What time did you run? What was it won in? It would of been pretty hot?

 
I managed 8th place in 2:24:52 in 30 degrees and 90% humidity. The race was won in 2:18 by a 2:06 Japanese runner. I was still with the leaders at 28kms and I think the slowest PB out of those who beat me was 2:12 so it gave me belief that I was in far better shape than 2:19. I also got some very good scalps that day too.

 

So the plan was to recover from the games, have a short turn around and run a PB at Frankfurt.

 

Are you getting any funding or support from Thailand athletics federation to pursue your running?

 
I get some assistance specific to my build ups for championships. Not a huge amount but it helps cover most of my running related expenses.

 
So, 2:16, can you go faster? Dare I say, ‘so, what next?’ Or is it far to early to ask you this?

 
I think that 2:14 is possible next year if I get the right conditions. I felt strong all the way in Frankfurt so it gives me confidence for the next one.

 

With the new IAAF qualification system you get points for placing in the top 8 in the race so I might look for a smaller marathon rather than a major.

 

Any ideas on how to pay the mortgage from here but still maintain this nice life balance that your running is obviously appreciating?

 

As long as I’m not working in a law firm it will be ok. I’ll just be very flexible as to what roles I will accept to ensure that it will not be crazy hours.

 

Running full time is great, but to be honest I’m getting quite bored, I’m not sure how people do it to be honest.
Anything else you’d like to add or say mate? Anyone else you’d like to publicly thank?

 

The lads I trained with in Colorado – Dan Wallis (kiwi marathoner), Reece Edwards (Aussie who ran 2:16 at Chicago) and Patrick Rizzo (US 2:13 man), helped get me into great shape and instil the belief that I could make a jump to the next level.

 

I’d also like to thank my sponsors, Stadium One Bangkok, SOS Rehydrate and Nike Thailand for their support.
However, most importantly, Julia my girlfriend. She has put up with me chasing the running dream for a long time, and fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately!) I am now getting some real results. She’s supported me 100% of the way and even let me give up the legal gig for a bit to train full time for the last few months.

 

Yeah awesome Tony, actually one more thing before we wrap up. Now that you mention altitude, how did you find training in Colorado Springs with those guys? How long did you feel it took for you to adapt to the altitude? How did you modify your training?

 

Dan owns a place in Colorado and has trained at altitude since college so he provided a lot of guidance. It took about 3 weeks to not struggle at shorter reps but I found I could run the longer marathon work ‘OK’ from week one. What was key; was taking the easy days super easy. Often running slower than 5 minutes per km.

 

Tony, I feel your story will be inspiring to just so many! The fact that you can be comparably slower over the short stuff and still excel at the marathon. Or simply the fact that you have gone from a 2:26 guy 4 years ago to 2:16! Do you have any advice for those athletes that feel like they may have reached their potential but are unsure?

 

Keep at it, but if you feel like you have hit a wall, don’t be afraid to try a new approach. My major change sounds simple but I really make sure that every run has a purpose. Run your hard days hard and your easy days easy.

 

Mate, being just 29, with the rate of improvement you have had, I feel a 64, 2:14 and hopefully a few more national singlets on the big stage aren’t too far around the corner!

 

You ought to be so proud, 2:16 is express, it’s a fitting reward for what I’m sure has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears!!!

 

Thanks so much for your time Tony (follow this name readers) now make sure you keep celebrating and enjoying this result!

 

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