Interview with Robbie Simpson

25. September 2018

For the second time since 2016, the Scot Robbie Simpson won the Jungfrau Marathon. On the most beautiful marathon route in the world, the bronze medalist of this year's Commonwealth Games won in a new personal best.

How did you find «your» day? Can you give us insight into your race and your emotions?

My confidence was high at the start of the race because my training and races went well in the last few weeks. My plan was to run my own race, no matter what the others did.

I was relaxed during the first half and at 1:14:30, was faster than in previous years, which was a sign that I was in good shape. As I left Lauterbrunnen and started the steep ascent, I definitely felt that it would be a good day. I enjoyed the race and the route with its wonderful view of the mountains.

On the way up to Wengen, I fuelled up and closed in on Mekonnen Birhanu, who was currently leading. However, he reacted by speeding up considerably and immediately put a 15-second distance between us. A short time later, I realised that he "only" wanted to secure the sprint rating in Wengen because I soon caught up with him and then found myself in the lead. At that point I totally pushed myself to the limit and tried to widen the gap. I enjoyed the race, even though it was really tough. I concentrated as much as I could on what was still to come and not what happened behind me.

After leaving Wixi, I had a crisis to overcome due to my negative thoughts. My legs suddenly became extremely tired and my coordination worsened. However, I focused on the positive again and the fact that there was only a climb of 2 km left and we were all in the same boat. I was thus able to overcome this difficult moment and even run the entire moraine for the first time!

At the highest point, I looked back for the first time and didn’t see anyone. A wonderful feeling. Winning the Jungfrau Marathon for the second time was more difficult, but at the same time a unique feeling.

You've been on the podium at the Commonwealth Games this year, as well as at several top mountain races. Can you give us an insight into your everyday training?

I normally train every day, usually even two times a day. I thus cover 160-180 km a week in summer and 180-200 km in winter. 70% of these are on trails, 30% on asphalt. In summer I run off-road a lot and in winter I tend to stay on the flats, although I also try to add variety by running off-road. I generally advise trail runners to run regularly on the road, and road runners to consciously do their training off-road.

Tempo doesn’t play a big role when I run. I find it much more important to be able to train the whole year without interruption. I run at a slow pace a lot and am thus fresh enough for the intensive units. My training week usually involves two intensive units (e.g. intervals with 1 km, 2 km, or 5 km loads or tempo runs of up to 40 min, also on the mountain in summer) and a long run (30 to 36 km at a slightly faster pace and at altitudes of up to 1500 metres in summer). In between, I do light units at a slow speed.

On the one hand, I make sure I have enough time for recovery between the intensive units to ensure I can run my weekly target week after week and gradually build up my performance capability. On the other hand, I consciously try to differentiate the forms of training by subjecting myself to different stimuli.

In your eyes, what are the three keys to success?

  • Consistency: try if you can to run a certain number of kilometres each week so you will become continuously faster.
  • Differentiation: alternate between doing short runs, long runs, light runs, and intensive runs so your body needs to constantly adapt.
  • Love running: if you enjoy running, you will take pleasure in training every day. Find a way in which you can enjoy and love running. Meet up with friends, go running in daylight and preferably in beautiful places.

We see you year after year in Switzerland at various running events. Can you give us an overview of the Scottish running scene? Any events that you absolutely have to attend?

The Scottish scene is quite different. While around 300 mountain runs are staged each year, they are very small with usually only 100 to 200 participants, charge an entry fee of 2 euros, and have a correspondingly relaxed atmosphere. What’s special about many of these runs is the fact that there is no defined path to the finish. Everyone runs with a map and needs to find the way to the finish themselves. Due to our somewhat nasty weather conditions, this is not at all easy ??

During the winter months there are also cross-country runs which are rather big in comparison. Around 1000 runners take part and are cheered on by many spectators. Anyone toying with the idea of entering a race in the UK should take part in the Run Balmoral trail races, a mountain run, cross-country race or, of course, the London marathon!

Do you have a secret tip you would be willing to share with us? 

I eat pizza the evening before every race, which is perhaps not the best secret tip. So here are two more:

  1. Find out how much recovery your body needs and plan your training accordingly.
  2. Don’t be afraid to run slowly.