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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Jean Phillipe Brunon Interview.

(hanging with 'JP' after 12 hrs of battle at Feucherolles)

Just under a year ago at the 12hrs de Feucherolles I met Jean Phillipe Brunon. We instantly hit off and during a days racing and well into that night got to know each other a lot better. Since then, thanks to the Internet, we have become pals who share a passion for running and for the human connection that is such a vital part of why we do this. With my current injuries sidelining me from anything remotely resembling an ultra it is Jean Phillipe who, along with Tim are the torch bearers for 2012. I caught up with JP over emails and this is what he had to say. On a side note, English is not JP's first language so he did really well and I thoroughly enjoyed putting this piece together with him. Thanks JP on behalf of all the people involved in Running for Pearl.

We first met at the 12 hrs de Feucherolles in may last year, how was you race that day?

Up until Feucherolles my longest race was 100 km, I wanted to properly test myself before running my first 24H race in October, especially hydrating and fueling properly. My target for this event was initially 132 km (average speed 11 km/h) so I started at 12 km/h. But the weather was a bit hot (departure was at 11 am) so this was a bit too fast. Fortunately though I slowed down preventively after the marathon mark (during the afternoon the temperature went up). I had no problem during the race and I even accelerated a bit at the end as it was fresher during the evening.

After this my decision to run a 24H race in October was reinforced! My final mark was 127,2 km and I was happy with it despite the fact that it was less than expected because it was quite hot and I finished in good shape. With this kind of race what is more important than performance is the friendship with other participants. I was very pleased to meet you in person after getting in touch on the DailyMile site.

Tell me a bit about your running background/career?

When I was a teen I practiced cycling but due to knee problems I has to stop at the age of 21. After that I did almost no sport, maybe a jog every few months. I began running in summer 2005 just to get in shape and to lose some weight (I've lost 12 kg). I took part in my first race (a 10K) in 2006 and I liked the atmosphere. Also a lot of elder runners ran faster than me, this motivated me to begin some structured training. I was soon fascinated by long distance running, so I ran my first marathon (Paris) in April 2007 and y managed a sub-3H marathon for my 4th marathon in November 2009 (Nice-Cannes, 2H57).

Regarding ultra-marathons, my first one was the 6 hours des Yvelines in May 2009 at Villennes/s/Seine (now it's in Feucherolles). I entered it just to see if I was going to like it, and I really enjoyed it! Despite many newbie mistakes ( starting too fast, bad fueling) I managed to cover nearly 68 km and discovered a very friendly community of ultra runners. So from 2010 to now-and I hope for a long time-most of the running year is dedicated to ultras: my first 100K (Chavagnes in Vendée) in May 2010 then the famous Millau 100K in September 2010. I try to increase my mileage and ultra distances every year as the longer was the race, the more fun I have!!!

2011 was a pretty good year for you, what were the highlights?

I can say that odd years are generally good running years for me. 2005: start, 2007: 1st marathon and 1st sub-40' 10K, 2009: 1st sub-3H marathon, 2011: 1st 24H and win. The even years have not been as good (in 2008 I lost my Dad, running helped but performance was not a concern, 2010) hard-time for 100 km de Millau, but this was a delight as it changed my approach of ultras.

My main goal in 2011 was to run my first 24 hour race in Autumn, primarily to see if I was able to achieve continuous effort during 24H, and if possible break the 200K mark which is quite a psychological barrier that many circadians (24H runners) want to break. So I decided to take part in 12H des Yvelines in May to test all the logistics, mainly alternating running and walking for proper hydrating and fueling (which is even more important than training for ultras). The result was very positive because I was not exhausted at all and ready in my mind to run another 12H. I registered in 24H de Vierzon race just after Feucherolles.

I also ran 100 km de Theillay 6 weeks before Vierzon to make final adjustments for 24H pace and fueling, I was quite confident because I completed this 100K without being tired at all.

D-Day of my 2011 running year was at Vierzon on October 8-9th. A friend of mine (Jean-Jacques) was there to assist me. My goal was to stay 24 hours on the circuit without sleeping, and eventually break the 200K mark. I started slowly compared to many other runners, and I managed to keep my initial pace (close to 10 km/h) for 16 hours until 3 am (race started at 11am) and I was in 1st position by midnight. The most difficult part was the end of the night between 5 am and 8 am because I had a strong desire to sleep and I slowed down but never stopped. When the sun rose in the morning, it was like a revival and I managed to finish the race without being too exhausted. I was very pleased with my distance of 227,645 km as my most optimistic prediction was 215 km. Also, it was my first victory in a official race, but the most important thing is that I had no muscular nor tendinous problem, and that I really enjoyed this 24 hours most of the time, so I'm optimistic for my future ultras.

What races are you taking on for 2012?

As every year, I try to improve a little my speed on short distances (10K, half-marathon) in winter before the ultra marathon season. I don't like short distances-especially 10K-but it's good to run sometimes at a faster pace and also to meet other runners outside the ultra community.

For the 2012 ultra season, I will have 3 targets :

1. 100 km of Belvès (in the Perigord) on April 14th.
It will be a competitive race as it's the French 100K championship. My target is to beat my 100K PR in 8H30/8H40 which is not obvious because the route is hilly. Jean-Jacques will accompany me on a bicycle so I'll have both logistic and a mental assistance.

2. Ultrabalaton (non stop 212 km race around lake Balaton in Hungary) on June 30th - July 1st
It will be my first very long non stop race and I'll run it in cool -possibly hot weather- to graduate to this kind of event and to improve logistics and mental strength in the scope of 2013 (see dream race). Just enjoy my time with other runners and finish without being exhausted if possible...

