Athlete Feature: Andy Davies
They say age is just a number, and in Andy Davies case, this is certainly true. In fact, you could go as far as saying that Andy is a fine wine, continually getting better and better with age. And now, two years into the V40 category, having recently run another marathon personal best of 2:14:20, he’s acheived the standard to be nominated for what could be his third Commonwealth Games.
If you go back through Power of Ten, Andy’s first recorded event in 2005, is a solid, yet unremarkable, 16:30 5km, for the now Welsh and Great Britain International. But if ask the man himself he tells you it all started far before then, and with some international honours too boot.
‘I started running, doing cross country when I was in primary school and it went pretty well. Then in my early teens, I started doing fell running, before getting my first Welsh vest in 1994 at the World Mountain Running Championships. I also won the Welsh Schools Cross Country Championships’.
It is no surprise that Andy quicky got into fell and mountain running, having grown up in Mid Wales. His Instagram handle ‘trailrunningandy’ further exemplifies his early days involvement in the sport. It was not until 2006, a year after that 16:30 5km, that he 'dabbled' in his first marathon.
‘I started marathon running in 2006 went I travelling around the world. I was hoping to sign up for one, but the races didn’t line up with the travel plans, but when I was in Sydney, I found that the Christchurch Marathon, in New Zealand, was in just three weeks time. So I headed up to the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney and did some long runs’.
He says he was ‘happy to get around in 2:52’ – a time he has bettered considerably since then. ‘I didn’t have a clue how I would get on, but I have done marathons ever since, so 17 years in a row now’.
I think it is fair to say that aside from the ‘marathon bug’, Andy also continued his worldwide travels, racing all around the world.
[Australia (1), Germany (1), England (10), Scotland (2), Spain (3), Italy (1), New Zealand (1), Norway (1), Czech Rep (1), Ireland (1), N. Ireland (1), Wales (1), Netherlands (1), USA (1)] - all the locations Andy has raced a marathon!
And now, residing in Newtown, teaching at the Newtown college on the Sports & Public Services, he fits his training around his work schedule - although he is quick to note how supportive his colleagues are in facilitating his training and racing abroad. But what does the training of a record breaking 42 year old male look like!?
‘My training is pretty simple really. My coach Steve Vernon lives near Stockport so he sends my plan over every Sunday and I just go out and do what he says!’
It seems to be a coaching set up that works pretty well!
‘ Due to the nature of my work, I run on my own as I need to do my running when I get home. I live in a beautiful part of the world, where I am able to run down a canal and river path everyday, or in the winter I run into Newtown’.
Unsurprisingly for ‘trailrunningandy’ he says ‘in the summer, I can get into the hills which I love’.
Andy is quick to thank us for asking him about his passions outside of running too, I think highlighting his personality.
‘Outside of running, I have many interests. Normally on running chats, people never ask me about this, so it is nice I get the opportunity!’
He apologises to us in advance for potentially boring us, but we're fascinated!
‘One of my main interests for me is nature! I’m a big fan of the curlew and can’t wait for their arrival on the hills of mid Wales so I can track them down. So I do like my bird watching, although I’m still not very good, but hopefully I’ll get there one day! I also like conservation and restoring habitats to how they should be. I have just signed up to volunteer for the Montogomershire Wildlife Trust, so I can’t wait to get started with that. I get a huge boost when I hear certain species numbers are boosting back due to habitat restoration’.
It is safe to say that Andy has many strings to his bow, but his biggest flex for the most immediate future may well be the possibility of participating in his third Commonwealth Games. And it is thanks to his most recent marathon personal best and British V40 Marathon record of 2:14:20 at the Seville Marathon a couple of weeks ago that has provided him with this opportunity. He had a game plan going in, but it is safe to say he surpassed that! When he isn’t out in nature though, Andy enjoys ‘Indie’ music. ‘
I like going to gigs and music concerts. I do like my indie music! My favourite bands are the View, Pulp and Ocean Colour Scene. I also love travelling around the world and running certainly helps with that. My favourite countries are Bolivia and Cambodia’.
