OCR legend turned Trail Running champ
Jonathan (Jon) Albon is not a household name and yet, in running circles, there are very few who haven’t heard of him. This year saw him crowned World Trail Champion to add to his exploits in recent years that have included Skyrunning World Champion, Spartan Race world champion and Obstacle Course Racing world champion.
Living in the Norwegian town of Bergen, Albon, who is a dryrobe ambassador, first caught the attention of the international running community in 2015 when, as an unknown obstacle course racer, he won Kilian Jornet’s Tromsø Skyrace with a lead of 17 minutes ahead of Luis Alberto Hernando, then the current Skyrunner ultra world champion.
We caught up with
him to find out what makes him tick.
MR: IF you ran a
flat road marathon, what do you think you could run?
JA: If I properly
trained for it – and considering I ran 2.26 at the notoriously-hilly Bergen Marathon
– I would hope for sub 2.20. But it’s a difficult question to answer if you’ve
never actually done it. The thought of doing more ‘conventional’ races doesn’t
sound that much fun. It would mean I would be specifying my fitness so much
that it wouldn’t be healthy any more either. I would rather be more of an
MR: Is fun a key
part of your rationale behind your racing?
JA: I think fun
is the over-riding element. Of course, I like to be competitive and I need to
do races to earn sponsorship. But ultimately if it’s not enjoyable, I won’t be
doing it for a very long time. It needs to be fun for me to continue to do what
MR: People have
written that you’re the ‘best runner no one has ever heard of’. It’s an
interesting title: what are your thoughts?
JA: It could be
because I moved to Norway or it could be because I choose to do events that are
more obscure. But you need to be competing in the Olympics with TV coverage or
be really good on social media, which is not something I enjoy that much. It’s
helped me, to be honest, to be under the radar as I’ve not had to change my
approach to training.
MR: You won the
World Trail title this year: was that a surprise?
JA: I knew I was
in good shape before the race, but I played my cards very close to my chest.
I’d come fourth the year before, but that was a completely different type of
race. This year’s course suited me a lot more. I wanted to get to the race and
do everything I could to be ready. I’ve got in to this habit of starting slowly
and picking it up and taking people at the end. It’s a great tactic and you
enjoy the race more but you rarely win big races doing that. So I decided to go
out at the front and run hard and hope to have a magical day – and that is
exactly what happened.
MR: Did you do
anything specifically to prepare:
JA: I’m always
changing my training and finding better things that I could be doing. I did
change quite a few things this year that I’m sure have helped. I cut back on
‘useless’ running quite a bit and mainly did quality sessions. My easy training
in the winter is all skiing anyway and I’ve also done a lot of steep cycling.
This has helped a lot because I felt that I didn’t have this ‘load’ in my body
which made me tired. I also went to recce the course a week early that I’ve
never done before.
MR: Do you seek
advice from other athletes or do you focus on what’s right for you?
JA: I very much
focus on what’s right for me – what is good for me and what isn’t. But
obviously I know a lot of athletes and I talk to a lot of athletes and read
books about training. So I guess it’s a bit of both. This year, I have done all
my easy training at a much lower heart rate – 120 instead of 140 – and I still
feel that I’m getting a good base training.
MR: Talking about
heart rate, do you find that you can keep your heart rate a high level in all
JA: With sports
like orienteering and skiing, you can keep your heart rate high because you’re
using your whole body. But with cycling, it’s much harder – unless I’m in a
dark tunnel without lights and there are cars passing me!
MR: How much is
running actually part of your training?
JA: In January I
didn’t run at all, it was all just skiing. In February, I started with 5km a
week and just upped it from there. Up until I ran the Transvulcania, I’d only
run a maximum of a 55km week. After that I kept pushing it up so that I could
run 100km weeks, but I don’t really run much more than that. In the winter, I’m
skiing between 12,000-15,000m of climb a week and in the yearsummer I’m running
around 4,000m climb a week and the same again on a bike.
MR: The varied
nature of your training must make you more resilient to injuries?
JA: You could
train hard as a runner with just running and maybe keep that going for a couple
of years. But after that, you seem to get what I’d describe as a ‘swelling’ in
your body and you just feel awful. It’s not until you take three months off
that you realise that other humans don’t feel like that: it’s just you who
feels rubbish all the time. Now I’ve stopped running in the winter I feel like
my career isn’t just going to be for the next five years – I could be running
for the next 25 years!
MR: Is there
anything in the racing calendar you haven’t done that you want to?
JA: There are big
races that would be fun to experience, like Sierre-Zinal or UTMB. I’m not the
sort of person who has big goals and aspirations. My key advice to anyone is
that whatever you do, you have to enjoy it: if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t
want to do it. It should be part of your lifestyle.
• Jonathan Albon is a brand ambassador of dryrobe, producers of the
world’s most advanced change robe. To find out more visit www.dryrobe.com