VALA ambassador: Tom
If you've been following VALA on Instagram for a while, you'll no doubt have seen Tom popping up on our page. He's often spotted reppin' a VALA top, hair pushed back with a buff and a VALA gel safely tucked into his running vest to fuel up his long runs. You might remember this iconic and hilarious 'official unofficial' VALA ad that Tom created whilst out on his runs, which had us all in stitches.
Tom has been with us from the very start and has always been such an incredible ambassador for VALA, so it's great to officially have him on our team. Keep scrolling to find out what keeps Tom motivated, why he loves VALA and what his top tips are for anyone looking to start running. You won't want to miss this read!
Hey Tom, can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to get into running?
Running has been a big part of my life since I was a child. When I gave up competitive football in my twenties, I started running around my local park. It was only a three mile circular and I bumped into a local guy running ten miles round it for ten days to raise money. This was in the mid 2000s and I thought he was a legend for doing it. This sent me down a rabbit hole looking for endurance runners/athletes and I became hooked.
How long have you been running for?
I’d say I’ve been running since I could walk. I’m of the generation that was kicked out after breakfast and only went home for food, so I would often walk the length of my village to a friend's house, but quickly got bored due to the time it took, so ran it most days instead. I then met a friend in another village so used to run along the canal tow path to his house. I never really considered myself a runner though until I trained for the Silverstone Half in 2011.
What’s your favourite thing about it?
I’m very comfortable being by myself and find running a great way to explore on my own time. It’s terrific for clearing the mind of all the clutter. There are also very few sports that you can just leave your front door and your workout/training begins, with little to no equipment other than a pair of trainers (clothing optional). I also love its inclusivity. You don’t need a membership, a particular fitness level or even money to do it. Most people will own a pair of trainers so they’re already 99% of the way to becoming a runner.
Where’s your favourite place to train?
I’m very fortunate that I live next to a small wood, which in any given season allows me to train on my doorstep. It has jumps, streams and plenty of mud when you just want to have some fun. It’s also great in the dark to fine tune your senses. Failing that, I spend a lot of time on the SWCP, which has glorious trails and wonderful views. Plus there are always plenty of spots for a cooling dip in the sea mid-run.
What keeps you motivated on days when it seems harder than usual?
My wife has been my rock and motivation in the 20 years that we have been together and whenever it gets tough, I just think about her and our daughter M. Both of them keep a huge smile on my face and even though the tough days are few, whenever it starts hurting, I think of them and everything becomes infinitely easier.
Is there a specific athlete in your field that inspires you and what do you admire about them?
When I started heading down to Devon, I devoured everything I could about the SWCP and running. At the time, Damian Hall had the FKT for running the entire length of it and I watched his documentary over and over again. It seemed so effortless for him and he wasn’t this huge world renowned ultra running athlete that he is today. He just drank tea and got it done. I admire his 'down-to-earthness' as an athlete. He seems to flow with pure grit and determination.
Why do you enjoy using VALA?
I can’t get enough of the flavour and texture. I’ve used gels since my fast marathon and I’ve always hated the after taste. They left me with a bloated, acidy feeling in my stomach. VALA never leaves you feeling anything but great after you use them. I love the ingredients and the fact that it's locally sourced as well.
What does ‘natural sports nutrition’ mean to you?
Making sure that whatever goes into my body isn’t made in Dr Robotniks lab. I’m keen to keep my diet as clean as possible (with a cheat every now and again) and that includes fuelling my running. I was looking for a natural energy source, which started with buying dates and making my own energy balls. I then began looking around for more ideas and stumbled across VALA. It was everything I needed and way better tasting that anything I could produce. It is the very definition of natural sports nutrition.
What are your top three tips for someone else thinking of getting into running?
1. Don’t overcomplicate it.
You can talk yourself out of running by thinking you don’t look like a runner, have the pace of a runner or even actually like running when you first start. Put that out of your mind, lace up and start moving. As long as you are moving quicker than you walk, you’re a runner.
2. Unlike most sports, it’s not about the equipment.
You don’t need expensive shoes, GPS watches or the newest range of running apparel. Grab what you already have and start running. You may not enjoy it so why waste money on stuff you won’t need. Then, once you’ve fallen in love with it (and you will), by all means consume (on VALA of course).
3. Enjoy exploring.
Running the same routes can become monotonous. Get off the roads and start using your local public footpaths and bridleways. There’s very few places in the UK where you don’t already have heaps of ready made trails on your doorstep. You just have to find them and that’s half the fun.