With the goal of elevating the level of top British ultra-runners, the ground-breaking new project, Hour 7, is a combination of promoting teamwork and bringing in the right expertise for already high-performing athletes. To find out a little more about the motivations around starting the Hour 7 team we spoke to the co-founders Michael Stocks and Dom Ashdown.
Why did you start Hour 7?
"What could be cooler than starting a running team?!” smiles British international Stocks.
The author of bestselling One Track Mind feels “quite strongly that more elite ultra-distance athletes should have access to the kind of support in areas like physiology, nutrition and psychology enjoyed by the leading athletes in Olympic events.”
It stems from Stocks’ own experience and understanding of the commitment required to perform at an international level. Having represented GB&NI at the 24hr Running World Championships in 2019 the experienced businessman saw a big crossover from high performance in all walks of life and the importance of a strong team around you.
“From my own experience in both business and sport, I know the powerful effect that support and expertise can have on performance. I would love to see this, not just for our athletes, but also for others we can share our learning with.”
Dom Ashdown might not be as familiar a name in ultra-running as Stocks, but he’s very quickly been bitten by the bug. With a BSc in Sport & Exercise Science and Nutrition and a background in professional football and golf, the keen runner knows what it takes to succeed at the highest levels.
“We want to keep improving the quality and depth of scientific understanding in ultra-endurance,” says Ashdown. “Our goal is to help as many athletes fulfil their potential as possible, but also keep it fun and enjoyable for those involved.”
Growing knowledge beyond the team
Although ultra-running hasn’t seen a huge level of academic research in the past there are several researchers and academics who are intrigued by the discipline. One of whom is Dr. Jamie Pugh at Liverpool John Moores University.
“Getting the likes of Dr. Pugh and LMJU involved from the start is a big win for us,” reports team manager Robbie Britton. “We want to be able to provide valuable support to our athletes in the team, but also bring knowledge to the wider ultra-running community as well.”
Both Stocks and Ashdown clearly have a deep motivation to learn about our sport and this shines through when they talk about the team. Ashdown is keen to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who have a desire for self-improvement and a lot of his inspiration comes from his co-founder.
“Mike is the man with the idea and is a large part of my personal running inspiration,” he says. “I've always had a passion for human performance and as I've gotten older that has shifted towards endurance, particularly the mental side of it.”
For Stocks the idea evolved over time. “I've been keen to start a team for a while. Then I realised what a great opportunity it would be to look at best practice in endurance from around the world as well as coming up with our own research ideas."
What's up next?
Starting out with a smaller team of six athletes allows the support to be influential from the get-go. Stocks felt that “having too many athletes at the start would have meant some might have slipped through the cracks. We want to help hundreds of athletes in the future, but the quality of that support is our initial focus.”
The expert advisors include the likes of physiologist Dr. Jamie Pugh, Strength and Conditioning coach Jermaine Olasan, physiotherapist Dr. Andy Walling and psychological coach Dr. Jane Stephens.
“Our next step is to work with the athletes and the expert advisors to tailor support to the individual needs of the athletes,” says team manager Britton. “Not everyone needs the same services from a team and it’s part of my role to make sure Hour 7 is helping each athlete to the best of our ability.”
After a successful first meet-up in Cheddar Gorge in the south-west of England, it became clear that the people in the initial squad were a great fit. “Not only are we working with top athletes, but also really lovely people,” said Mike Stocks after the day of running around.
This might just be the start, but the future for Hour 7 looks extremely exciting.