Extended Q&A: Steve Way

He used to be a smoker and weigh over 16 stone, but now he’s representing England in the Commonwealth Games. He still likes a beer, though.


by Sam Murphy

Steve Way came to public attention in 2010 as a result of his transformation from overweight smoker to sub-2.20 marathon runner. But four years on, the 40-year-old has left the ‘fat boy made good’ story far behind. He ran a Commonwealth Games-qualifying PB of 2:16:27 at this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon and three weeks later he broke the British Road 100K record by almost five minutes. RW caught up with him ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

How does it feel to be running for England in the Commonwealth Games?

Unreal. Having been ‘stuck’ as a 2:19 marathon runner for a number of years, I hadn't spent much time considering what would happen if I got the sub-2:17 qualifying time. I still couldn’t quite believe I had a slot on the team until the official selection announcement came through. 

And then there was that British Road 100K record…

Another shock! Having managed a 6:40 100K at my debut, in Stockholm last year, and knowing the record was 6:24, it was in the back of my mind to target the record at some point, but I expected it to take longer than my second go. I appear to be more competitive as the distance gets longer. I'm never going to be world class at the marathon, but I have a real shot at being competitive at a world level in the 100K.

How did you start running?

Until I was 33, I only ever ran in an attempt to lose weight. I’d go on a diet, train for a week or two and enter random local races. I never kept it up, but I learned that I could run continuously for pretty much as long as I wanted. At first I didn’t grasp how significant that was. In 2007, I ran a 1:42 half marathon, when I weighed 16 stone and had done almost no training. After that, running started to turn from a means of sporadic exercise to a competitive sport. I decided to target a sub-3:00 marathon at London in 2008 and comfortably ran 2:35. I joined a club after that.

How has your wife coped with your transformation?

Sarah is ridiculously understanding – she often gets more excited about my running than I do. She isn't a runner herself, but I'd be lying if I said that running isn't the single most influential aspect of our lives now – it shapes and dictates a lot of our day-to-day activities, including our diets, bedtime and even where we go on holiday…Sarah has a well-paid, demanding career, so I try to do my fair share around the house. I often do cook the evening meal, mainly because I’m so starving after my run that I can’t wait any longer!

Does running ever feel like a bind?

Sometimes. Not so much when training is going well and I feel awesome, but if things aren’t going so great, it can be a struggle. I have that fight with myself when the alarm goes off – the ‘can’t-be-arsed’ Steve versus ‘marathon’ Steve.

I’m just slightly better at winning now!

How do you fit training around a full-time job?

I now have a nine-to-five job, which provides me with a structured day to base my training around. I do my first run of the day either before work or at lunchtime, and my main run straight after work. Then I go home and do my core and strength routine before dinner. Getting the right job, with minimal stress and fixed hours, has been a key factor in my success. If I was still in my old IT job, when I might have had to get up and fix a server in the middle of the night, I think I would have come a cropper.

What’s the appeal of sharing your running journey online?

Getting feedback on my blog [steveway.co.uk] that I have inspired others to try that little bit harder with their own training makes it all worthwhile. I try to be open and honest about my training and my approach to races, giving as much detail as possible, because that is what I would want from other athletes’ blogs.

Why are you self-coached?

For me, that's part of the journey and I wouldn't want to give up complete control of my training to someone else. Initially, a lot of my information came from books, athletes’ blogs, online articles and forums. I also gained invaluable knowledge through becoming friends with Liz and Martin Yelling. These days most of my information gathering comes from my own training: seeing how my body responds and adapts to certain sessions and using that to determine my plans.

You are known for your unorthodox approach to training. Could other runners benefit from more experimentation?

I think all runners could – whatever their level. We tend to play it safe and don't deviate enough from training plans that we know work to a certain degree. For runners of a high standard there is more risk in trying different training plans, as almost all races are important – but in the long run, finding out what really works for you rather than just following the norm will pay dividends. 

Do you still watch your diet?

I’m pretty good most of the time. I graze a lot on fruit. Up until London 2014, my post-race routine was to go to the pub for a few Stellas and to smoke a cigar. This year was slightly different, as I was doing the 100K three weeks later. I had to behave like a proper athlete, and have pasta and recovery shakes. But after the 100K, I had a few beers and lots of BBQ food. I allowed myself one naughty day before getting back on it. I’m sure that there’ll be some beers and takeaways after the Commonwealth Games. 

How do you relax?

I’m quite lazy when I’m not running – I’m always so knackered. Sarah and I are film buffs, so a trip to the cinema is always good. Pubs and clubs can be tricky when you aren’t drinking and have limited eating options. We also love a walk along the seafront with our two spaniels. We have a hot tub on the deck of our new house – the thought of getting in there after my long run helps to keep me going.

How has running changed you?

I’m more enthusiastic and passionate about life now – I enjoy it more. When you’re a couch potato, you tend to lack that energy. I would guess that I’m a slightly nicer person to be around these days – hopefully!

What comes after the Commonwealth Games?

I have a 90K trail race planned for the end of August in Sweden – my first attempt at a trail ultra. Then the World 100K Champs in Doha in November, the London Marathon in 2015 – my first year as a Vet 40 – and then, hopefully, the Comrades Marathon.

What words of wisdom would you offer new runners?

Running rewards hard work and commitment. It doesn't matter what your starting level of fitness or natural ability is; if you put in the training you will see massive improvements in terms of general fitness and performance. The key to success is consistency, so stick at it.


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