Our Runners of SOAR Series returns for its fifth instalment as we chat with Colorado based British trail runner and surrealist comic Jake Littlehales.
It's fair to say we're yet to meet a runner quite as independently minded as Jake.
Hello Jake Littlehales.
Hello. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your “Runners of SOAR” series fellas. I doubted whether I’d be interviewed for a submission as I’m very much an alternate being when it comes to expressing my thoughts and my training.
You started running when you were still in the UK. How did you get into it and what, if any, were you favourite or strongest distances?
I started running not long before my 21st birthday. I did run for East Cheshire Harriers from 16 years old until I joined Stockport Harriers at 20 but for those 4 years I ran on a Tuesday and never over 5 miles including warm up and cool down in any one day. It’s obvious to see why I didn’t develop as a runner until I joined Stockport when I started training with structure and logical progression for the first time.
Believe it or not I didn’t even do my first tempo run until I was 21 and never ran over 50 mins until I was 22. Talk about undertrained. It’s funny, 15 year olds at the club were training twice as much as me - but I bet they don’t know as much as me when it comes to the subject of boybands between the years 1997-2002. Whilst there I hesitantly trained myself to be a relatively good 800m runner, but I only concentrated on this because I was new to the sport and wasn’t fit or trained enough to tackle longer distances yet. My logic was get fast now whilst I’m too rubbish and too weak to be a competitive distance guy. But I always knew that with my body type, and blend of endurance and speed but lack of power, I’d be better suited to the 5k in the long run.
Since moving to the US you have focused more on ultra and trail running. How did that happen? What do you like about this scene?
Nobody knows much about how and why I’m in America as a consequence of my use of sarcasm to express myself. This represents me in an ambiguous way and leaves no distinct line between realism and surrealism especially in regards to my social media presence. But, to start answering your question, I first came to America in 2016 on an athletic scholarship offered to me by Adams State, Colorado. I became no less than an urban legend there and will live on in Southern Colorado fairytales for years to come. Unfortunately because of injuries including a broken foot, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints and a herniated disc (which I still suffer from), I only raced 6 times in my two years there. I always joke that my return on investment wasn’t too bad though as I was a two time conference medallist and made the best instant mash within the whole Colorado Hispanic community. To make me seem like Kevin Costner, I want your readers to know I split a 48.7 400m in the relay with a broken foot. Try that next time someone is taking you for a walk in the park.
Now I solely race on the trails to minor success. I’ve set a fair few championship records whilst sick, beat pro athletes whilst hungover, and if it wasn’t for dehydration I would have run the 3rd fastest and 8th fastest (adjusted for altitude) 50k in Colorado and the UK. Blue Moon beer can really mislead a man in the final stages of a race. I’m pursuing trail racing because the lower intensity is easier on my herniated disc which flares up and kills me on concrete or the track. The scene is Coors Light chilled too, and that brings less pressure because people realise there are so many variables that go into results when trail racing. No one can predict falling (me), going the wrong way (me), dehydrating or not fuelling (me). There you go. I don’t want to bore too much, being boring causes me great grief. Give the Insta a quick once over to see what the American trail scene is like from the perspective of satire and 70s, 80s and 90s British sitcom inspired humour. Think “The Two Ronnies”, “Only Fools and Horses” and “The Royle Family”. Throw in Jim Carey slapstick and Robin Williams’s stand up routines too.
What is your training like throughout the year? Is it very different from the way you trained in the UK?
Now I’ve moved to the trails training doesn’t have to be too specific and days don’t need to be too fixed or tied down by splits and distances. It might be technically wrong, but running exactly how I want each day, however hard or slow, or short or long, raises my satisfaction levels. I hate being controlled and compromised for the sake of running well. Life requires many ingredients for someone to be happy, or at least for someone with a hyperactive personality like mine. I want to be a successful runner but I also want to have a purpose outside of that, I don’t want to be a running robot who only focuses on how fast he is and not on life itself. I have no idea if I’m answering these questions, I am sober so stick with me. Also, running on trails extends one's exploration of the environment and its wildlife. For a foreigner it sure is pleasant discovering and learning while getting fitter and preparing to compete - mostly I don’t see it as training, I see it as growing and opening my mind. Correspondingly, I’ve been at altitude for all of the 4 years I’ve lived in America. First at 7544 ft above sea level in Alamosa, then 8600 ft whilst in Florissant and now 6300 ft in Colorado Springs. All I can say is you need to eat more, drink more (Blue Moon) and sleep more, otherwise your body will pack in and be displayed in a vintage emporium somewhere.
I think we can safely describe your instagram presence @jakelittelhales as ‘next level’. How was this persona born and how does it relate to your running?
It’s not so easy for me to articulate my posts and their meaning or origins. Nevertheless I’ll give it a go. I mentioned in my answer for an earlier question who my influences are in terms of comedy. My Instagram comes back to them and the work they produce during their careers. Trying to be funny and having a satirical take on just about everything is how I connect with people, how I communicate and how I individualise myself. There’s not much point in doing anything unless you’re remembered. Nobody will think twice or feel anything when they see a selfie or a brainless fitness post but will they remember a guy in lingerie who takes on a basic girl persona whilst using George Michael lyrics and intense sarcasm to demonstrate social commentary and convey realism? My posts are often misunderstood but they’re layered with relevant opinions and funny references to the questionable personas who sell their souls to get followers and lose who they are and let their real lives crumble like a digestive biscuit due to neglect. Most of all my posts bring much needed authenticity to the often toxic world of Instagram. Follow me @jakelittlehales, the energy is like a Duran Duran video.
Once racing restarts, what are you main competitive aims?
The majority of events have been cancelled for the remainder of the year, including what was to have been my marathon debut at Manchester. Thankfully I’m tickled to say, as of this second, I am planning on running a 50k on August 30th. I want to break 3hrs 20mins at altitude which will make it at least the 4th fastest 50k time ever run in Colorado and when adjusted for sea level it’ll be one of the fastest ever 50k times run by a British athlete. We will see. It could get cancelled or I could drink a six pack the night before and stop for 18 mins because of cramp again. I’ll keep you posted. Converting to a sub 3hr 50k should qualify for the 50k world champs in 2021 so that’ll be joyous if it all works out. Beyond this, since Colorado is slowly lifting racing restrictions there could be races I run that I don’t know about yet. Who knows? It’s all so unpredictable and therefore I’m gonna start training as though I do have races in the fall and hopefully shed this Gary Busey body I’ve got from not running in April and May. I’m also now debating on whether I should time trial a marathon in October to celebrate the Manchester marathon. Can I be bothered? Did Milli Vanilli sing any of their songs? Will I be touring with my South Koran pop girl group called “Guidance ex-0?” Only time will find the answers for us.