Hi, my names Howard Dracup. So first I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself, some of my background & how I got into running.
I’m 35 years old & I was born in a little village called Whitworth just outside of Lancashire. Whitworth is amongst the foothills of the Pennines so there’s lots of nice hills, fields, rivers & streams. It’s a beautiful place, but there’s no real mountains- just “fells”.
So I think growing up and playing out as a child I subconsciously had a growing connection with the great outdoors. A connection I didn’t know I would have a relentless passion for until later on in life. My parents were working class. They worked very hard & raised me and my brother well. We had a good upbringing but my parents weren’t outdoors enthusiasts - not one bit.
I spent a lot of my weekends with my granddad as a young child because he had a farm on the hills and he would let me help him do stuff. We used to go driving across the fells to feed or find his cows & sheep in all weathers. I loved it. I think that’s when I had my first connection with the outdoors, about as early as 6 years old. But as life went by my connection subsided. I made new friends at high school, finished school and became an Engineer. Got a job, a girlfriend and partied hard from being 18 up until the age of 30. By 30 my life was a mess. I’d made myself mentally ill ...that's when running became a part of my life & that’s when the great outdoors came back.
So I began running on the fells around where I lived. I loved the head space, the solitude and the way I felt afterwards. I started off running a few miles here and there. Then progressed to my first half marathon “The Dentdale Run” & then I moved up to a full marathon a few months later. My first being the “Manchester Marathon” & then before you know it I got introduced to a thing called an “UltraMarathon”.
My 1st Ultra was a race called “Tour de Helvellyn.” I think that’s when I became hooked on Mountain Running! The further I ran the better I felt and over the period of a few years I transitioned from running in the hills of my local village to mountainous areas & mountains all over the world.
For me, all life’s worries & stresses disappear when I go out into the mountains. All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and worry about nothing more than getting from A to B. This is what I love about running in the mountains so much. I also like the people you meet along the way & the friendships you make.
A majority of the time I run solo as I like the head space & the escapism but occasionally I run with friends & I really enjoy that too. It all depends what mood I’m in.
So what started as a hobby then turned into something I started taking a little more seriously. I started with a park run at 30. A marathon at 31 and then by 32 I’d had a taste for an Ultramarathon! That’s when I realised I had some sort of gravitational pull towards running in the mountains.
Running in the mountains just wasn’t enough though. I decided I wanted to enter some races, so at around 33 years old (I’m 35 now) I decided to take things a little more seriously and entered some big races. 2019 was my 1st proper year racing Mountain Races, ultra marathons & Sky Races.
For my efforts last year I’ve been lucky enough to get a little bit of support off some really cool companies that have helped me out a little bit - more than they needed to. I’m not a sponsored athlete & I still have to work but they help me out with bits of kit and nutritional items. So thank you to Montane, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, XMiles, mountainking, precisionhydration & otesports for the support.
I’d also like to say thank you to my coach FitnessLabPT who I could not have got through last year without. With the help of these guys it’s now allowed me to work less and focus more on training in the hope that 2020 will bring me better race results...so we shall see. Iv also moved to the mountains in The Lake District up in Cumbria so I can train harder and for not only that reason but for the fact that I now have real mountains on my door step! I’m very lucky!!
What are your personal bests?
Ohhhhh I felt like swerving this question haha. Ermmm right so I don’t really have a good C.V. for personal bests as I don’t really chase P.B’s. I tend to focus on races with a lot of ascent on really technical terrain with a heavy pack (mainly mountain ultras). Most of the P.Bs below are around about 5 years old! So here we go:
- 5k 20 mins
- 10k 42 mins
- Half marathon 1hr 38
- Marathon 3hr 49
- 30 Mile 5hr 5
- 50 Mile 10hr
- 100k 14hr
- 100 Mile 23hr
I have some personal achievements though which I’d prefer to call my P.Bs which are my best race placings:
Montane Spine Challenger 2019- 3rd Place
Beacons Way Ultra 2019- 1st Place
What have you been doing during lockdown?
During lockdown nothing much changed for me to be honest with regards to work & training. I work on the Gas & Water sector in construction which was still classed as key work. I had about 3 weeks off work initially on Furlough while construction companies put COVID measures into place.
Looking back now, during that 3 weeks I think I went a little overboard and began over training. My run training wasn’t affected because I could still get out to exercise luckily in some really nice areas.
Did COVID-19 affect many events / training?
ehhhh, for sure, Events especially!! So my race calendar for the year was the “Cape Wrath Ultra” in May. “Valmalenco UltraDistance Trail” In July and the “13 Valleys Ultra” in October. Every single event got cancelled (understandably) leaving me high, dry and seriously de-motivated!
Initially in the furlough period I was quite hyper. Running a lot and doing home strength workouts EVERY single day. I thought it was great but eventually it all caught up with me & I went through a bit of a low patch for about a month, maybe 2 months?! It was a really strange time.
Everything was so Alien. We couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I was working away from home which is the norm for me but it was so so difficult finishing work and going back to the confines of the room in the hotel when we finished work for the day with everything closed & no where open to eat or even a gym to go to! I can imagine it’s what life would be like in a prison camp!