‘So, before the Seville Marathon, the goal was 2:15:30, just to get that Welsh standard. I knew after Kew Gardens and the London Marathon that I should be able to do it if the conditions were good. London was windy, twice, and I’d just missed the time I needed. I ran up to 20 miles in Seville at 2:15 pace so I knew I was about 30 seconds under the qualifying time, but I felt good at 20 miles so I just went for it!’
Gingerly stating ‘what could go wrong in the last 6 miles’, Andy recognised it was a bit of a risk, but they do say, if you never try, you will never know!
‘I suppose it was a bit of a risk, but I usually finish strong in a marathon, so I was delighted with how the last 6 miles went. I was even more shocked that my 26th mile was 4:54! So, I was over the moon to get my time, and also the European qualifying standard too’.
And as for the conditions?
‘The conditions on the day were fantastic, there was a little breeze but nothing that effected the running. Apparently it got quite warm towards the end, but I didn’t feel this. The competition was unbelievable, I knew going to Seville there would be a group to run with around the pace I was looking for. At some marathons you can be quite isolated and have to run on your own for a long way, so I was happy that 10 of us created a group and just ticked along nicely. The course is the fattest in Europe too, so I knew it was a good one to do!’
We cheekily asked Andy whether he considered himself as a Vet athlete these days, as we know this can be a sensitive subject for some people! But Andy embraces it, and so he rightly should! In fact, I think the disruption due to COVID over the past couple of years have put his participation in Vet races on hold!
‘I do kind of see myself as a Vet, I can’t ignore I am old now! It’s great that I’m still competing with the youngster speedsters and the competition is amazing in the UK. I suppose as there are so many good vets out there, the competition is great. Since turning a vet, COVID hit nearly straight away so I haven’t really had the opportunity to race in the vet races yet, which is something I am looking forward to doing soon. The main target I had at the Valencia Marathon in 2019 was to get the vet marathon record and I had been planning that for quite a while, so it was a big target for me! I think all the other vet records were unattainable really, so I just focused on the marathon’.
It looks like the focus on the marathon specific record paid off, as he ran 2:14:36 at that marathon, which until a couple of weeks was his personal best! It looks like he might have some new vet 40 competition soon though, but I think Andy is ready!
‘Chris Thompson has just turned 40 now, so I have just got to wait and see how long my record lasts!’
Something tells me that this won’t be his last personal best though, and these age group records (and battles) might just be starting to hot up!
And where better to set a new one than on the streets of Birmingham on July 30th.
‘The games in Birmingham will be fantastic. It is so exciting just to be around the village and seeing all these amazing athletes everywhere, it is such a buzz! Being from mid Wales, Birmingham is just down the road from me so it will feel quite local. I am not taking anything for granted though, as I am waiting until the team is officially announce before I start getting really excited! When I was younger, I never expected to go to one, so to get to three would be unbelievable’.
A vet by age, and arguably a veteran when it comes the Commonwealth Games too, Andy has plenty of experience as to what it takes to get the best out of yourself on the day.
‘Having been to previous games, I think one of the things I will take into this is to run my own race and not get carried away early on. This put me in good stead in Australia as I was able to finish fairly strong. Being an experienced runner now, I am able to stay clam before the event and take it as any other race. I think a top 8 finish would be realistic and I think if the course and weather is fairly reasonable, a sub 2:15 is possible too’.
It is an exciting time for Andy, with lots of exciting and potentially record breaking races on the horizon! As for what is up next, Andy says he will need to have a sit down with his coach.
'We had nothing planned previously, as we were waiting to see what happened at Seville. I’ll be doing Welshpool 10km at the end of March but that’s all I know so far!’
I am sure that whatever is next for Andy he will do it with as much enthusiasm and passion as he always has done! We can't wait to see what he can do as the birthdays tick over!