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  • Writer's pictureKarla

Meet the athlete - Matthieu Marshall

I always enjoy chatting to Matthieu when I bump into him at races or with mutual friends. He's really smart and thoughtful, wearing both those qualities quietly. He told me about his training, racing goals and running philosophy.

I work as a data engineer, I run for Southampton AC and I often train with Peter Haynes' athletes there. I tend to just discuss my training plan with my family and friends. I probably should plan more but enjoy it most this way.

My first memory of running as a sport is doing a village fun run with my dad aged 10. I remember hearing about the likes of Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe at the time and becoming fascinated by the sport. I started going to my local athletics club, Oxford City AC, as part of their youth setup and began competing in the local XC league in which I had some success. I’ve just kept going from then on.

I did Bourton 10k at the end of February, which was meant to be a fast course, although rain and wind meant conditions were poor and my time was way off a PB. I'm not sure I was in great form at the time, as before that I also recorded my worst ever finish position in a Hampshire XC League fixture. My last good race was Nos Galan 5k which I did with a few friends on New Year’s Eve. It had a lively atmosphere!

This is my typical training week. When I'm really keen and running a lot, there'll be two easy 3 mile or so double runs in there on a Monday and Wednesday.

Monday - 6 to 8 miles easy

Tuesday - Club training session of either a variation on 5 x 6 minutes with 1-minute recovery on a mixed-terrain route, or something like 5 x (700m, 300m) with 100m walk recovery on the track.

Wednesday - 6 to 8 miles easy

Thursday - hills session, normally 20 minutes of sprint up and jog down a hill

Friday - rest

Saturday - if not racing, another session, something like 5x1k with 90s recovery

Sunday - Long run (more than 10 miles)

My favourite session is probably 12 x 400m with 60s recovery. With only ever one lap to do, I find it easy to motivate myself to hit each lap fairly hard and keep it going throughout the session.

The lockdown has allowed me to get into a good routine of doing my runs in the morning. I'm a morning person, and without the commute, I like getting up and going for a run to start the day. I would also say that without races, I'm not near tapering for anything, so I've enjoyed not worrying about tiring my legs out so much from doing longer runs. Running from home has also felt a bit more repetitive, so I've been exploring different routes a bit more which is fun.

As an under 17, I finished 35th in the English National XC Championships in Alton Towers which is a standout performance for me. It came at a time when I ran some of the McCain National XC League which indicates that competing at a higher level can help you improve and raise your standard of competition (as does training with people of a higher level). I am certainly the kind of competitive runner who is not scared to race, and that is something that I at least benefit from. As a senior, my best performance is my 15:32 5km PB that I ran back in 2017 during a hot streak of PBs. About a kilometre of the course was off-road, but I think the result of that performance was testament to racing alongside someone of a similar ability to me resulting in an evenly paced race.

I remember being disappointed by some cross-country races back in the 2016/17 season which I think were caused by my doing a lot of training on the road and when it came to races I'd be really fatigued by running on the mud and changing pace with the corners and turns of a course. It reminded me there's a good balance to be had between speed work in good conditions and harder off road running that strengthens you physically and mentally too.

My favourite piece of kit is my Garmin Forerunner 735XT, I also previously had the Garmin Forerunner 310XT. Both of these enabled me to create and follow routes on my watch using a breadcrumb trail. This is a useful feature for exploring new routes, when running in new places and has enabled me to be more adventurous in the routes I've run for quite a long time now. (The Soleus watches also have similar functionality).

Once a Runner by John L Parker is a really weird fiction book about a mile runner in the USA in the 1970s. In some senses it is poorly written, but I felt that it was written by someone who understood competitive running and I empathised with more parts of the book than other books about running that I've read.

I'd also like to recommend the poem I run on by Molly Case as a piece of literary work about running. You should be able to find it here -

I don't think I've ever lost my running mojo for a particularly long period time aside from injuries. When I do find myself de-motivated, I like to go back to basics of doing steady off-road runs that are fun and trying to refocus on the enjoyment of it. My friend Steve often talks to me about reminding ourselves that as competitive runners we run times that are broadly impressive and that we can over focus on minutes and seconds that are precise and strict measures for our goals.

I don't follow a special diet, I just try to eat healthy, which I don't always do, but the effort is made. Like many runners, I normally have porridge for breakfast and on important race days make sure to take on plenty of carbs and sugar to give me the energy to race. Lucozade sport or an own-brand equivalent is my favourite for that.

My running philosophy is that I run for three main reasons; adventure, achievement and identity. Running enables me to make friendships, discover new places (local and far) and provides my life with change and variety that we all need through one hobby or another. Running gives me goals to work towards, benchmarks with which to set and measure myself against and a purpose to activities that make up a healthy and active lifestyle. And so, running gives me something to identify with and recognise in others to share experiences with.

I'm not injured at the moment thankfully, being able to get outside at the moment is a joy that I struggle to imagine living without.

This will get longer as I get older, but I think my ideal distance is 10k as that 30 to 40 minute effort is not too far or short for me. It is a distance which is manageable to train for as you don't have to have done too many long runs, and you can do sessions for it that don't last too long so it can fit in around other life commitments. It is also does not take long to recover from afterwards meaning that you can race it often enough. 

I have done Body Balance classes and yoga on and off for quite a few years. I like to think that it strengthens my ankles and legs a bit, as well as some non-specific pre-hab. Aside from that it is largely a nice distraction and a non-impact activity I can occupy myself with when resting, and focus on when injured so that the mental effects of injury are not as severe.

Presuming that normal competition will resume around autumn/winter this year, it is a few years since I did a fast, flat half marathon so that is something that I am intrigued to have a crack at. Over the years I've watched many people do one or two autumn halves before or at the start of the XC season and it is time that I gave it a go. It is a PB that I am confident that I can break.

You can find Matthieu on Instagram @matthieumarshall or on twitter @matthieu_run.

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