Interview with Tony Bacon – March 2019

Tony Bacon has won the 5k race at the Waterbeach Running Festival for the past three years. We caught up with Tony to find out how he got into running, why he enjoys running at Waterbeach Barracks and top tips for anyone looking to improve their physical and mental wellbeing through running.

Hi Tony. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Winning the 5k at the Waterbeach Running Festival for the past three years is an impressive achievement. Have you been training for a long time?

“I’ve actually only been running for six years. I used to smoke and drink and was struggling with depression. I didn’t do much exercise and got breathless going up the stairs. I didn’t have any previous experience of running beyond the odd sprint during a game of football, which I mainly played for the social aspect rather than to keep fit.

“When I gave up smoking in 2013, I took up running to help get into shape and used the Runkeeper app to track my progress and stay motivated.

“Lots of people start running for the physical and mental benefits. When I started, I hadn’t run before and it took a while to build up my fitness and stamina. It started off as a chore that turned into a habit and has become a real passion that has transformed my life.”

Is the 5k your favourite race?

“I tend to prefer sprints and shorter, faster races and am currently ranked inside the British top 30 for my age in the 800, 1500 and 3000m.

“I am very happy with my progress. Taking into account that in 2012 I used to get breathless walking up the stairs as I smoked and drank too much, which led to a very unhealthy lifestyle. I’ve gone from that to representing Saffron Striders Running Club and Haverhill Running Club, winning over 30 races, competing in the British Masters Championships and getting both British and world rankings for my age is separate race distances.

“It just goes to show, if you try hard and put in the effort, anything is possible.”

Tony, you’ve won the 5k race at the Waterbeach Running Festival for the past three years with winning times of 00:18:41 (2016), 00:17:14 (2017) – which was a personal best – and 00:17:26 (2018). What time are you aiming for this year?

“I’m very competitive and am hoping to complete the course in under 17 minutes. If my winning streak ends this year, I think I’ll enter the 10k at next year’s event.”

What do you enjoy most about taking part in the Waterbeach Running Festival?

“It is a really special community event that helps raise funds for a local charity. It’s a great, flat, off-road course that allows runners to test themselves and push for personal bests. The event has grown a lot in the last three years and now attracts runners from all over Cambridgeshire.”

You’ve clearly achieved a lot since you first put on a pair of running shoes back in 2013. Do you have any top tips you can share with anyone looking to take up running?

Running is great for your physical and mental wellbeing. It’s free, a great cardio workout and a positive way to battle depression.”

Tony’s top tips are:

  • Persevere – practice makes perfect. It takes time, but it does get easier. The more you do it, the better you will become.
  • Pace yourself. Work on mileage. Keep going a little bit further and a little bit faster each time.
  • The ‘Couch to 5k’ is great for anyone looking to start out or who has fallen out of a fitness routine. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/
  • Join a local running club. It might seem a bit daunting to start with, but it’s a great way to meet likeminded people – and they cater for all abilities.
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune on footwear. Buy basic footwear that is suitable for the terrain – lightweight running shoes on hard surfaces and lightweight trail shoes on grass/cross country.
  • Keep a diary – so you can see your progress and how you are improving, which will keep you motivated. There are apps on your smart phone or watches that can be used to log pace and time.
  • As well as local events, such as the Waterbeach Running Festival, there are parkland runs every weekend. These free, 5km timed runs take place all over the UK and are a great way to keep track of your running progress. http://www.parkrun.org.uk

And finally, have you had any particularly amusing moments whilst out running?

“I regularly dress up and compete incognito. My favourites are banana man and a number of Star Wars characters. Runners tend to expect people competing in fancy dress to be fun runners and don’t expect to see a banana speeding past them during a race!”


For more details and to enter the Running Festival visit www.waterbeachrunningfestival.co.uk