The U.K.’s Tom Owens returns to UTMB having finished fourth at the most recent running of UTMB in 2019. In the following interview, Tom talks about how he likely wouldn’t have run UTMB in 2020, how he’s coming back from surgery late last year, and how he’s happy to still be running after more than 20 years in the sport.
Tom Owens Pre-2021 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Tom Owens before the 2021 UTMB. How are you, Tom?
Tom Owens: Yep. Very good, Bryon. Thanks, yeah.
iRunFar: The last time we chatted you had finished fourth at UTMB. How has that memory come together over time?
Owens: Well, it seems a long time ago now. Being back here in Chamonix, it brings back all the memories actually, so yeah. Lots happened in those two years but yeah, it’s exciting to be back, back here again.
iRunFar: You had in the three sequence, sequential years for UTMB. You’d run CCC, TDS, UTMB, correct?
Owens: Yeah, yeah. It was quite a logical build up. They didn’t all go to plan but I learned a lot and, yes, over the years kind of been building up the distances.
iRunFar: And now you’re staying at the 170-kilometer distance. Why? I mean in the sense that you’ve had lots of success in not only shorter ultramarathons but short trail racing, and fell racing, so what brings, keeps you up here?
Owens: Yeah, well I guess it’s been a couple of years. I certainly wouldn’t [have] been ready last year, I don’t think, to do that distance. It’s kind of, I needed to get myself together. And then I had this ankle surgery on the ruptured peroneal tendon in December last year, so I’m kind of coming back from that, eight months on. Actually the kind of slower running is good for me.
Owens: Yeah. It will still go quickly I know, but at least over that kind of distance you don’t need to throw yourself down every descent like you would in a shorter race, so I think that might play into my hands a little bit.
iRunFar: And that was a planned surgery.
Owens: It was, yeah. It was the tendon was bad for three, three years or so and it got to the point where it just needed doing if I was to run again, and with winter and COVID, it just, I just managed to get in the window when the hospital was doing some operations, and I’m really glad I did because it was quite a big surgery in the end.
iRunFar: And you had the knowledge of having gone through the same surgery on the other ankle some years before.
Owens: [laughs] Yeah. So I’m a couple of tendons less now. But the other side was in 2013. It wasn’t such a big kind of rupture tear on that side, but it came back. And it takes a long time to get confidence back. So I’m kind of going through that process now but it’s just going to be running.
iRunFar: Sounds like it was pretty good timing for you with having sort of a break, a natural break in the race schedule with COVID shutting a lot of things down.
Owens: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, no, it couldn’t have been a better time. And I’ve been able to slowly kind of get back to it, learn to run again, and just get better, you know, with every, every run is quite exciting. From being really quite scared of running on the trails and downhill to kind of enjoying it again.
iRunFar: So that probably means you’re not overtraining heading into the race?
Owens: No, it’s, it’s been really quiet. I guess the last six weeks, I’ve started to do real hill runs and yeah, so it’s been a really condensed block, but that could be okay.
iRunFar: You feel strong?
Owens: Um, yeah I feel okay actually. I feel quite good going uphill. And as I say it’s just the confidence on the descents. Feel quite well rested.
iRunFar: Which is not to be understated or underrated, right?
Owens: Yeah. But I mean I’m just happy to be on the start line. That’s my victory.
iRunFar: How long, how many decades have you been running? Or how many years?
iRunFar: Like you have a base that you can, you can pull from.
Owens: I think this is probably this is the 13th or 14th year running for Solomon. So I’ve been running, yeah, since I mean I started quite late but yeah I’ve been racing for a long time now. Twenty years or so.
iRunFar: I probably met you that first season you were running with Solomon. You and Andy [Symonds] over at TransRockies.
Owens: That’s right, in 2008. Yeah. Really happy memories and you know, I’m just so happy to be running still.
iRunFar: And running well.
Owens: Yeah, running well. I mean I’m probably not at my best at the minute, but you know. I’m moving okay.
iRunFar: Do you think you’ll kind of go out, like what will your game plan going into this kind of, with a much different training block than previously.
Owens: Yeah, I’ll just have to be really canny and sensible. I just have so much respect for the distance. I want to, want to get around. That’s my number one objective. That will be so great if I can do that with everything. So, yeah, and for sure when I did the UTMB a couple of years ago, I started off reasonably conservative and it played into my hands. You know, there were a lot of kind of collapsed bodies on the trail and battered quads early on so I’m going on just go on a sensible start.
iRunFar: Could going out even more conservatively potentially even pay off more? Like the year that Ludovic Pommeret had stomach problems early on and then won the race.
Owens: Yeah, that’s incredible. And yeah, I mean that’s the thing I guess I’ve learned with these longer ones that you can, you can really have, you know, you can come back so strong and get like a second wave and a third wave. So, yeah certainly not going to give up. Keep moving.
iRunFar: Well, I hope you can enjoy running out there now that you’re all fixed up and yeah, good luck.
Owens: Thanks very much. Cheers.