Qwik-View: Dr Joe Piggin

Marathon Training NZQK: Not too many of my readers will be familiar with you and what you have achieved. As educated readers I’m sure they are potentially going to Google your name and will discover that you are an academic in the world of Sports Management & Policy. Can you give us a brief intro into what you research and how that impacts the world.

JP: I have been working at Loughborough University in the UK for 6 years now. It’s a great university for many reasons. The students come from all over the UK and all over the world. I am part of the Sport Policy and Management area. My research involves trying to inform ethical policy about sport and physical activity. I think this is particularly relevant because of issues about “unhealthy” sponsors, the threat of privatisation of public spaces, the over-medicalization of physical activity, and so on.

QK: Those that will dig a little deeper down the Google page will discover that you are also a talented athlete in your own right having won some significant events and also have some pretty sharp times to your name. Which race result do you consider your greatest athletic achievement?

JP: The first would be the winning the New Zealand Marathon Championship in 2008. It was a wonderful day from start to finish. My parents, friends and family were there at the finish line.

QK: Whilst preparing for the Rotorua marathon in 2008 I understand you teamed up with and did a lot of training with Scott Winton. What did a typical week look like for you as part of that build up?

JP: Now I look back I was lucky to train with such a great group of people. Scott was an incredible runner and very nearly qualified for the 2008 Olympics, so it was a privilege to train with him. One of the “meatiest” weeks would look something like:

Monday – easy day, 2 X 40 minute runs

Tuesday – easy morning run, and evening “X Games” 16K course from the Auckland domain over to the harbour bridge and back. The course was called the X Games because we would run through the middle of Auckland traffic in the dark. If you got X’ed, it meant you got into trouble on the course!

Wednesday – easy day, 2 X 40 minute runs

Thursday – morning 20K – 30 K tempo run along the Auckland waterfront.

Friday – easy day, 2 X 40 minute runs

Saturday – Tempo run in the Auckland Domain. Anything from 5 X 2 Miles to 3 X 5 miles. This was difficult (and not only because I had been used to thinking in kilometres all my life).

Sunday – Long run between 2 and 3 hours in Woodhill forest on the West Coast. We would park the car at the Murawai car park and run in the forest for a couple of hours. These runs were at medium pace and would get quicker toward the end. We would “ice” our legs in the surf after the run. Good times.

QK: You have been privileged to run all around the world. What is your favourite location in the world to run?

JP: Dunedin in New Zealand has so much beautiful countryside to run in. Everything from the Botanic Gardens to the mountains is amazing. Dunedin is also home to “Rib Cage”, a course written into folklore. It involves ascending and descending every street on both sides of North East Valley in Dunedin (including the worlds steepest street). As well as Dunedin I would say Switzerland. It’s an incredible place. I have a theory, which is not very well thought-out yet, but I think places which have some form of natural elevation contributes to well-being. Being able to look out over a landscape after running or hiking up it is good for the soul. I think it’s got something to do with perspective (of course) and a feeling of awe. Built up, flat urban areas can never evoke the same feeling.

Note: These are some of Coach Ray’s favourite place’s too. Check out this article about my favourite run in Dunedin here. And a Strava profile for myself running the Rib Cage here.

QK: What was the secret to your success whilst you were at the sharp end of elite marathon running in New Zealand?

JP: Without wanting to be too cliché, I think it was all the great friends I had as training partners along the way. Oh, and lots of running in the hills, which helps so much with leg strength.

QK: What have you learned over the last 12 months that more people should know?

JP: Ahhh, eat less sugar. Food companies and supermarkets try to sell as much sugar-laden food as possible … (this is not exactly a conspiracy theory). So I think we all need to eat less sugar.

QK: What are the two biggest training mistakes you have made and how did you come back from them?

JP: I should have had a lot more rest days. Rest, of course, is when you recover. When you are racing, you end up feeling obliged to do something every day, but I think it does more harm than good. So I would recommend people have more rest days and more rest week, where you forget about training altogether!

Another mistake I made was not doing enough stretching. I just always found it was a bit boring. I still don’t have a solution to that one.

QK: What does your athletic future hold?

JP: Marathon running can become quite constraining, whereby you avoid activities because of the risk of injury. But now I have backed off the heavy training loads, it would be great to have a diverse portfolio of activities.

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