Going the distance – Daniel Skinner

We regularly feature one of the Sportlink team for a Q&A. This month it's Daniel Skinner.

When did you first start to run?

I started training as a sprinter at Lincoln Wellington AC when I was 9 years old (11 years ago) and since then I have moved up the distances to around 1500m-10k where I am at the minute.

What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running?

For me, running is an escape. As a mathematician its great to be able to switch off and give my head a rest! Winning the occasional race is a nice bonus though!

What’s your biggest running achievement?

My biggest achievement in running is more of a personal achievement than a physical one. At the 2012 Lincolnshire County Championships I ran the 400m and the 800m in the under 15 age group. My Grandad was very ill at the time so being able to go out and race for him was really important to me. On the Saturday I went into the 400m as the favourite, not realising that two runners who rarely competed in county matches had turned up. I ran a new personal best but came in 3rd. In all the competitions I have done, that was the hardest loss that I have had to take, I was distraught. The next day was the 800m and I knew that one of the runners who had beaten me in the 400m would be in the race. Since the 400m was my favoured event, I knew that it would be tough to win it but I also knew that I couldn’t walk away without the medal to show my Grandad. I sat in second place, just off the shoulder, for most of the race and with 150m to go I pushed hard for the finish. The last 20 seconds seemed to take years but I reached the finish in a new PB, winning by a second. It took a while for it to sink in but the fact that I came from being beaten down in the 400m to come back and win the 800m in probably the hardest run of my life will always stay with me. Also, I had won the medal for my grandad who had always inspired me to keep pushing, which for me made this the biggest achievement I could ever reach in running.

What in the world motivates a person to run long distance?

Every runner has their own motivation, some run to win, some to keep fit, some to escape. I personally run long distance because it gives me the freedom to choose whatever I like. I can run where I like, for as long as I like and go wherever the run takes me. There are no rules, it’s unpredictable and it’s free which makes it the perfect contrast to the mathematics I study on a daily basis.

What kinds of things do you think about as you run?

Most of the time, nothing! Running is my chance to switch off and not have to think about anything in particular, I can take the run as it comes. Sometimes I may be preparing for a specific race or trying to wrap my head around a particular mathematical concept that isn’t making sense, but for the most part I try not to think to much and just run.

One the day of the big race…how are you feeling? Are you performing any superstitious rituals (like wearing the same unwashed socks you trained in for months)?

On race day I do get really terrible nerves. After months of training it can be daunting to think that it all comes to one run! Mostly though I am just excited, its my chance to perform. The race is my domain and it is where I am free to express myself through running. I don’t believe in superstition, however there are a couple of things that I almost always do in preparation for a race. On the morning of the race, I always have scrambled eggs on brown toast for breakfast. There is no particular reason except that it is good nutritious breakfast (and it’s yummy!) and after having it a couple of times it really just stuck! Also, I will always carry my 2012 county championships medal with me (although I don’t usually run with it) to remind myself of what I am capable of if I really push myself and I am not afraid to hurt. Finally, I find that listening to ‘Lose yourself’ by Eminem really gets me into race mode. I’m not sure what it is exactly about the song but it really helps me to get into the right frame of mind where all that matters is the finish line.

What’s your next race?

I don’t have any races planned at the moment as I am currently working thought some biomechanical issues, but I hope to be back racing soon and building my speed back!

What’s your favourite running shoe?

There are two possible contenders for this one. Going on which shoe I would be first to reach for when going for a run, it has to be the ON Cloud. It is light, responsive and fast while still being comfortable both to run in and also just to walk around day to day. The second shoe is the New Balance 1500. This is my favourite shoe for the faster sessions as it fits my foot perfectly and is super responsive. I can’t put my finger on why I love it so much, it just feels like it works perfectly with my running. I don’t think I could choose between the two shoes as they both have their own uses and I can’t imagine running without either of them!!

Who’s your running hero?

As I was growing up, my running hero was my Grandad who himself earned an England vest on the Cross Country. Unfortunately he had retired before I ever got to see him race but the photos and the stories always made me want to run. He was also one of my top supporters and even if he couldn’t make many races, he would always be the first to ask how it went. In recent years my main idol has been David Rudisha as I think he has all the qualities I want to have as a runner. He is kind, sporting and humble but also ruthless and extremely hard working when he get on the track. He has the perfect combination of brutal desire to win but also respect for every competitor on the track. Too many runners think that you have to be arrogant to have a killer racing instinct, but Rudisha proves them wrong.

What’s the best thing about working at Sportlink?

Its difficult to choose a single thing about Sportlink that makes it so special, but I think it’s the customers who really make it. It’s an absolute pleasure to hear peoples running stories, from ultra marathon runners to people training for their first 5k. One thing that always amazes me is the enthusiasm we see for running and the incredible impact it has on so many lives.