Meet Gene Beveridge who is part of the GPR collective as a brand ambassador. He’s also an elite athlete, engineer, super talented competitive runner, and a nice bloke. I’d like to introduce Gene and share an insight into how an elite level runner ticks, deals with injury, his mind set as a racer, and why he’s involved with the GPR project.
Where do you call home?
What is your current occupation?
I’m qualified as a mechatronics engineer and work in product research and development for Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.
How long have you been a runner? How long as an elite runner?
I have always identified with running and exploring new places since a young age. I never saw a limit to where I could go, and so have always explored my environment, typically on foot, and often at a reasonable speed. So I have always been confident running off road, but there was a clear beginning to when I started training for running. 6 years ago, a group of us decided we were going to take our orienteering to the next level, and so needed to be become running beasts. I have competed nationally and internationally for 6 years now, but only in the last 2 years have I had success at the senior level in orienteering and trail running.
What do you seek when you run? is your main motivation to compete? or is it something else?
The outdoors have always been a playground for me and it took me a while to realise that having the confidence to just leave the house and explore somewhere totally unfamiliar was not something that everyone had. Although it may appear covered by layers of routine and precision at times, this desire to explore the world has always underpinned why I run. The routine and precise control of my training volume and intensity is to help me avoid injuries and get the most out of my body. The reason I compete instead of just run casually is partly a personal mission to be the best I can be and partly to inspire others to pursue similar endeavours and help develop their own set of skills; their own physical identity.
What physiological elements are you most focussed on?
My racing demands a wider range of skills than just aerobic capacity, and so my training must include rough trails and big hills. Speed is also important as I focus more on going fast than going long and so I do a lot of intervals in my training. The orienteering takes it another step further by moving off the trails and into the terrain. Strength, agility, and aggression play a bigger role when you’re running on soft ground and pushing through undergrowth. When I’m training well, and these components of my performance come together, the intensity I can hold for an hour and a half scares me a little bit.
The outdoors have always been a playground for me and it took me a while to realise that having the confidence to just leave the house and explore somewhere totally unfamiliar was not something that everyone had.
As an elite level athlete there are psychological aspects to training and racing. Can you explain what this is all about and how it helps you to train and compete?
The most obvious mental challenge with running is the battle between telling your body to go faster and your body screaming back at you in protest. Pacing is important, and you do need to listen to your body, but beyond the useful feedback it’s best to relax, focus on your speed, and let your breathing take care of itself. In a way you are disconnecting yourself from the amount of stress you are putting on your body. I do get nervous before racing and interval training because I know that I’m going to be pushing to a new level, a slight unknown. The mental toughness to push your limits is trainable and so it is important to have very hard sessions like these as part of a training program. I’m at the stage now where on the start line I have already accepted my fate, and the only decisions I have to make are to do with tactics and others around me.
Training motivation is also a problem some athletes face and I would recommend staying as close as possible to other athletes, ideally your competitors, so you can build on each others’ motivation. Ideally you can immerse yourself in an energetic training environment.
Why are you involved with Good people Run? What is it about the project that you are most attracted to and want to be involved with?
I’m always looking for new opportunities to promote both running and giving back. When I found Good People Run, an organisation fusing these 2 concepts I got really excited and got in touch straight away. I’m involved with Good People Run to provide a face at the more competitive end of running, but at events that are open to people of all levels of experience. I want to share my love for running and support others who are working hard towards their own dreams. I’ve been involved in voluntary coaching, mentoring and organising races for some time now, but Good People Run is exposing me to a wider community of runners that I wouldn’t otherwise meet.
Could you give us a small insight into your usual training routine? Are you a structured programme type of person, or do you run more by feel?
I like the idea of training by feel, but I’ve learned that I’m too determined and too pumped about running for this approach to be sustainable, so for me a well calculated training program is a sensible choice. I have made many of my own programs, but now I work closely with my trusted coach to get the numbers right. Because of past injury troubles I limit myself to 4 runs per week on regular weeks, but these are all high quality and have very specific aims. I make up the rest of my training volume with cycling and add strength, conditioning and a lot of maintenance activities on top.
Where are your favourite places to run and why?
I love the high mountains like the Southern Alps, above the tree line where I can go anywhere I want. The views are magnificent and although I I’m dwarfed by the terrain, running gives me the reach to cover a large area.
Do you get a “runner’s high”? if so, can you describe it? What circumstances are you most likely to achieve this?
I do get the runner’s high, most commonly if I train in the morning. I sit at work feeling inexplicably happy. I love it. I also get a crazy pumped-up buzz from running with epic views or in beautiful forests.
What facet of running do you enjoy most? What stands out as the best experiences for you and why?