3. 24H de Vierzon (same circuit as 2011) on October 6-7th
I'll try to improve my 2011 mark by 5-10 km but as it will be the 24H French championship, victory or even the podium is out of reach. Also it's more difficult to run a event for the second time because making mistakes due to an excess of self-confidence that often occurs when all went smoothly the first time!

I'll also run other ultra races, like 6H de Buc, 6H de Feucherolles, and 100 km de Theillay to prepare these events or just for the fun.

Why have you chosen to support RFP?

I first heard about Running for Pearl at Feucherolles when I met with Malcolm.
I was thinking about supporting an association while running ultras for a couple of months, especially in the fields of youth, health, education or environment. I also prefer a small structure where I know people in person rather than large ones. Autism affects hundred of thousands people in France alone, and there is little or no communication about it in the media.
So RFP is a "perfect match"! There is also a nice and well-know young French ultra runner and walker, Franck, who is Autistic (Aspergers Syndrome) who runs dozens of ultras every year (he also was there in Feucherolles). So many ultra-runners are already aware of Autism.
On a personal point of view, it really can help to surpass myself during a race when it gets hard, because comparing to what Pearl and her family endure it's really nothing!

Your attention to detail for your training logs is astonishing, where does this come from?

I think this is due to my scientific background (I'm a software engineer). I like stats, so I always record data like speed and heart rate. I also like to optimize my training and control as many parameters as I can during the race. Logging every training session and every race is useful to analyze data. It helps in not reproducing the same mistakes and improve training and efficiency during races. I hope that in the future, once I'll have learned how to train, hydrate, fuel, ... I'll be able to run long distances more "instinctively".

What is the dream race you hope to compete in someday?

Since 2010 I have wanted to run the Spartathlon (a 246 km non stop race in Greece from Athens to Sparta, web site: Because of this goal I select races as stepping stones to ultimately be able to finish the Spartathlon and kiss the foot of Leonidas in Sparta.
My first attempt will be in September 2013, there is a countdown on my blog. Finishing this race is an achievement for an ultra runner because cut off is very aggressive (limit is 36 hours).

Running the Comrades marathon in South-Africa is also a dream, more for the atmosphere (it is the most popular ultra in the world with 20000 runners and over 2000000 spectators). It is also the oldest ultra in the world (1st edition in 1921).

There are also two marathons on my to do list : Boston because of history also (oldest world marathon, 1st in 1897) and Berlin because it is fast to set a lifetime PB.

Whats your opinion on the current ultra scene in France?

I'm a newbie on ultra scene (3 years and 8 ultras is very little) so I cannot compare with the past. Also, I only run road ultras and not ultra trail for a couple of reasons:
- training for trail when living in Paris is not easy
- I like to be very relaxed and zen when I run which is easy to do on the road as you don't need to pay attention where you put your feet on or just not getting lost.
- There is more and more money in the trail (even money for winners on some races) and I think this begins to alter the initial spirit of those races
- I hate following fashions and "do like the others" and being a finisher of races like the UTMB where you first need to be selected in a lottery is not my cup of tea!

So I cannot tell about ultra trail (which may be 90% of the ultra scene in France)...
But the community of ultra road runners is rather small with the exception of 100 km de Millau where most participants do it as a challenge and are not regular ultra runners. I think there are about 1000 regular ultra road runners in France running from 1 to 10 or more ultras per year.
There is a strong respect among all ultra runners without any consideration of performance. This is obvious during time event where every runner encourage others while overtaking (which happens often because circuits are short ~1 km). Time events have become more and more popular, there are about twenty 24H races organized every year in France. There are about 10 100K organized each year. In terms of performance, French runners are quite competitive, especially in the 24H where they win medals both individual and team at every world championship.

Who inspires you?

Among french ultra-runners, Emmanuel Fontaine (a member of 24H French team with a mark beyond 250 km) inspires me because he isn't a fast runner but manages to optimize his training and has a regular pace during 24H with very little slow down. His wife Anne-Cécile is also a champion because she was twice 24H world champion with a mark beyond 240 km.

Another French ultra-runner I admire is Jean-Jacques Moros (he was a 100K French champion, was 2 times on the Spartathlon podium, has the course record of Nove Colli and Trans Gaule. But he really runs for the pleasure and friendship with other ultra-runners!

Of course I have to mention Yiannis Kouros because he is really a living legend in the world ultra running scene. Among all his world records, his 24 hours mark of 303,506 km is just fantastic.
Even more than his performances I admire his mental endurance and my motto is directly from Yiannis Kouros thought : "Without patience, you will never conquer endurance".

What is the race you are most proud of and why?

This is not an ultra, but a marathon. I really achieved a "perfect" race on the Nice-Cannes marathon in November 2009. It was my second attempt for a sub-3H after a missed one in Paris 6 month earlier. I started at a slower pace because I felt very unwell and I accelerated gradually. I really felt in the zone around km 30 and it was a little harder to finish but I managed to run faster and faster. I did a negative split even if the second part was a bit hilly and a 2H57 which I did not expected initially! I dream I'll run a perfect ultra-marathon one time in my life.

Are you a full time runner?

I do not practice any other sports apart from running and during intensive training I can run 6 times and up to 12 hours per week, my yearly mileage is around 4000 km which isn't that much for an ultra-runner who does not practice any cross-training. So running is a major part of my life, but of course family (I'm married and have a 6 year old son) and work (I'm a software engineer) are the most important.

I'm a member of a running club (XVe Athletic Club in Paris), but I don't go to training sessions very often because of my work. Also, I'm my own coach and planning my training and the logistics is really part of this hobby. Also I'm a very cautious runner and I listen to my body rather than following my training plan blindly, so I have never been hurt since I run.

I'd like to keep on running ultras even when I'll be an old man.

Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.