Vassos Alexander broadcasts to 10 million people every day as part of the Chris Evans Breakfast Show. He also happens to be something of a runner, runABC spoke to him to find out more …
Who is Vassos Alexander?
A sports reporter who can be found commentating on anything from tennis to triathlon, diving to darts. I live in London with my wife Caroline and three young children. And Holly the Labrador, who loves running almost as much as I do.
Why did you first start running?
Bit of a cliché really. I hit my thirties and noticed I could no longer eat whatever I wanted without putting on weight. So I thought either exercise more, or eat less. I chose running, and immediately fell in love with it.
Initially there wasn’t really a goal, but the more I ran, the more I wanted to, and the further I wanted to go. I made all the classic beginner’s mistakes of trying too much too soon and picked up more than my fair share of injuries. But eventually my legs got used to the idea of running every day and I entered my first race, the 2010 Great North Run, as part of the Radio 5live team. The atmosphere just blew me away - everybody was so positive, runners, spectators, organisers, everybody - and I knew I wanted to enter more races and to get the same experience again.
How do you find time to train?
There’s always time to train, even if I have to wake up extra early to run to and from work. And by the way, when you work on a breakfast show, waking up extra early is almost obscene! Once, when I was struggling to find time to do a long training run for my first ultra, I ran straight through the night, finishing at the studios at 5am ready for the show. And I was much more confident on the start line of the 100km Race to the Stones because of it.
How else did you fit in training for the Race to the Stones?
I also used Kent Roadrunner as part of my preparation. I was hoping for a big PB, I soon realised my legs had other ideas but I really enjoyed the day nonetheless. Lovely atmosphere, great to see and meet and chat to the same spectators on each loop. And if my legs had been behaving themselves, the multi-lap format is perfect for pacing PBs.
And how did you find the event itself?
It was my first ultra marathon - 62 miles, hard, hilly, epic, inspiring. You find stuff out about yourself. My legs were in bits, but it was a good day!
Where do you train?
For a Londoner, I’m very lucky to have lots of running options on my doorstep. The Thames towpath, Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common - all are within a mile or
two of my front door so it never really gets boring. Having said that, my in-laws live in the South Downs and that’s much more fun!
What do you love about running?
Where do I start? I love how it makes you feel, how it clears your head, how it keeps the weight off... It’s part self-discovery, part escape, and part simple child-like joy of running when you could be walking.
Do you have a favourite event?
I love all running events, from the Saturday morning parkrun I do with my kids to the London Marathon with a million people lining the route. London in particular, is a truly special event. I can’t wait to run one with the kids - if they fancy it.
A family affair?
In our family, the weekend always starts with me and the two older kids, Emily (11) and Matthew (9), putting on our running kit and heading to a parkrun. We’re sometimes joined by baby Mary in her buggy, sometimes also by my wife Caroline, and always by the dog. I run with whichever child is feeling slower on the day, and it’s all smiles at the finish, and we head home via the local baker for croissants all round (or donuts if one of the kids breaks a PB). We feel like we’ve won before the weekend has even got started.
Running for charity?
I’m working with an amazing charity called SkillForce to introduce 5km runs to primary schools. Watch this space!
I fell in love with open water swimming after my first triathlon, the ironman-distance Outlaw in Nottingham. These days if I’m going anywhere near the sea, even the North Sea, I always pack my goggles (and wetsuit!) as well as my running shoes.
My dream race would be a long distance cross-country, not so long as it hurts, say 40 or 50 km, starting with a long uphill stretch to get your legs going, and then running on a nice soft surface with epic scenery, so it would have to be somewhere lumpy and beautiful, like the Lake District or the Dorset Downs.
I change my mind quite a lot on this. I’ve gone through long periods when I insist on running with my iPod (I find Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now especially motivating). But I’m currently really enjoying running without it.
Definitely yes, but definitely not for me!
I can tell you that my marathon PB is 2:53, it took me years to get it under three hours and only then did I realise that it didn’t really matter. Still it’s good to set targets and have goals, but these days I try to enjoy running without the stress of the stopwatch.
Holiday runner …
My running shoes are the first things in the suitcase whenever I go away for work or on holiday. I’ve run through mountains in South Africa, I’ve done a smoggy 10k in Beijing, collapsed with the humidity of the jungle on the Thailand / Burma border - and once even took on a Swiss Olympian on the Vancouver harbour wall. Though to be honest, he did turn out to be a curler.