I enjoy racing the most. Ideally when it’s fast and the competition is close enough that tactics and psychology can play an important role. Winning a race when I’ve put everything on the line and eventually broken the competition is extremely empowering. I also love taking younger athletes on runs that push their limits. Seeing them adapt, mainly mentally, to the new challenges and finish with a greater sense of confidence in their own ability is hugely rewarding.
I’ve been involved in voluntary coaching, mentoring and organising races for some time now, but Good People Run is exposing me to a wider community of runners that I wouldn’t otherwise meet.
How is running important to you and your life and its direction?
Running is the most important aspect of my life. I don’t mean running is more important to my survival than my job, but it is the area of my life that I pour the most energy into. There is a sense of urgency to reach my potential, and until I’ve reached my peak, training will be given priority over other things. This doesn’t mean others things don’t happen, it just means that I have to be organised to manage all my other commitments around my training. Everything I’m involved in outside of work is linked to running and orienteering in some way and this is unlikely to change.
Running and injury. You seem to have ongoing issues that affect your training. From the outside you seem to cope with this reality very well. What is your approach to dealing with being side-lined from elite level competition when injured?
I have had a lot of injuries and have missed out on training and competing for big blocks of time in the past 6 years. I think the most important thing is to leave the emotions aside when you’re planning for the future. All that matters is accessing my current condition, understanding my ideal condition, and then coming up with the steps I need to take to get there. Dealing with the facts gives you confidence and empowers you to make real progress. If the steps involve time off or a month of aqua jogging then so be it. Planning and consistent communication with experienced coaches and experts helps me make the best decisions I can, and even when things don’t go to plan I can still be happy that I did everything I could.
Music or no music when running? If so what do you enjoy listening to?
I’m a big music fan and really into my progressive metal, but when it comes time to run I want clarity and focus, so no music. I also love the natural sounds of running in the forest; experiencing being a part of nature.
Do you have a certain philosophy regarding running and the concept of community engagement and advocacy? Do you think running can benefit the wider community in more ways than increased fitness?
The research is clear about the health benefits of physical activity, so I think it’s much more interesting to delve deeper into the emotional benefits of running. From my experience it is clear that running is hugely empowering and helps develop a strong sense of physical identity (that is an understanding of one’s own physical abilities and limitations) along with emotional traits like independence, resilience and commitment. I hear people saying “I can’t do that” and “I just don’t do that”, when the truth is they have never given it a good go and vastly underestimate their own potential. Running is essentially free, and it should be something that everyone has tried enough to understand that, like most things, it involves a hugely rewarding process of improvement and the first run is not representative of every run. If everyone ran, I believe we would have mentally stronger people and more people saying “look at what I did” instead of “I wish I could do that”.
Where to from here? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I’m expecting to stay in New Zealand for at least another year, and then I’m planning to move to Sweden, possibly for a number of years, to compete in orienteering more seriously. I can pursue the running dreams from anywhere really, but the opportunities for orienteering are much greater in Scandinavia than in New Zealand. There are still some big details to be decided on though, like whether or not to pursue postgraduate study in active prosthetics, and whether or not to stay all year round in Europe or split my time between New Zealand and Europe. I will continue to pursue coaching and mentoring wherever I am, but I won’t leave New Zealand until the coaching concepts and resources that I have developed are in good hands.
What are your top three tips to achieving happiness or balance in life?
I’m really big on my philosophies and I really like thinking about why I do the things I do. I’m a big advocate for doing things because they are good. Good for your body, good for your mind, and good for those around you. So that you can look back with amazement, and without regrets.
1. Make it happen. Be spontaneous and use a clear vision to keep the energy flowing until the project is complete.
2. Don’t stop learning. Set aside time every day to learn about something new and if you ever have a question, look up the answer straight away.
3. Explore. New Zealand, let alone the world, is massive. Explore somewhere new every week.
Make sure you train with others who are better or more experienced than yourself, as this will force you to lift your game and allow you get more answers to your questions.
Any advice for runners who wish to become more competitive and get sponsored to race?
Ideally anyone wanting success should immerse themselves in a highly motivating environment with others who are on the same path to push each other harder. Make sure you train with others who are better or more experienced than yourself, as this will force you to lift your game and allow you get more answers to your questions. Also, trying new types of running until you find what you like the most can help with any fundamental motivation issues.
For me, the sponsorship side of things is not about being more competitive, it’s more about values. Working with other organisations in a meaningful way starts with common interest and identifying how you can offer value to someone else. My advice would be to develop a clear vision of what you stand for and take every opportunity to leave your own mark on a changing world.
Check out Genes website over at http://genebeveridge.co.nz/
Gene also features in one of our fine art prints for sale over here.