Tom Evans continued his trail running ascent in taking third at the 2018 Trail World Championships. In the following interview, Tom talks about how the race played out in its early going, where and why he decided to back off the pace, what he witnessed from more experienced racers, and whether he’s happy with his result.
For more on this year’s race, check out our 2018 Trail World Championships results article.
Tom Evans Post-2018 Trail World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m with Tom Evans. He’s the third-place finisher at the 2018 Trail World Championships. It’s early morning on Sunday. Has it sunk in that you podium-ed at this race yesterday?
Tom Evans: No, not at all. It’s incredibly surreal. I was trying to run through the race last night in my mind, and it’s all just a bit of a blur. I’m just so happy.
iRunFar: It’s also pretty early in the morning still, and the world is wanting to know, have you had a flat white coffee yet?
Evans: Sadly, no. I’m waiting. I’ve been assured there’s a good cafe near the presentation later, so I’m saving it. It’s going to be worth it, I promise.
iRunFar: You said before the race in our interview that you were planning on going hard, and you were going to try to stick it, and you knew very well it might not work out. So I wasn’t surprised when you were near the lead at the start of the race yesterday. Were you surprised, or were you doing what you wanted?
Evans: I had a bit of a shocker at the very start of the race. I was doing some drills and doing some stretches, and it ended up I was the last person to cross the line. I started 100 meters behind. I can’t recommend that, but I might have gotten a Strava segment on the track. The plan was to start hard. I’m better on the flatter stuff, so I knew the first half of the race would suit me slightly better. Then there were a couple flatter sections in the course I was going to work hard at, and then just try and hold my own on the climbs. It went well. Zach [Miller] had a really, really strong first 60k. At the beginning I thought, Right, stay with it. I was wearing a heartrate monitor, and I was just going a little bit too hard. Right, you’ve still got a long way. Back down slightly. For me, that was definitely the right decision. You’ve got to race your own race. Be aware of what other people are doing, but you’ve got to run your own race. Yeah, like we said earlier, by the end of the race, it just felt like I was hardly moving at all. My legs just didn’t want to go. Thankfully there was 4-5k downhill at the end, so you could just use gravity. Yeah, the race went to plan with speeds and efforts. My nutrition was terrible. I just couldn’t eat. But, I’d done a lot of heat-chamber preparation with St. Mary’s University in Twickenham.
iRunFar: Got it in again.
Evans: Good plug. Thanks, St. Mary’s.
iRunFar: Apparently you’re well-trained at dropping them in.
Evans: That helped so much. It didn’t get crazy hot, but it was hot for a half-an-hour to an hour. It just helped so, so much.
iRunFar: I do want to ask about the humidity. It’s a Mediterranean climate here. In the days pre-race it was fairly humid, but then yesterday it seemed there was a weather system of sorts and there was some fog and even higher humidity. You trained here before. Did humidity factor into people’s races do you think?
Evans: Yeah, I think it probably did. People just underestimated how much harder it is to race in it. I was lucky racing in Costa Rica at the beginning of the year with Hayden [Hawks] with all the humidity.
iRunFar: With alllllll the humidity.
Evans: I kind of knew if it was going to be humid what to expect. I’ve raced in the desert and the jungle, and I know what happens to my body when it starts getting hot. I can recognize the signs and then back off if it’s a little bit too much. For me, having that little bit of experience racing in those different environments really played into my hands.
iRunFar: Early in the race, it seemed like Zach Miller was setting the pace, but there were some other guys coming and going and hanging around. Is that actually what was happening? Zach was putting in the effort and people were trying to match it?
Evans: Yeah, I think so. He’s a great runner. He’s definitely one of the favorites going into the race for the non-Europeans or non-Spanish. Yeah, he’s got a great style of racing which I respect so much of just going out hard—sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work. But if you don’t try, you don’t know. It was great he was out there setting the pace. If there was someone who was going to beat the great Luis Alberto Hernando, it was going to be following that race plan—going out hard and getting Luis to chase and chase and chase. I think as soon as Luis Alberto gets you in his sights, he’s going past you.
iRunFar: Like a machine.
Evans: Yeah, it was incredible to see him. He’s one of my role models I look up to. Getting to run with him was incredible.
iRunFar: Can you talk a little about the middle part of the race which was the most dynamic part in the men’s race in that some of the early leaders were starting to slide back and some men were moving forward—that transition between lower country and higher country.
