Introducing an endurance and fundraising extraordinaire, Bryce Alford

I remember it (fairly) well. May 9, 2016. I was running…

I remember it (fairly) well. May 9, 2016. I was running along Al Qudra Road, seeing camels and just desert sand everywhere. It was the 2016 edition of Wings for Life – you know, that race when you run as far as your legs can take you until a Catcher Car, sounding horns and blaring music, gets you and overtakes – forcing you to drop out of the event.

An hour or so before that happened to me at around the 22km marker, I remember bumping into a fellow runner at a drinks station. His name was Bryce Alford. There we were, both out in blistering heat. It was comfortably 40 degrees Celsius and then add some given the reflection of the sun on the tarmac. We had good conversation (my mind was too frazzled to remember what was said) and he kicked on ahead of me that day.

So, as such, upon launching this website, I wanted to speak to a fellow runner who could not only offer great running insight, but to me epitomises great levels of endurance, mental strength, experience and a passion for helping beginners start up and run. It was, therefore, a no-brainer to turn to Bryce for this interview.

I enjoy running chat, love it in fact. Some may say that’s pretty geeky but I don’t care. I was looking forward to talking about the sport with Bryce as I connected up via Skype and sunk a large soy latte in Starbucks in the process. In case you didn’t know, the now Jersey-based runner, who himself enjoyed a fulfilling stint living in Dubai, is the man behind the popular Facebook Group: Running Genius. With close to 1,000 members from all over the world; the UAE, Germany, India…literally everywhere…it connects people with the shared passion of running. I’m part of it myself and receive runners’ notifications the world-over, so I can testify.

“It’s great to see what people are doing and how their running is going,” Bryce, who somehow finds the time to operate it along with his other commitments, tells me. “Some members have just started running while others are preparing for marathons, so it’s a real mix. There’s families, too. It’s absolutely brilliant and I think with running it’s great to be part of something, whether it’s running with other people as a group – which I prefer – or sharing your progress and updates as an individual. The inspirational aspect is so important.”

Bryce pictured descending Wadi Ghalilah after reaching the top of the 15km vertical race first.

Marathon running is obviously a passion of Bryce’s. When you think about it, there’s so much running advice out there (perhaps too much), but still, many unanswered questions or answers that are not easily digestible for the masses. My website, I hope, can plug some of that gap as did Bryce’s response when recalling the best piece of marathon advice he’d ever received. Certainly, his words are more relevant than most things you’ll hear out there.

He said: “When it comes to running 26.2 miles, don’t expect to get to the finishing line in a strong state or nailing your dream time if you haven’t done significant training in terms of volume. During marathon training, you need to condition your body to surpass the 18-mile marker and become used to the sensation of running beyond that point.

“Realistically, for most runners out there, you want to be racking up that distance at least twice in training and it doesn’t matter so much about the time in which you are covering that distance, just put the miles in. If you don’t, sadly you will fall short.

“What you’re doing is building up your confidence and tolerance to the distance. If you don’t, your pace will soon deteriorate. It’s all about respecting a marathon for what it is.”

Indeed, the value and significance of the long run in marathon training is often under-cooked. It’s arguably the most important ingredient and as Bryce goes on to say, it can be a part of your programme which you split up and doesn’t necessarily have to be completed at one juncture. For example, 10 miles in the morning, 10 in the evening. Certainly, adopting a long run strategy of this type is ideal if you’re targeting a first four-hour marathon.

“It’s okay to split up your runs and build your conditioning slowly, don’t worry too much about clock-watching. In fact, I think over-analysing your training runs is a bad thing. It’s okay to build in stops, drinks breaks and walk at stops during a marathon run. Do what you have practised in training and what works for you.”

As part of his running experience over big distances, he also advises new runners through his Running Genius Absolute Beginners guide to running – an area of the sport in which he is extremely passionate about.

“There are many beginners’ apps and products out there but what they don’t cover is the mental and emotional side of running. I think it’s a big area to focus on,” he said.

“My big tip to any beginner is that if you’re looking at starting and following a programme, avoid those tutorials that advise you should do, for instance, three runs per week. Instead, two is ideal. Twice-weekly activities might mean you take a bit longer to reach your overall target but you are far more likely to succeed without injuries and build a sustainable training environment moving forward.”

Run with a smile: Bryce (just the) four hours into his 24-hour charity challenge.

Recently, Bryce tells me glowingly about his new job, but it’s not just any old role, in fact – he’s landed his dream position. He’s now Fundraising Manager for Headway Jersey Brain Injury Charity and this job, if you like, serves as the backbone for all his running commitments and aspirations moving forward.

Indeed, looking ahead, Bryce has many challenges up his sleeve.

“To do the Everest Marathon would combine two great things in the sense I’d be running and visiting one of the world’s most inspiring places, so that would be a bucket list event to do,” he tells me enthusiastically, a run that will hopefully come to fruition in the near future.

For most, a challenge of that magnitude is hard to comprehend (quite rightly). But, I look forward to receiving a picture one day of Bryce atop of the world’s biggest marathon climb (8,848m).

I’m confident about that because he is no stranger to extreme events and putting his body through the ringer. Back in November 2015, he ran continuously for 24 hours – yes a whole day – around Les Quennevais Cycle track in Jersey to raise vital funds for charity Words and Numbers Matter. 122 miles and 130 laps later, ran mostly in darkness given the time of the year (it was bloody cold I bet, too), his ultra-running achievement would have placed him among the top 45 runners, aged 45 or over, in the world for that distance.

On top of that, Bryce is also a two-time Guinness World Record Holder having completed 50 miles and then 100kms on a treadmill, on two different occasions. Quite rightly, he doesn’t want to give anything away but is planning to re-write the record books again in the future. A case of watch this space.

Until then, plans are in place to make sure our running paths cross again soon.

Thanks Bryce and see you soon.