Interview with a machine (Mike Lichtwark)

Mike Lichtwark is a machine. He left NZ a few years back when he was a quick runner and triathlete. We’ve been known to have some good battles between us at Xterra Offroad and Stroke n Stride events. Having settled in Sydney, he has now transformed into an absolute beast of a runner. He ran a 2:42 at Gold Coast Marathon last year and his report made it sound easy. So I asked the man/machine Mike if he would mind sharing some of his success with us here. Enjoy…

M Sydney

MH: What’s the deal with Sydney?

ML: Sydney has been great for my running.  When I moved over here I didn’t know many people so I had plenty of time to run and it was a great way to meet people.  Obviously, I was really into it back in NZ but I’ve really picked up the intensity since moving over here.

There are a few really good groups over here that I run with.  Some fast guys who do intervals and tempos on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunch time.  They tend to range from 70min to 90min half marathoners so there is always someone to push you along.

Then there are also a few social groups that I am involved with full of keen cool people.

The weather in Sydney is great for running, particularly in winter when it’s cool and clear a lot of the time.  I work in the city and there are some great trails around the water and through the parks where you can run without hitting traffic lights.  It’s very popular to run at lunch time in Sydney and on a nice day there are heaps of people out.  I took some photos on my run on Monday to give you an idea – winter is great.  Aussies aren’t used to the rain though so if the weather is ever bad then I mostly get the paths to myself and can enjoy some Kiwi style running in the wet.

It’s an awesome place so if anyone is ever over here they should hit me up and we can sight see on foot!

MH: Tell us about your build up for the Gold Coast marathon and your target

ML: Gold Coast marathon is a big focus for me this year.  I felt like I had a bit of a breakthrough race last year and surprised myself with how I went.  Looking back at my training I did a pretty good job so there weren’t any obvious areas to improve this year so hopefully it is more about incremental gains.

I’m into the taper now and feel like I have had a good build up.  I haven’t been injured and have been pretty consistent with the training.  I managed to do more kms this year which I mostly achieved by running twice a day to work and home again which is about 6-8km depending which way I go.  I actually have really enjoyed the run commuting as it is quicker than taking the ferry or train and it is an unobtrusive way to get some running in without taking too much time out of the day.

I’m targeting a sub 2.40 marathon which is scary to put on paper in case I miss it!  I’ve run three marathons before and my progression has been 3.03 (Akl 2011), 2.54 (Syd 2013) and 2.42 (GC 2014) so it would be nice to get into the 2.30s (and then the 2.20s in 2016?!).  It is quite a daunting thought realising how fast you have to run – an average of 3.47 mins per k.  However, I actually ran the second half of last year’s marathon in under 80 mins, so I just have to do that in the first half as well this year.  I definitely had a great run last year – I think it was one of those days where I caught something magic and really surprised myself.  Hopefully I can find some magic again but will need everything to go well including nutrition, pacing, body, weather etc.  Some of those are in my control and some aren’t, so will just have to give it a good nudge and see what happens on the day.  I’m pretty convinced that a negative split is the best way to run a marathon so will be looking to go through the half in bang on 80 and then hopefully lift the pace from 30k if I can.

MH: What are the three most important things you have found to improve as runner over the last 24 months?

ML: I think the main thing is that I enjoy racing and running well and I enjoy the process of trying to improve.  The training is good fun for me so it’s never much of an effort to get out the door.  I look forward to the long run on Sunday and try to plan out interesting routes or missions into the mountains.  So it gives me joy which makes it easy to improve.

Another thing is being consistent.  I have a bit of structure as to when I am going to get my runs in, so I am just ticking them off every week and that’s helped me build up.

The final thing is not getting injured.  I think I’ve been pretty lucky (touch wood) to be pretty durable.  Also, I have never really tried to drastically increase the volume and intensity of the training I’m doing, it’s just naturally increased over time so my body has gotten used to it.

MH: What have you NOT got sorted yet?

ML: I should probably do some more stretching (more than none), although I love reading any article which recommends not stretching because that is my natural inclination.  I think I could also do some work on my top end speed and I’d like to set some good times at the shorter distances later in the year.  I think I can continue to improve if I stay consistent and keep doing what I’m doing.

MH: Tell us about any future goals

ML: I don’t think I have reached my limit yet so will keep striving for PBs and good races.  I think they will come as long as I’m enjoying the running.  I’m also keen to smash out some trail races and some good missions out in the mountains.  I’m thinking about entering Kepler Challenge which is later this year and having another go at Six Foot Track next which is a pretty awesome trail race here in the Blue Mountains.

PS This interview was before he once again blitzed the GC marathon, this time going sub 2:40! Can’t wait to read about that (nudge nudge Mike!)

Like I said, a machine!