William is in it for the long run
William Stewart is the shop manager of Run4It Aberdeen.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN SPORT AND FITNESS?
Sport and fitness has always taken a central role in my life from a young age. Swimming, tennis, golf, football – you name it. I then got involved in rugby at secondary school, which ended in tears and a severe injury. It was after this when I found triathlon and running.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN IT? WHAT SPORTS DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER?
My parents were always very supportive of my extra-curricular activities and at one point I had a full week of sports after school. My dad is football daft and used to coach us on Saturday mornings and it wasn’t long before I joined a club. It just went from there really.
At secondary school there wasn’t a football team on offer so I joined the rugby club. I took to this quite well and had a successful five years but I was stopped in my tracks with a severe knee injury and required surgery. After a long period of physiotherapy I was fit enough to return to rugby but I had lost too much time to compete with my peers and was told I would be susceptible to recurring injuries if I continued to play.
Although disappointed at the time I was only 18 and still relatively fit so I decided to join the triathlon club at university.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO STUDY APPLIED SPORT SCIENCE IN UNIVERSITY? WHAT CAREER WERE YOU HOPING TO GET AFTER UNI?
At the time of leaving school I didn’t have any great aspirations as to a career plan and had originally intended studying to be a PE teacher but, being on crutches at the time, I was unable to complete the physical interview so I found myself in the field of Sport Science.
I wanted to study something I enjoyed and it gave me a lot of understanding that I could apply to my personal training and to others in a coaching role.
I’ve always wanted to get involved in physiotherapy and its something I still might consider going into further down the line. It would mean going back to school though.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST CHALLENGE YOU DID AND WHEN? WHAT WAS IT LIKE? HOW DID YOU FIND IT?
Ironman was my first big challenge back in 2011. My first triathlon was a couple of years earlier and I punctured and didn’t finish. It was disappointing but a great lesson in picking yourself up and regrouping. I have a fairly strong (read: stubborn) mentality and failing to finish my first triathlon made me more determined for the next one.
That being said, I did turn up to the same event the following year and forgot to wear my timing chip.
Ironman was a fantastic experience though. I trained with a good friend of mine for over a year and it took a great deal of hard work to get there. At the time it was the biggest event I had attended and the support and organisation was brilliant.
I approached it like I approach most tasks and broke it down into manageable chunks. For me it makes any task a lot less daunting, whether it is a 140-mile triathlon or a new week or campaign in the shop. There are targets to be met in both and they need to be approached methodically.
YOU’VE ALSO WORKED ABROAD. WHAT WERE YOU DOING THEN?
After finishing university and a successful Ironman debut I fell out of sport for a while. It is quite common with people who work towards a big goal for a long time. I wasn’t sure what was next for me and where to go next. I’d always wanted to travel but my finances limited me. It was at this point when I signed up to work on a cruise ship in the hospitality sector. My logic was to work hard and earn money while seeing different parts of the world.
It was a challenging environment with long hours and many big personalities to work with. At times running was the last thing on my mind after a 90-hour week, but other times it was just what I needed. It completely changed my perspective on running.
During training for Ironman I had become very robotic and followed my coaches’ instructions and my watch’s data. On the ship however, I just ran. I ran to relax. I ran to explore islands. I ran to escape the sight of the ship.
I did lose a lot of fitness but I learned an invaluable lesson that I think people forget at times. Enjoyment.
I left the ship after two years worth of contracts and travelling and then found myself living in Cape Town. The community here was very sport orientated and I found my hunger to run again. The weather was a big help. I entered my first marathon and went from there. Finishing the marathon didn’t quite stack up to finishing Ironman and I wanted something more. Comrades would be the answer.
YOU ALSO COMPETED IN THE COMRADES ULTRAMARATHON. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THAT AND WHY YOU TOOK IT ON?
The Comrades Marathon is the oldest and largest Ultramarathon in the world and the South African community revolves around it. It has dedicated, uninterrupted TV coverage for the full 12 hours and you can’t talk to a runner in South Africa without it coming up in conversation. Average number for runners is over 18,000.
I decided to enter after my anticlimax following my first marathon and wanted to push my limits further. It is a one-of-a- kind event as well, steeped in history and the timing was perfect. It is an alternating, point to point route, uphill one year and down the next and covers the 90km (56miles) between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
My first attempt went really well and the atmosphere along the course was the best I have experienced. I made my target time of sub nine hours with 20 minutes to spare.
I’m already signed up for next year’s event to experience the race in the opposite direction (downhill) and to get the coveted back-to-back medal. There are people in South Africa who have completed over 40 Comrades runs which shows how much of a part this race is ingrained into life there. Two will be more than enough for me.
WHEN DID YOU RETURN TO SCOTLAND? WHERE DID YOU LIVE?
I returned to Scotland in June this year after visa complications in South Africa and began the hunt for a job. I was based with my parents at this time but in a little under a month I then found myself packing up and moving north to Aberdeen for the opportunity to join Run4It. I’m sure they were glad for me to move out.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR YOU IN TERMS OF CAREER AND SPORTING ACHIEVEMENTS?
After taking on the position of shop manager here I have a big task
ahead of me to continue the development of the business. It’s great to work in a setting that I am passionate about but where I can also develop my business acumen and enhance my skills. Beyond this I don’t tend to give it much thought to be perfectly honest. Looking at the last few years, I have been in places and environments where I may have never considered so I tend to take each year as it comes.
In terms of sports there is an ever-growing bucket list of challenges and goals I want to achieve and it is just a case of prioritising. I can definitely see myself running more off road and Scotland has some of the best landscape and events where you can run. Western States 100 is also a big one for me as well as some unfinished business in Cape Town and Table Mountain.
DO YOU HAVE ANY CHALLENGES LINED UP FOR THIS YEAR?
It’s already looking pretty busy. The big one is Comrades again at the end of May and I have set myself a pretty big goal. After this I plan to run mainly off road and do some of the Scottish Ultra Marathon races.
Me and a friend have also signed up to do the Loch Gu Loch Swimrun race next October. Plunging into Loch Ness and running around the hills, totalling 8km of swimming and 53km of running.
I may need to return to the Illuminator next winter to defend my title as well but that’s a long way away.