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Thomas Watson

Editor-in-Chief + Founder
UESCA Running Coach + Stage Race fanatic

Meet Thomas!

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner and UESCA-certified running coach, as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of MarathonHandbook.com.

His work has been featured in Runner’s World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications.

He likes running interesting races in weird places (he even wrote a how-to book for week-long self-supported races), and playing with his two tiny kids in his home outside of Madrid, Spain…though he’s quick to remind everyone that he’s a proud Scot.

A beautiful click of a marathon runner during race

How long have you been running?

It’s coming up for 20 years. 

I picked up recreational running while at University, as a nice way to disconnect and get some fresh air after a day in lectures and libraries.

I found I really liked pushing my run length, and covering significant distances purely on foot gave me a buzz that I’ve still got within me.

Your PRs (that you’re willing to share):

I’m unashamedly slow – at least compared to most of the people on our team – and am uncompetitive … more of a long-distance, low-gear kinda guy.

My fastest 5k is 19:36.

My fastest half marathon is 1:28.

My fastest city marathon – I don’t do many of those – is 3hrs 26mins (Mumbai 2016). I was all trained up to go sub 3-hrs in 2021, then got ill on the week of my race.

I guess my proudest PR is going sub 11hrs for a 100k run I did around our neighborhood in the heights of COVID.

Favorite running or racing memory:

The 250k RacingThePlanet Madagascar race in 2014. 

It was easily the biggest challenge I’d ever bitten off at that point in my life, and I skirted close to dropping out at several points. But I pushed through, and it completely changed my perspective on what I was capable of…and set me on a journey of ultrarunning.

Madagascar Swamp
Racing The Planet: Madagascar 2014 (photo credit: Jeff Grunberg)

Your favorite race you’ve ever done:

I’ve got a deep affinity for stage races – they’re unlike any other footrace. You’ve got to survive for several days and settle in for a long haul.  My favourite ones are usually in the desert or the jungle; you sleep in tents, carry all your food and gear for the week, and just get on with it.

RTP Madagascar 2014 (see above), GlobalLimits Cambodia, or RTP Namibia are three of my best stage race memories.

If you’re ever looking for a cure for insomnia, just ask me to tell you about the virtues of stage racing.  I think everyone should do one. 

In terms of city / road races, I’ve got fond memories of the Mumbai Marathon – I ran it five years in a row and it’s a great route through a unique city.

Your bucket list race:

Completing all 4 Deserts races.

Your typical weekly mileage:

It’s highly variable due to having two tiny kids (I’m sure any parent reading this can sympathise).

I aim for 20 miles to maintain fitness, with some strength training and static bike thrown in.

Random facts about you:

The first time I got on a plane, my appendix burst (mid-way across the Atlantic).

I lived in the Falkland Islands for 3 years, then Mumbai, India for 7 years.

I once did an 8-hr run on a treadmill.

I came 3rd in a 250km footrace, beating the guy who came 4th by 21 seconds.

a marathon man walking in desert in a sunnyday
in Namibia, 2016.

Running shoes and gear of choice:

I cycle through different models and brands, and don’t have a fixed favourite. I tend to alternate between something speedy but light like the Saucony Kinvara, and then will put on something like the Xero Mesa Trail for a minimalist run (R.I.P. New Balance MT00’s!).   

I’ve tried various maximalist and carbon plated shoes, but just never found the groove with them and am wary of a ‘performance enhancer’ that I may grow to rely on.

Do you prefer a hard mile or a slow, long run?

Most days…slow, long run – but you need the hard miles too.  Barbell approach !

What do you listen to when you run?

Podcasts, or nothing.

Trails or road?

Depends where I am in the world – but trails.

marathon runners prize distribution
Run the Rann 101k race – Rann of Kutch. 2016.

What’s your message to new runners?

Signing up for an event is a real motivator. 

Don’t get overwhelmed by shoe hype or overly technical advice, and don’t overthink your running gait – at least to start with. Focus on slowly building distance.