A Week With The Best: Ian Sharman

We are excited to launch our new blog series here at Upper Left Distance Training: A Week With The Best. Every Sunday we will be posting a short interview with various pro runners and industry pros for a glimpse into their busy lives.

This week we are joined by Ian Sharman. If you run Ultras, then you know who he is. Ian is a British ultra runner sponsored by Altra, Clif Bar, Drymax Socks, Julbo Eyewear, Ultraspire, Squirrels Nut Butter and OS1st (compression gear). Living in Bend, Oregon, he is the founder of the Altra US Skyrunner Series and professional coach/owner at Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching where he’s coached winners of Comrades, the 100k World Championship, Western States, and Leadville.

He’s run over 200 marathons and ultras winning over 50 of them, including first place finishes at the Leadville Trail 100 and Rocky Raccoon 100 (multiple times). Ian also holds the record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (the combined time for Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville Trail 100 and Wasatch Front 100 in a single summer). 

If that’s not an introduction, I don’t know what is! Thank you for joining us, Ian.

How and when did you start running?

I started in 2005 after living and working in London in the UK for a few years after seeing a TV documentary about the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert. I’d always been sporty but wasn’t as active as I wanted to be so this set a spark in my mind and I started running, finding I loved it and so got hooked on races very quickly.

What has been your biggest obstacle as a runner?  

Finding time to fit things in is always a challenge, especially since I’m not an early bird so I rarely run before noon, with most runs after I finish working for the day, or squeezed in-between coaching calls. It’s definitely a challenge when 100-mile races usually start before dawn.

Your biggest accomplishment ?

The Grand Slam was the toughest thing I’ve ever attempted and it was more draining psychologically than I could ever have expected. It’s one thing to run 100 miles when you’re fresh and haven’t done something that tiring for several months. But it’s another thing to do it multiple times in rapid succession when you can still vividly remember the suffering from the last race.

You’re a pro, but do you work work as well? If so, what do you do for a living?

Yes, I work around 60-80 hours a week on coaching and Skyrunning, plus my training is on top of that. I love working with runners and doing something I’m really passionate about.

Describe a day’s general diet for you:

Overall I eat most things, except peanuts (I just don’t like them, but used to be allergic to them). I try to minimize processed food and eat fresh produce often, but don’t eat perfectly because it drains the fun out of life to have an overly restrictive diet. So if I can eat well 80-90% of the time I can afford to be less healthy the rest of the time, while still enjoying food and life.

What’s a typical training week like for you? 

This varies so much depending on what type of race I’m training for, especially since I love running roads, trails, mountains, jungles, deserts or whatever. But in peak training I may reach around 80-100 miles/week with up to around 20,000ft of vertical gain. As I get closer to a race my training becomes more specific to the factors involved in the race, such as hiking, heat-training, speed etc.

What is your favorite workout?

Downhill reps speed session on a 1-mile downhill in town at about an 8% steady gradient. I jog a few miles for my warm-up then run down it hard at my 1 mile pace, which means hard! Then I jog back up for recovery and do around 3-4 miles of downhill reps in total with the final one as the fastest. Then a jog home.

Do you have any tips for new runners or runners striving to reach big goals?

The simplest is to enjoy the ride and not rush into super hard or super long races. Every big step up in distance or difficulty should be for an inspiring, awesome race so you can keep motivated during the tough sections.

Thank you, Ian!


If you’re a pro runner or industry pro and would like to be featured in a Week With The Best, please shoot me an e-mail at upperleftdt@gmail.com


(Featured Image by Paul Nelson Photography)