Profile: Neil Catley

Runner Origin Story
In the mid noughties my sister-in-law decided to do the Great North Run, and I got FOMO! Being from Newcastle, it’s a huge event and I had always wondered about doing it… but I was ‘the fat kid’ at school and used to hide to avoid the 1500m, so a half marathon was simply never an option! That changed in my early 30s when I decided that I needed to try again to lose a little weight. I started running, and never really stopped! I finished my first GNR in 2008 in a snifter over 2hrs – so needless to say I had to do it again!

I Run Because…
I love it! There is nothing quite like being in the middle of nowhere, totally alone, and at peace with your own thoughts or a bangin’ tune! The ripple effects to physical, mental and overall wellbeing are then immense. But for me, I just love the freedom the escape.

When Not Running
I am married with 2 kids, so there isn’t much time left! I’m lucky that my kids run, so we share that, but outside of running I like to brew (and drink!) beer!

Greatest Running Achievement
Hmm… I’d like to think I haven’t had it yet – but for personal achievement I am proud of finishing the SVP100 last year. Outside of my own running, I am immensely proud of my contribution in setting up Kesgrave Junior parkrun, and the long term success of getting my girls (mostly!) into running!

Favourite Distance
Anything really – but most of my runs are between 6-10 miles. For racing, I LOVE an ultra. The community, atmosphere, comradery, zero focus on pace and full on feasts at every aid station make them 1000x better than any marathon I have raced!

Cherished Running Anecdote
During the last Sunrise Ultra I was running past Horsey beach, a good way away from the sea on the other side of the sand dunes. There had been some pretty heavy rain, and somehow a seal mum and her pup had managed to get over the dunes and were settled in a big puddle that stretched across the whole path! It was about 3 in the morning and pitch black – other than my head torch. Its amazing how quickly you can run, even when knackered, when you’re being growled and honked at by a seal defending its kids! I had to run through the middle of the puddle, right between them and avoid being eaten. It was close, but I made it! 😃

Favourite Race
The Sunrise (half!) Ultra. This happens overnight, starting at 10pm and racing the sunrise from Cley on the Norfolk Coast Path round to Great Yarmouth. I’m an ever-present (its only happened twice due to covid!), and would recommend this to anyone who wants both a challenge (its 45 miles, the full is 83, but I’m not stupid!) and an experience (running along an empty beach, on the water’s edge, as the sun rises, having run all night – its just epic!).

Favourite Shoe
I used to wear Asics, but now mainly wear Nike. I jump between models depending on what’s in the sale but their amazing returns policy means I can take a while to find ‘the next shoe’ that I’ll then stick with for a while! Currently running trails in Terra Kiger 6, and road/racing in Vaporfly 2.

Favourite Local Route
I do most of my running at lunchtime from work. I’m close to the Deben, and there is a great 6.5 mile trail loop that goes along the river – its stunning whether its sunny, raining, or snowing!

Favourite Gels
I haven’t used a gels for years – give me FOOD!

Favourite Food/Drink/Snacks
I’m a big fan of eating proper food during long runs. I’ll either carry food (flapjacks etc), or will plan to run past cafes and grab a bit of cake or granola bar. I don’t really have a go-to, but have in the past carried everything from cliff bars to chocolate custard! Tailwind is great for hydration and to get extra calories in on proper long runs or ultras. I’m also a big fan of Caffeine Bullets (as seen on Dragon’s Den!).

Crave While Running
Satsumas, coke and beer! There’s nothing as nice as a half of Mosaic from the Woodyard in Woodbridge on the way back along the Sandlings on a long run, or just happening to finish a long run at a nice pub!

Favourite Warm-up Drill
I’m awful at warming up – I’ll not do any when running by myself and jog up and down a bit before races! Its only at Kruisers sessions when I’ll warm up properly, and that’s mainly because I get told off if I don’t!

Favourite Stretch
Stretching? Wwhhhooooo ?

Best Coaching Advice
Relax! I’m terrible at this myself, but nothing tires you out quicker or screws up your form more than hunching up, running with tight fists and being tense. I often tell myself (and others!) to relax when they run. It frees up both your body and your breathing, you’ll run more efficiently, and you’ll waste less energy. I did a tempo half recently in training and at the end had nail marks in my hand because I’d run most of it with fists so tight I had almost caused by palms to bleed! The next day my shoulders were killing me as I’d been so tense when running. RELAX!

Favourite Running Websites
DC Rainmaker for techie stuff. I don’t really look at any actual running websites as they’re booooring.

Favourite Music/Podcast
The Bad Boy Running podcast (that spawned the BBR Club that is now my first claim) and Ten Junk Miles (a bit of a US twin of BBR). Both have a great blend of fun, funny, ridiculous and serious interviews/content. BBR is run by some amazingly inspiring people; see Allie Bailey.

Race Most Wanted
Anything that gives an amazing experience, and the finish feels out of reach even when standing on the start line. I love the feeling of an event that scares me! Maybe something like The Wall (Carlisle to Newcastle along Hadrian’s Wall).

Must Read Running Book
I really enjoyed Ronnie O’Sullivans book Running, and also many of the Ultra books like Ultra Marathon Man (Dean Karnazes) and Running Man (Charlie Engle).

Like About Running
All of it – what’s not to like! The endorphins, the escapism, the challenges, and of course the people you meet!

Hate About Running
Running the fine line between injury and pushing yourself enough to hit your goals and improve.

Gear Can’t Run Without
Being a bit of a geek.. my Garmin!

Future Goals
To get to the start line of the SVP in August feeling fit and ready… and then to better by 14hrs from last year.