Evans: Yeah, I think just the people with certain strengths, the flatter and faster runners had worked hard at the beginning, and as soon as they got into the hills, they found it a little bit harder. Then the guys who were better on the ups and the downs, that’s when they could be in the race at that point and play on their strengths. It was really interesting seeing people coming and going. I tried to keep my place in and around contending for a medal. I knew there were certain flattish and downhill sections that I was going to work hard on which I did. That sort of allowed me to stay in the game. Then like I said earlier, I was just trying to hold on on the ups, and then with that final 4-5k downhill—that didn’t feel like 4-5k, it felt like 45k—I knew right where I was. I’d done that bit of the course quite a lot because when I got to it in the race, I knew I didn’t want to have to focus on the ground. I just wanted to know where I was and know where I could push and just run it through. I’ve done this in training, It’s easy. The course changed ever so slightly.
Evans: Yeah, it was a little bit different only by a kilometer; they added about a kilometer.
Evans: Longer. All downhill, so it didn’t really matter, and I knew right where I was, so it was alright.
iRunFar: At the end?
Evans: Yes, with 6k to go it changed slightly. They added on a little loop. It was good. My legs felt sort of good at that stage, so I don’t know who’s behind me or how far they are and I can’t see them, so hopefully they’re not going to gain. Yeah, you literally just keep going, and then you get to where you know where you are and you hear the crowd. The crowd and the support yesterday was just amazing in all sorts of places. In all the small towns it was just incredible, and even at some points on the trail where there were people out hiking, they’d sort of stop and cheer you along. Then the finish was just incredible—loads of people from the other races hung around to watch us finish which was incredibly special. Crossing the line with the G.B. flag was just… a lot of hard work and training and racing and a lot of sacrifices… it all makes it worth it.
iRunFar: Great transition with the mention of the GB flag—Team GB had a heck of a day!
Evans: Yeah, the guys did incredibly well. We’re really fortunate in the U.K. where we’re really starting to emerge as a good ultrarunning contending country which is great. The people were pushing each other the whole time. We managed to put a second. I think in the iRunFar preview before, it was Spain and France for one and two and U.S. and the U.K. for three and four, and yeah, we had the guys just did so, so well. I’m incredibly fortunate to be part of such a great team, such a strong team, but also, we’re all really close. The U.K. is not a big country, and the furthest away you live is a six-hour drive, which for us, we think that’s a very long way. I hate driving. An hour in the car, that’s mean. You see each other at races and everything which is so nice. We all know each other, and we’re all really close. There’s that real team spirit in the G.B. camp which is amazing. Long may it continue and keep getting stronger so we can really start to compete at the world championships and try and get a gold.
iRunFar: I don’t think you can say, “really start to compete at the world championships.” You guys competed just fine yesterday.
Evans: Yeah, it’s incredible what the guys did. It’s not just the guys running. It’s friends and family that have supported the training and the coaches and managers that have come out here with us and all the support from them. The easy job is just doing the running. Well, it’s not that easy. I didn’t find it easy. Yeah, we’re incredibly lucky, and we have some brilliant folks being superb and supporting us, so bring on next year.
iRunFar: Last question—your runs up until this weekend have been strong runs, but this run, I think, your performance was on another level. What’s going on in your head right now? Has it sunk in, I just finished on the podium at the Trail World Championships? What do you want to do next?
Evans: I want a flat white.
iRunFar: Or maybe three of them.
Evans: Or three.
iRunFar: I also hear you weaned yourself off of caffeine prior to the race?
Evans: Yeah, I haven’t had a coffee for three weeks now.
iRunFar: I can see your focus and drive. You’re going to apply it now to coffee.
Evans: Yeah, first things first—coffee. I’ll take a bit of time to recover and reflect on the race. Then my next big race for this year is CCC. Again. Everything is aiming… everything I do in the build-up—I’m actually racing in the long mountain world championships in six weeks in Poland for G.B. again. That’s the first time I’ve ever run that sort of distance. It will be really interesting seeing how the training goes for that. Yeah, I think I’ve got a couple questions to answer as I sit down with my coach, Allison Benton, and see where the future goes. It’s exciting. Like I said, this is my third mountain race. So, I’m really looking forward to getting some more experience and seeing what I can do.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your bronze-medal performance at the Trail World Championships. See you at CCC.
Evans: Thank you very much. Perfect. See you at CCC. Thanks very much, Meghan.
iRunFar: Well done.