Other Sport / running

Meet Bristol ultra-jogger, Andy Persson

By hannah hier, Tuesday Jun 25, 2019

Keen jogger, father of three and fundraising fanatic Andy Persson is undertaking a charity run. It’s not his first but this time he’s setting himself an a bigger challenge than ever before, attempting 630 miles along the South West Coast Path in just 12 days.

Andy has previously ran the length of the River Thames, running a marathon per day for a week. He’s also run from John O’Groats to Lands End in just 17 days.

Andy has always fundraised for FRANK Water, a Bristol-based charity that funds safe and clean drinking water for some of the most marginalised communities in the world, and over the years he has raised £25,866 for the organisation.

Father of three and ultra-jogger Andy Persson

Have you always been into running or has it been a more recent passion of yours?

Ten years ago I did my first marathon, which was a coastal half marathon down in Cornwall. I did it with a bunch of friends and really enjoyed it, so I’ve just gradually done more and more since then.

Leading on from that, what inspired you to start running from the beginning? 

It was a friend who got me into it originally. He did the Mont Blanc marathon and came back from that very excited and got about five or six of us to run this half marathon in Cornwall.

I had another friend who did 15 marathons in 15 days, he wasn’t particularly running much beforehand. Just seeing other people do runs and challenges inspires me and that’s what got me into thinking maybe I could have a go at that.

Back in 2016 you ran from John O’Groats to Lands End in just 17 days, how did you feel after completing that challenge?

It was great, I loved it. I was doing about two marathons a day, the whole experience was a real highlight for me. Apart from in the middle where I had a bit of a dip, I had an injury right on day nine, so there was a couple of days that were quite difficult but I seemed to come through that and felt great by the end.

Why did you chose to fundraise for FRANK Water?

Well the first run I did was running along the River Thames so it seemed to be quite good to link it to water, particularly because I did a volunteer project a number of years ago living out in a mountain village in Bolivia where they only had four taps.

I saw first hand what life was like without the water we take for granted here. So I thought it would be good to do something to raise money for a charity and looked into FRANK Water which was a local charity and have been really impressed with the way they work.

I hear your brother is going to be involved with the run this time.

Yeah he’s got a camper van so he’ll be driving and meeting me every eight or ten miles, giving me a chance to fill up my water and get any food I need. Then we’ll stop each night and aim for about four or five hours sleep and then get going again.

What do you think will be the most challenging part of this specific run? 

The challenging part of this one is balancing the amount of sleep and rest time to running time. I’ll probably be running about 15-18 hours each day.

When I did the John O’Groats to Land’s End run that was an organised race, although after a few days I ended up being the only person doing it, it was a set distance each time, about 50 miles. I was put up in a Travelodge whereas this one I’m going to have to work out when to stop, when to rest and when to get going again.

I did a race last year in Sweden, which was a 355 miles long, which was actually the first time I’ve had to manage sleep – in terms of working out how much sleep to get. If you don’t get enough sleep it’ll really affect the next day.

What I discovered when I was running in Sweden was that you need to be getting a good four hours of sleep each night because I was getting about two hours of sleep each night which was fine for the first three or four days but then I had a big crash.

Andy’s John O’Groats to Lands End run back in 2016

How have you been preparing for your 630 mile run, taking experience from the other runs you have completed?

Just lots of running really. My training is a lot of gentle running, I don’t do much speed work it’s more about the mileage. Then in terms of preparation I have to get all the logistics right: working out the routes and all the key stops, where were going to meet and getting the right nutrients for the run.

What would you say is your favorite place to run in Bristol?

I tend to be a creature of habit, I have fairly fixed routes. I’ll do over Purdown and then down through the Frome Valley as a regular run. I’ll run around The Downs and I do a lot of hill training so I’ll go up and down Bridge Valley Road. As crazy as it sounds I find the repetitive up and down quite good for me. Frome Valley has to got to be my favorite though.

What do you enjoy most about running?

It’s hard to sum it up really because there so many things about running that I enjoy. I don’t know if I’m addicted but I do absolutely love running. It’s a mix of things like the fact that I’m in my mid 50’s now and running makes me a little healthier than I was 20 years ago.

I also really like the social aspect of running as there is a great community spirit. I like the whole mental wellbeing side, it’s really good getting out and spending time in the outdoors. It’s almost like a meditation each day.

Would you recommend running as a form of relaxing?

Yes, I really would. In fact I am currently studying for a counselling degree and the reason for that is I want to try and mix the counselling with running because I am a very strong advocate for the running and a better mental wellbeing link. I’m happy to set up a combined running and counselling service.

What do your three children think of you doing this run?

I think they’ve just sort of learnt to tolerate it, but honestly yeah they are super proud. For the big runs they were all very supportive. I think it was quite good getting into running later on, because they were in their teen years when I started so it wasn’t affecting family life that much.

I figured out that I could do a five to six hour run, come back and they weren’t out of bed yet. All three of my daughters have done a 10K but at the moment that’s as far as they will go.

Lastly, are you planning any more runs for the future? 

Yes I’m always looking at the next thing. I did a run in Ireland in February called Last One Standingwhere you had to do a four point two mile loop on the hour, every hour and you just keep going until everyone’s dropped out, the last person running being the winner.

I came second in that and they have a World Championship in Nashville, Tennessee in October so after finishing this 630 mile run I will be looking forward to that hopefully getting confirmation to do that.

To keep up-to-date with Andy’s runs and adventures you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using the handle @andyontherun or donate here uk.virginmoneygiving.com/swcp

Read more: Interview: Nick Butter

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