William Sichel


I asked Richie Cunningham if he could think of anyone else I could have a go at interviewing and he suggested William Sichel. William's ultra running achievements are incredible. He is currently unbeaten in all events longer than 48 hours and holds six ultra distance records at World, British and Scottish level.

I read on your website that you live on the Isle of Sanday, in the Orkneys. What influence on your character has this had? Anything that helps your running?
I think yes. I moved here because I wanted a bit of an 'edge' to life. I had a very hard life for my first 10 years here, before I took up running again .
Even now I often train in harsh conditions and I think that keeps me strong.

At what point did you realise you were interested in running ultra long races? Was there a turning point when you decided to ramp up your training?
When I mentioned to a running shoe shop owner that my marathon time seemed to stay the same (2hrs 38mins) and yet I wasn't exhausted at the finish!
He suggested I try an ultra. I ran in the Scottish 100km Championships in 1994 and won it at my first attempt.
An ultra runner was born.

Do you have a favorite part of Scotland? Why is it special for you?
It has to be Orkney of course. I fell for the place in May 1982, the Isle of Sanday in particular and have now spent almost half my life here.
I married here and raised a family of two girls.
I discovered ultra running whilst living here which started a whole new life for me.
Is that enough!

What has been the most rewarding running experience you have had?
Hmmm difficult one. Maybe the Hamm 6 Day race last year. I had gone there to race head-to-head with the great German runner Wolfgang Schwerk.
He pulled out after only about 24 hours and I had to completely re-focus on what became almost a solo time trial.
I did it and recorded a PB and won the race (see below).

Which ultra-endurance races have you competed in? Which were the most important for you?
Rather a lot now as I have been involved in the sport since 1994. Did about eighteen 100km races with a best of 7hrs 7mins. Have done the classics - the Spartathlon and Badwater which helped in my development and my move to longer races than 24 hours. The debut victory in the Monaco 6 Day race in 2006 with the best distance for the year was highly significant for me.
It demonstrated that my ultimate strength would be in multiday events and was a huge confidence boost being ranked as World No1.

What are the longest time you have ever run for, I hear you have run for 6 days!!! What is the longest distance?
Last year in Hamm, Germany I covered 532.6 miles in the 6 days to maintain my unbeaten record and set a Scottish track record and British age-group track record. That is still my PB!

Recovering from testicular cancer to continue running competitively sounds like a story to match Lance Armstrong. Has it made you a stronger runner? How would you say it has changed you?
It was a huge shock at the time as I had only just stepped off the podium (with a team bronze medal) at the European 100km Championships in Italy (1997).
My deep down confidence was badly knocked.
I feel now that it has made me a stronger runner, because it has given me powerful emotions to draw on when the chips are really down.

How many miles would you estimate you run each year? And how many races?
I haven't counted miles for many a long year. I have tried many different ways of training.
Nowadays, my training is a very balanced programme of general fitness training and running - this has produced the best race performances for me.
A mileage figure is a poor representation of my training load.
Much of the running is done with a weight vest. This extra training stress isn't reflected in a simple mileage figure.
Training time is a better guide to my overall training - approx 16 hours a week.
I do about 5 ultras a year - suitably spaced, to be able to run well at all of them.
Every year I have to make very difficult decisions regarding my races. Frequently I have to turn down races and invitations as I don't do races that are too close together.

Do you enjoy suffering? How do you cope with the psychological aspects of these races?
I never think of it as 'suffering' or 'pain'. I enjoy the satisfaction of making a supreme effort in order to achieve something that I consider worth doing.
Currently I am working with a sports psychologist who is helping me develop skills to get that "extra 5%".

What has been the most challenging moment of your running career?
Probably my first race back after my cancer diagnosis and surgery in September 1997. The team manager selected me from my own training reports and my own judgement that I was ready even though the surgery had been in July!
I ran 7hrs 27mins in the World 100km Championships in Holland - I was back!

Any training tips for us mere mortals?
Train for the marathon and race at ultras.
Don't neglect speed - it is always the fastest average speed that wins the race whatever the distance!

Do you ever listen to music when running? Which song would you put on when you need motivating?
This is something I have just started to do on occasion in multiday races. I have a wide selction of very different tracks. Super Tramp and 'Breakfast in America' will always get me going.

What ambitions and plans do you have for the future?
To finish the 1000 Mile World Cup race in Athens next March within the 16 day time limit.
To break Scotland's oldest athletic record - 567 miles in 6 days set in 1882 on an indoor track.
To break records at 48 hours and other 6 day records.
So plenty to keep me going!

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