I'm John Fowler, 55 years old and living in Exeter, Devon. After a boisterous youth spent playing drums and guitars in noisy bands, I discovered endurance adventure sports in my late twenties in mountain-biking. After regular training on Dartmoor, the Quantock Hills and The Black Mountains in Wales, I tried my hand at Sport Category mountain bike racing for a season and a half and an MTB trip to the Alps in Chamonix. Climbing and bouldering took over after that and found me in various epic venues in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the US and Morocco. After 20 years of that and realising my luck was starting to run out after a few nasty falls, I took up trail running more seriously. This led me into running longer distances and the Ultra scene. At my age I need to be very careful about overtraining and so have selected my races wisely and infrequently. I did however gain enough ITRA points in the last two seasons to enter the UTMB OCC for 2020, although I missed out on the ballot. I'm currently recovering from yet another injury and working out how I can train enough to continue Ultra running by combining it with my latest passion of gravel biking and bike packing.
What are your personal bests?
I've never considered myself a fast runner and avoid road running if at all possible. I am however able to run all day if I put my mind to it! These days I'm just trying to stay fit, healthy and consistent if possible.
I've only ever run a road 10K once and did 48min 18s about 5 years ago, I think.
My Killerton parkrun hilly trail 5K PB is 22m 49secs.
Killerton Trail Half Marathon PB 2hr 4mins.
Grizzly 20-mile trail PB 3hr 44mins.
Endurance life South Devon 50K ultra 2018 in 7hrs 52m after comeback from calf injury.
Climb South West North Coast 55K Ultra in 8hrs 40m (8500 feet of ascent) after comeback from achilleas injury (there is a pattern here!).
I had points for the UTMB OCC 2020 but didn't get through the ballot.
What have you been doing during lockdown?
After a great Winter of Zone 1 & 2 training I picked up a heel injury, possibly stress fractures. My running has been very limited since March and I'm currently running once a week if I'm lucky in a desperate attempt to have some kind of fitness for a Chamonix trip at the end of August. I've taken to the gravel bike and ride 3 or 4 times a week, usually covering around 35 to 40 miles of mixed hilly terrain on a Sunday. Have also just done a 60-mile round trip weekend bike packing to Dartmoor with friends, waking up in the clouds! Have also been writing loads of music and releasing it on Spotify.
Did COVID-19 affect many events / training?
COVID-19 resulted in all of my main events being postponed this year since the Grizzly, which considering I am now injured, is not such a bad thing for me. I still managed to train regularly before I picked up the injury as I live on the edge of Exeter and have easy access to local hilly trails. The Snowdonia UTS50 is still probably going ahead on its new date mid-Sept but I'm pretty sure I will have to withdraw from it. I feel sorry for all the race organisers this year and feel that we have to be considerate to them in these challenging times.
How did you cope with training during lockdown?
Initially I trained as before but then eased-off the gas a bit to take a chance to allow the body to recover. Ironic that I then became injured (discuss!)
How have you found being an ambassador for XMiles?
I have felt particularly privileged to have been chosen as an ambassador for XMiles as I have never undertaken this sort of a role before, being a mid-pack runner and someone mid-way through their 50's. It has felt great though and I enjoy the idea of being able to hopefully inspire others, help promote products and shops that I believe in and feel part of a team or group.
What do you have planned for the future?
My current challenge is to sort out the injury and get running again regularly without further injury. Although gravel bike riding and bike packing is great fun and keeping me relatively fit, it is no substitute for running I find. I have an intensive appointment booked in with my physio as soon as we are able to do in-person consultations. But as I said, we have a trip booked to the Chamonix coming up and I'm sure I'll be able to do a couple of short-ish runs fairly high at least twice during our stay and deal with the discomfort afterwards.
Beyond that I still have an aspiration to run in the UTMB OCC plus hope to run in the Dolomites and the Hardergrat trail in Switzerland at some point. Also have some alpine multi day running adventures in mind using uberlight bivvying gear, water filtration systems and lots of Huma gels! Bike packing adventures are also in planning stages but just pipe dreams at the moment, possibly to visit a Buddhist orphanage I sponsor in Northern India when I decide to stop working altogether.
Expecting to get back to work soon when English Heritage staff comes off furlough. I abseil down historic buildings for a living to do structural and condition surveys and there are several castles in Kent waiting for us to visit!