It was definitely very challenging mentally and with that came a knock on effect physically. I felt drained all the time & lethargic, overthinking everything. Worrying. Spending too much nervous energy trying to get through work while trying to keep up my training in a desperate hope that some kind of race would materialise and allow me to focus positively on something again. I thought I was the only one feeling like this and kept it to myself for a while which made it worse but after speaking to my partner, close friends & a few social media posts it became apparent that there was a lot of people feeling the same way!
Eventually the glimmer of hope came in the form of “UTS race” last month! So I entered the 170km race and Iv managed to turn things around again and get my motivation back on track. The running aspect of training/motivation came back really fast but home strength workouts are still really tedious. I’m having to force myself to do them and there quite minimal, but with the gym back open again now (hooray), I feel like I’m starting to find the love again! I went for the first time last week and this week Iv been struggling to move haha!
How did you cope with training during lockdown?
So there’s 2 sides to my training during lockdown & how I managed and coped with it. I was very fortunate to be able to train pretty much completely isolated allowing me to get some good quality miles in.
The first part of lockdown I spent at my Mums in Lancashire. I was abit reluctant to head off straight home to Cumbria after being furloughed as it was a Covid hotspot and 2 of my house mates were suffering with classic symptoms!
There was no way for them to be tested so I/they are assuming it was covid. So I set up camp at my Mums. We agreed I was only allowed to go to the supermarket once a week and I only left the house when I went running. As soon as I left the front or back door at Mums I was on the fells immediately- I was really lucky so training in this period was going well but like I said earlier I was probably trending towards over training with not being in work!
Once I came home from running I then had to wash my hands straight away and sterilise any door handles I’d touched on the way in. This way we managed to keep a Covid free house. I was feeling pretty good at this point, sticking to my training plan (kind of...even though I had no race) and doing some kind of strength work every single day pretty much.
My running plan had been adapted so that I just kept fit & could still run a nice amount of mileage, there was no high mileage weeks it was kept pretty much to an average of around 50/60 miles per week. Some days I’d ignore the plan and do a bit extra.
After being at my Mums 3/4 weeks I became bored and I had ran out of stuff to wear and things to do. Don’t forget I came back to my Mums straight from working away so all I had is 5 pairs of socks and runderwear & some running/training kit! All my belongings were in Kendal.
So I said my goodbyes to Mum & told her I’d see her after it was all over and off I went back to Kendal. The house mates which had the suspected Corona virus were now back to normal but I must admit I was really really paranoid about stepping foot back inside the house!
I think it’s during this period I began to loose my mojo and my training felt affected.
In Lancashire the restrictions were strict, no less than they were in Kendal but once I got to Cumbria it felt like a different kind of strict. I don’t know why but I really felt the pressure and the presence of the Virus. Running out of my front door for an hour or 2 wasn’t the same as at mums & I wasn’t allowed to drive to the mountains to train. Then I got called back in to work and everything started to go down hill. I was really missing the mountains & I felt a bit depressed.
I felt tired and achy all the time. I couldn’t be bothered to run after work and I certainly could not be bothered to do my home strength workout in my hotel room either. Everything felt like it was falling to pieces.
I had no kitchen to make my meals in the evening or my lunches. So I lived off falafel and houmous wraps most of the time which I made myself until it got to the point where I couldn’t eat them anymore.
I tried to choose the other healthy alternatives but I was in a really bad frame of mind, I kept wandering up and down the bakery sections throwing donuts, cookies, 200g bars of chocolate and whatever else tickled my fancy into the basket and then I’d go back to my room & eat as much of it as I could if not all of it before feeling sick.
This went on for a couple of weeks before I managed to knock it on the head. Eventually I got back on track with everything. It took a while and I think it helped when restrictions started to ease.
How have you found being an ambassador for XMiles?
I've quite liked it but I don’t think Iv experienced the whole purpose yet of becoming an “X miles Ambassador”. I quite liked the idea of being part of a team of like minded individuals & getting to know the other ambassadors more but Covid really put a spanner in the works! Hopefully one day we might be able to organise a meet!?
What do you have planned for the future?
A Wainwrights round is basically touching all of the 214 Wainwright’s in the Lake District in one go, in the best time that you can. The route is around 318 miles long with over 30,000 metres of accumulative ascent!
I haven’t really done any personal challenges before but when I enter races I enter ones which are going to be really tough but realistically achievable. But with this challenge it’s a completely different undertaking. I think there’s definitely more odds of me not completing it than completing it which scares me a bit!
I also organise an event myself called the Whitworth Trail Marathon uktrailrun We do a Half Marathon, Marathon & Ultra Race if you’d like to check it out. There’s also a Facebook & Instagram page if you could please give it a like and a follow ...I’d really appreciate it. Thanks !
Also I have just began working for my partner (who is a running coach) as a run guide for Play In The Wild UK ➡️ playinthewilduk
We are putting on some guided runs, Trail running/Mountain running worships & one to one or small group bespoke guided mountain runs. Maggie also offers athlete training plans so if your interested about any of that then please give any of us a shout!
About the Author
XMiles Ambassador -
Follow Howard on Instagram: @howard.dracup