Zak Hoblyn-Davis: From Hobby to Victory

In the lead up to Manchester Marathon, our 2021 compression partner, 2XU, chatted to Zak Hoblyn-Davis, a not-so-seasoned marathon runner who recently took the top spot in Antigua, and will be running Manchester this weekend after a great finish in London.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Zak…

I’m Zak. An Engineering Surveyor living on Tottenham, North London.

Which marathons are you running and why?

I ran London at the weekend in a time of 3:11, with a first-place finish in Antigua a few weeks before, but now it’s onto Manchester and Tokyo with a goal of taking that time to sub-3 hours. They’re all huge events that I’ve dreamed of running, but I am also running in aid of the Down Syndrome Association (DSA) for my 6-year-old niece, Maddison, who was born with Trisomy 21.

How long have you been running for and how did you get into it?

I have been running since I was about 14 years old. At the time, I had to cut and maintain a good weight during my boxing days, so I relied on it for that, but since then it just became part of my normal week and never really thought too much about it.

I used to work at sea for long periods of time which made it difficult to continue my running routine, but when that ended, I could finally plan things ahead of time and it allowed me to plan, train and a prepare to conquer a marathon. I haven’t been competing for too long but every year my times and commitment to the cause improves.

Congratulations on the Antigua win! Tell us about that…

Well, my wife and I actually travelled out there for a belated-honeymoon – you know, time to sit back, relax and recover – until I saw that the Run in Paradise race was taking place during our trip.

I went back and forth on whether I should sign up. One, because it was our honeymoon, but two, because there might be a risk of injury ahead of London and Manchester. But, I couldn’t resist!

It was all a bit of whirlwind to be honest. We landed in Antigua at 4pm, got to the apartment at 5pm and then I was running at 3am.

The first-place finish was totally unexpected. My goal was just to finish in the 29-degree heat. But I took it steady to begin and soaked up the stunning scenery all the way to the finish line.

My time was 3:22:37 (including a toilet break at mile 23!), which is about 25 minutes slower than I’m hoping to do in the UK races. But it was definitely the right decision to get myself used to the heat.

Once the race was over, then it was time to do what I set out to do – sit back, relax and recover. Although, I still did squeeze in a few more runs!

What are the mental benefits of running for you?

It definitely helps me reset a bad day or week. It keeps me calmer, more chilled and more fulfilled. I think I need to go without it for a prolonged time to really appreciate and understand the true mental benefits.

What does your pre-race training look like?

I aim for 20-33 miles a week. Any more and I tend to pick up little niggles or an overuse injury in my right adductor. I aim for three runs split over a week; a “see how it feels” 9-10 miler (6:10 – 6:45 minute pace), a fast 8 miler usually on a treadmill (5:56 – 6:00 minute pace), then a half marathon or more at the end of the week at 6:25-6:35 minute pace.

I consume more food and drink a lot more water than usual during heavy weeks of training. I also avoid the gym to allow my whole body to recover after every run. I also try to carb up heavy for a race, so I tend to look more out of shape than when I am just tapering. My cardiovascular benefits must be through the roof but aesthetically I’m not too sure!

How important is recovery in your post run?

Any distance I do over 10 miles I try to consume a pack of precooked chicken on some wholemeal toast or just a protein shake instantly, and also take on as much water as my body will allow.

Anything over 13 miles I will include an energy drink as a treat to replace the sugar and glucose levels. I’ll also allow at least two days rest between runs, wearing my 2XU recovery tights whilst relaxing to help speed up the process.

Finally, are you looking forward to running Manchester?

Absolutely! It’s my first time running Manchester Marathon. After London, what major city is there left to conquer? Of course it’s Manchester! It’s known for its incredibly welcoming atmosphere that epitomises the spirit of Manchester so I’m looking forward to running with 30,000 other likeminded people. I’ve also heard that the city can offer plenty of good food and drink after the 26.2 miles have been completed.