Runner Profile:  Francis Marsh



Our latest ‘Runner Profile’ is an athlete that I personally have a lot of respect for, Francis Marsh; since I got into running, the North Down AC man has always been there or there abouts at the front of the field, be it on the roads, cross country or on the track.

Aside from his own running, Francis puts a lot of his time into coaching many of the North Down AC athletes, who have also achieved great success.  Reading through his profile, it’s easy to see where Francis got his inspiration and motivation to run and coach from.  Please take a few moments to have a read…

Full Name:  Francis Marsh

Current Category:  Male Vet45

Associated Club:  North Down AC (Athletics NI & Athletics Ireland) and Herne Hill Harriers (UKA 1st claim)

Personal Bests:  800m – 1:58, 1500m – 3:58, 3000m – 8:46, 5000m – 15:26, 2k Steeplechase – 6:12, 3k Steeplechase – 9:53, 10k – 31:59, Half Marathon – 1:12:58, Marathon – 2:41:00

What is your favourite Northern Ireland event?  It has to be a dead heat between Seeley 10k and Armagh International road races.  Seeley because it’s the premier 10k, usually a good field and fast; Armagh for bringing in top quality athletes from far afield, something for the younger age groups, and after race refreshments and chat at Crozier Hall.

When did you start running?  I enjoyed running at primary school but started training at 11 years old at school, joined Herne Hill Harriers at the age of 12. Our school had a strong cross country and athletics heritage with a PE teacher being heavily involved in the British Milers Club (Mike Dunphy, who is still coaching).  I trained at Crystal Palace to begin with and watched all the big meets in the 1979-1983 era; so seeing Walker, Coe, Ovett, Rono, Cram, Elliott etc was inspiring to keep training and racing track middle distance.

Why do you run?  Olympics on TV sparked my interest in primary school and I wanted to have a go a track running once I got to secondary school.  Now I run to stay healthy, keep up with the training group and satisfy that competitive streak still remaining.

You are an athlete who competes on the roads, over cross country and on the track, and always seem to be able to perform well on all three; what do you put this down too?  I wouldn’t agree totally as I struggle in deep mud and rough terrain!……. but for the most part some consistency is there because I’ve always raced fairly regularly on all surfaces and distances – adjusting training to suit the demands of the race season.

Do you have a preference out of the three terrains (road, cross country and track)?  I like all three, but don’t like really boggy cross-country – e.g. the ‘farmers field’ at the Antrim XC.

What is your next race and what do you want from it?  My races tend to be linked up with meets that the athletes I coach are at so next ones are:  Sunday 20th October 2013 – Gerry Farnham XC:  I will try to enjoy this race which I’ve never done before.  Treat as a XC opener, but don’t want too many M45’s beating me! and Saturday 26th October 2013 – Bobby Rea XC:  This will be an enjoyable but hard run race and I will be aiming to help the North Down team out.

What is your favourite training ‘session’?  Fartlek on mixed terrain, 2 pyramid sets of 20’s to 75’s to 20’s efforts with same recovery during spring – gets the lungs bursting!

Speaking of training, you coach many of the North Down AC athletes we know and I know that you enjoy the coaching side of running.  Can you explain why this is so important to you?  When I’ve taken so much from a sport that relies on volunteers then I ought give something back – so coaching is it for me and I enjoy it!

As a coach, is there any hints or tips you could offer to our followers in relation to progressing and achieving personal bests?  Build up any change in training gradually (be it volume, intensity, speed, strength work, running surface or gradient).  Have a structured training plan, e.g. a Frank Horwill 5 – pace philosophy whereby a 10 – 14 day training cycle for a 10k specialist might include sessions at: 2 paces below race pace, race pace and 2 paces above race pace, such as 3k, 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon paces (plus enough pure speed if you want to out-kick Mo!).  Be flexible to drop or reduce training from planned when tired/sore/ill and don’t stick blindly to a schedule (feedback how things are going and adjust).  Include rest, strength & conditioning, drills to improve form and co-ordination, stretching, good nutrition, flexibility and general maintenance (e.g. massage) in the plan – all those factors will influence your personal best…… running alone will not get you there.  Look up the many articles written by the late Frank Horwill.

What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals?  Pre-race: Homemade smoothie, fresh pancake or porridge with nuts and raisins, plus a latte.  Post-race: banana, apple and flapjacks straight after, once home: chilli chicken and rice!

What would you consider to be your greatest achievement in running?  Fairly mediocre, eventually winning the NI & Ulster Junior XC in 2004 after several attempts. Also, 6:12 for 2k Steeplechase at 18 years old in UK U20 championships.

What is your running ambition?  My ambitions are generally on the coaching front but going to give sub 2:40 marathon another shot in London next April (2014).  Warming up with the Bath Half Marathon on 2nd March 2014.

Outside running are there any other sports do you like?  Big fan of professional cycling and ride a road bike occasionally to work, for cross-training and instead of running when I’m carrying too many niggles (which is often at my age!).  I’m looking forward to the Giro coming to Belfast.