By Pete Rees at mudstacle.com 19 September 2013
As the UK obstacle course race scene continues to grow, a few stars are starting to emerge and the man of the moment is undoubtedly Thomas Blanc. This London based athlete has dominated the 2013 UK Spartan Race season so far, with first place wins at all four Sprints.
With such a variety of conditions and terrain at London, Cambridge, Yorkshire and Edinburgh, Thomas is really starting to prove his diversity. After last weekend’s Yorkshire race, Thomas was confident with his ability to face whatever Spartan could throw at him:
“I felt faster than ever. I chose to race my race without focusing on other runners. This time it was me against the course. The course was superb. My goal was to show Spartan Race that I am ready for whatever they have to throw at me and even more. I can’t wait for next weeks race. Bring it on!”
Of course he then went on to smash the hell out of Edinburgh, so his confidence was justified! Having proved himself over the shorter distances, the real tests will be at the longer 12km+ “Super Spartan” and 20km+ “Spartan Beast”. Not only because of the distance. The Spartan Beast in particular is likely to attract the UK’s best obstacle course racers, including none other than reigning Beast champion Jonathan Albon. That’s going to be a very exciting battle. I’m almost more tempted to watch than take part!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of catching up with Thomas, following his win in London, to find out a little more about his growing status in the OCR scene.
Although based in London now Thomas, where are you from originally?
I’m from France, close to Lyon, but was born in the mountains near Grenoble.
Have you got a running background?
Not really. I played football back in France but when I came to London I had to stop and I was running for myself to keep fit. I did some 10km races and one day I decided to do Survival of the Fittest. I enjoyed it and I finished in a good position so I kept looking for this kind of race and I’ve been doing that for one and a half years now.
What other races have you been to?
I won the London Spartan Sprint last year (2012).
What time did you do it in last year?
Last year 23 minutes, but it was a very different event.
Definitely, when you compare it to 45 minutes this year! Anyway, sorry, get back to your other events…
Last year I did the first Tough Mudder in the UK. I won the first wave, but of course there is no time. So I qualified for World’s Toughest Mudder. So the next step was to go there last November. It’s very different, being 24 hours. So, I did well. I was happy with what I did. I finished 95th and 4th out of the UK entries.
Out of how many was that?
World wide we were half a million, but we had 2,000 – 3,000 that went there.
Wow, so 95th is pretty darn amazing! And how many laps did you do?
I did five, so around 50 miles. The very cool thing about it is that you get to run overnight. It was New Jersey in November, so the temperature was -7. So it really changes the way that you do those laps over the night. Your body wants to shuts down but your mind keeps you going one step at a time. You hit a wall but after 25-30km you think you are finishing that lap and no more but then you just keep going. One more lap, one obstacle more, just like this.
Have you done Tough Guy as well?
Yes, I did Tough Guy this year but I couldn’t finish it. I had cramps. I was doing well, top 10 or top 20 but at some point my body just shut down. I don’t really remember, I just woke up in the ambulance. I think it’s because we are skinny, you know. Tough Guy I just went like this [Ed: wearing a pair of shorts and not much else].
Did you run any other Spartans last year?
Last year I did the Sprint and went for the Midlands Super. At the Super I finished fifth but I had the same problem with cramps. This year I have been working more on longer distance and I was happy with Tough Mudder.
You’re now being trained and managed by Michael now, right?
Yes, that’s right, for three months now. We split my training between running and organic training, like what we do at the Spartan Race Training camps. We go to the forest and use the environment around us and focus on natural functional movement training that includes: climb, throwing, balancing, lifting, catching, jumping and even crawling. You would not believe how much these skills have affected my racing. Michael trains me 6 days a week and has implemented a structured training program specifically for the needs of obstacle race training. I’m training a lot like this. More than before. I enjoy it, being outside, because the gym is a bit boring for me and it is great to train on obstacle race specific terrains and weather conditions.
Thomas with coach and manager Michael Cohen. TEAM Wild Forest Gym
Great, thanks very much Thomas and best of luck for the rest of the season!
If you’d like to train with Thomas and Michael, pop along to one of the Spartan Race Training sessions. They’re focusing on Beast training in the next couple of sessions, so it will be great for those wanting to step it up a notch.