Interview with an Athlete

Max Willcocks (Insta: @maxwilko, Twitter: @MaxWillcocks) is a 36-year-old endurance athlete who works in Sports Marketing and Media.  He is also a fitness model, nutritionist, consultant and writer.  Max has been coming down to train at the Barn Elms Sports Trust (BEST) athletic track since 2011.  With the summer not far away, Neil Borosh down with the self-identified ‘lone wolf’ to find out a bit more about him and why he calls Barn Elms Sports Trust his home.


How did you get into running?

Falling into running as a job is very different from how I got into running.  I’ve looked back reflectively and realised I’ve run since I was a kid.  When I was at school every evening I would go for a run, when I was on school holidays I would wake up, go for a run, then go back to bed.  This was before I even knew what a marathon was or considered myself a runner, I just enjoyed going for a run.

I technically become a runner on a more professional basis when I was made redundant from my office job in 2011.   I worked in equity sales in the city, I would have to wake up at 5am, run 7 miles to get to the office, shower and be at my desk ready for 7:15am.   When the boss made me redundant he said two things; One, we’re firing you!  Two, I don’t know why you’re not working in sport, that seems to be the thing you’re most passionate about.  It was for me the right thing for someone to say at the right time.

There is nothing better than spending a summer day down at the track at Barn Elms. You can be on the running track and you actually can’t see or hear London, you could be anywhere

Why Barn Elms Sports Trust?

I started coming down in 2011 and have loved it ever since.  There is nothing better than spending a summer day down at the track at Barn Elms.   You can be on the running track and you actually can’t see or hear London, you could be anywhere.   You’re also 5 minutes from running down the Thames, it’s the perfect location.

It feels like home.

Is it difficult to make a living through running?  How do you get paid as an “endurance athlete”?

Making money from running is not easy, you don’t get paid per mile… Otherwise I’d be raking it in… Actually, I wouldn’t, I’d still only get 100 quid per week haha!

I don’t get paid for winning races, I don’t have a sponsor or cash sponsor that tells me what to do.  It’s shooting photography and video content for different running brands, helping them creating brand campaigns as well as marketing campaigns, concepts and ideas.  Then executing these ideas.  

Running has to come first, the fact that it’s hard to make a living in running doesn’t actually bother me, because as a runner I’m used to hard work.  The only thing that running itself actually rewards is hard work.

How often do you run / train?

I run twice a day, every day, and I haven’t had a day off in 3 weeks. 

At the moment I run around 120 miles per week, this will change once I start racing in June/July.   Then my intensity starts building up and I start trying to get quicker again, then my volume will decrease.

I once did 3 marathons in 3 days on the Barn Elms running track.

All my good creative ideas come when I run, it’s like a continual running epiphany.

Do you ever get bored or lonely – what do you think about when you run?

All my good creative ideas come when I run, it’s like a continual running epiphany.  Any good marketing concept or idea comes from when I’m out running.   I then get back and send as many emails as I can and try make it happen.

Obviously I do get bored, I listen to a lot of music and podcasts, though I don’t mind running the same routes again and again. I enjoy the familiarity of it, which is why I enjoy running around the track.  Sometimes I’ll do 10, 12 or even 16 miles around the track.

How do you get motivated when you aren’t in the mood?  Or it’s cold and you don’t want to get out of bed?

By compounding my training. I find it hard to start the engine, it’s that first run of a training block.  Once you’ve done 4 days, I feel like stopping would waste the previous 3 or 4 days worth of running.  Once I start and build day after day after day, I know I can’t really stop now or I’ve done it all for nothing.

It’s the same mentality I take into my ultra running.  If I’m running a 100 mile race I wouldn’t stop at 80 miles because it’s taken so much hard work to get here.

How long does a pair of trainers last you?

It kind of depends, what type of trainer and what type of ground are you running on?   Are you running on the track?  Are you running on the road?  Is it a low profile racing shoe or a soft comfortable mountain shoe?  You want to cycle through your shoes every 300 miles or so, but I have insoles, so I wear them until they’re really well worn.

Do you ever eat fast food or unhealthy food? 

I have a bit of a switch, either I’m on or off.  At the moment it’s entirely just healthy food, every now and then I may get the inkling to have something that’s not very healthy.

All my training is now logged through my watch and my heart rate monitor, this then also logs my calorie expenditure.  I’m burning over 5000 calories a day.  From a dietary point of view I could smash a pizza, that doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy – it’s entirely healthy in the environment I’m living in.

Have you ever thought about taking performance enhancing drugs?

P.E.D’s!!  I wouldn’t even know who to have a conversation with…  To get a hold of a drug that would help my performance.   I don’t think people stumble upon performance enhancing drugs by mistake.

I always thought it would be quite interesting. I’m a nutritionist, I’m fascinated by sports science, by training itself, so I do find these things interesting.  Which athletes would do it?  There was an example of a cross country skier who answers the door while hooked up with a blood transfusion, and it was the testers.   They just looked at him and were like ‘what are you doing’?

It’s rife in sport, though I’ve never really been tested.  It’s only the proper world elites that get tested from an ultra and trial running point of view.

At the end of the day it’s a great running track!

Finally, a few people have mentioned the track at Barn Elms being quite hard, what are your thoughts on this?

No, absolutely not, that’s not the tracks fault.  That is just them seeing it and then looking at other tracks that are softer.  Listen, it’s a different type of track… buy a thicker soled shoe!  At the end of the day it’s a great running track!

Another interesting fact, sometimes I like to run the wrong way around (clockwise) as, according to my GPS watch, it’s guaranteed to give me a quicker lap time.   There is a quick way and a slow way to run around the BEST track!

// Interview concluded with @maxwilko


Interested in taking up running?

Barn Elms Sports Trust has been a historic & strong supporter of local athletics and athletes, with members of the current Team GB team actively and historically using the site’s facilities.

Our purpose built athletics area, complete with covered seating area, provides a 400m, 6 lane running track, combined with 2 x 8-lane 100m sections.  For field athletes, there is provision for both high jump & long / triple jump facilities.

Whether you are looking to run on your own, or as a group, or maybe even looking to hold one off sports days and events, Barn Elms Sports Trust can help you.

Contact for more information

BEST Athletic Track – Prices

Single Visit – Adult:  £3

Single Visit – Child: £2.50

High Jump: £4

Annual Pass – Adult: £100

Annual Pass – Junior: £40