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Profiles - Tom Carthy

by Sam Downing on March 29, 2022

‘PROFILES’ is a chance for the Ponnek team to catch up with figures in the running community, both local to us and much further afield. These are the people that we find interesting (not just runners!) and hope you will find interesting too.

Our first guest is the one and only Falmouth based runner Tom Carthy. Tom is notoriously modest, and the deal we struck for this chat was no exception. No cameras or microphones allowed. Just me, him and some locally brewed Cornish ales courtesy of Pipeline Brewery, St Agnes.

As a quick bit of background for those maybe less familiar with Tom, he runs for Cumbria based race organisers Freedom Racing. He has made a habit of picking up silverware for fun at their 'Summer Sessions’ 10k trail races, picked up 2nd at the notoriously unforgiving MudCrew ‘Arc50’ (50 miles) at the beginning of this year and most recently grabbed top spot at the Bys Vyken Events ‘Cousin Jack’ coastal 18 mile race. He has also made his mark by holding his own further afield in a number of mountain races in the UK and around Europe.

On that note, let’s get to it..

Ok Tom, let’s go back to where it all began. At what age did you compete in your first ever running event? What was it? How did you do?

Ok, so I joined Falmouth Road Runners back in 2011. This was basically because I wanted to keep fit and lose some weight. I always used to see runners going around Falmouth and it looked like fun so one Tuesday I just went along. I joined the road runners in November of that year and by March 2012 the first ever Cornwall Hospice Care Half Marathon was organised so I Jumped into it! Baring in mind this is a good old hilly-half with 365m of climbing. My longest training run was 10 miles or so and I really didn’t know how to run a race, but I did ok and crossed the line in 1hr 38mins.


That’s a respectable time on that Course for sure! You say you used to spot runners going around Falmouth - Who’s a runner(s) that you look up to now?

That’s an interesting question, give me two minutes to think!

When I started it was definitely Brennan Townshend. He’s a runner that used to tear up races in the South, but he knew that to take it to the next level, he had to leave Dartmoor and go find those mountains! He moved to Keswick with the aim of fulfilling his potential and it worked out!

If I could pick a second it would have to be British fell running champion Carl Bell. He’s a very modest and humble guy who gets embarrassed having photos taken. I remember when he came down to Cornwall and did two races in quick succession - the Poldhu 10k which he totally annihilated and still holds the course record for, and a one-off race set up by MudCrew called ‘Man v Gig’. You basically had to race a gig from point-to-point and they put a £200 purse on it adamant that no one could win. Anyway, he walked away with the cash!


I was hoping you’d bring some of these stories tonight! Without getting too spiritual too early, what’s your running Mantra?

Enjoy the training for the social and fun side, but when racing, aim to leave everything out there and compete.


Fair! This next one is something I have always wondered about you. I think I know the answer but I need clarification. Trail or Road and why?

Funny, that question’s asked a lot. It’s got to be trail. I enjoy the technicalities of it. I would also say that I’m a better trail runner than I am a road runner, and I think I’ve definitely achieved my best results on the trails. I would say that my biggest strength lies with elevation - it’s the only place where I feel I can mix it with some of the better runners. There are guys that I can’t get near to on a flat 10k, that I can suddenly compete with when it becomes a bit lumpier!

All of this being said, I can easily get sucked into the odd road race!

The million dollar question now - what is the first thing you reach for post run?

(Laughs) A Pale Ale! Are you happy for me to say that?

Too right!

I always feel like I’ve earned it. Also, the aftermath, as in the social side to running or a race, is just as important to me. When I’m not racing I love an all-nighter marshalling too!


You’ve lived down here all of your life. Where is your favourite spot to run in Cornwall?

It’s got to be here (St Agnes). Well, in between here and Porthtowan. I love running the beacon and Tubbys (Strava Segment). I’ve hooked up with a certain bunch that have set up the ‘Beacon Club’. It’s a select few runners that meet to beef up their climbing and then hit up the Black Flag Brewery after! I’ll come out here once a week to work on my hills - I’ll aim to hit 600m over 7 miles in that session. I think St Agnes is the closest thing we have to fell running down here. In fact, I need to show you! Come next time.


At last! That’s all I was fishing for to be honest. Only reason I asked that question!

What’s your favourite spot to run out of Cornwall?

Well, I’ll be honest with you, I unfortunately can’t claim to be like ‘oh I go and run in Scotland several times a year’. I’d have to say Dartmoor - you can find more elevation there, along with the boggy terrain. Freedom Racing used to do the Dartmoor High Ground Marathon there. It’s a shame they’ve had to pull the plug on it, it was a great race. Not enough people wanted to know to make it worthwhile in the end. Have you run on Dartmoor yet?



Ah, you’ll get there and be like ‘Wow!’.


I need to go! What’s the race result that you’re most proud of?

This is a tough one! I’d have to say winning The Plague 2019 (100km overnight race, Cornwall) mainly because I wasn’t expecting it! Within a mile the front runners (including me) went wrong all following each other like sheep. Someone shouted ‘guys you’re going the wrong way’, and by this point we’re behind 200 runners with no way of overtaking. I’d gone from sitting in 4/5th to being in 200th spot. I didn’t want to have an ego about me and start telling people to move as we’re climbing these steps. I just sucked it up and overtook people where I could. I remember getting to the halfway turnaround point and being told I was in the lead - I had no idea! When the sun came up the next morning I can remember it giving me so much energy. The last 10 minutes did hurt though…those steps!

To pick a road race, I would have to say coming 2nd in the Falmouth half. Another one where I was surprised at how fit I was.

I remember racing you at the Poldhu 10k, you surprised me that night when you suddenly took off and seemingly decided it was time to win it. None of us got a look in!


As we’ve touched on it already, you don’t shy away from a bit of elevation - any good elevation related tales?

I have become a bit obsessed with elevation. I managed to clock 400,000ft last year, which is fairly hard to do in Cornwall. It was lockdown that helped me achieve that one. I have learnt that when you’re on the coast, and the swell is rolling, it messes with your GPS and can sometimes near on double your elevation stats.

At one point I found a fire escape with some spiral steps in Falmouth. I thought I could use it to bank a load of elevation as I was being competitive as hell in this double goat elevation challenge we were all doing. Basically, you needed to climb the equivalent of the entire Cornish and Devon coast path’s elevation. If the stairs had been near the sea then the stats would’ve gone through the roof! It didn’t really work out for me that time. I had to settle for 2nd.

I remember just going out and finding the steepest thing I could near home. I came across this field now named ‘The Wall’. It’s just pure gorse though. I managed to ruin a brand new pair of Evo Jawz in about 2 weeks of just running up and down it (Laughs!).


This is the sort of gold I knew you’d come out with! What are you passions aside from running?

Fair question. I love to hike and see the world. I would much rather go on a hiking holiday than sit around on the beach. I lean on my Mrs for her navigational skills though!

I really enjoy swimming also. I’ll swim most nights. Don’t go getting this vision of me front-crawling up and down smoothly though, I am a breaststroke man at best. In my eyes, swimming can do no more - its good for recovery and it’s good for strength.


So, finally, what next?

Well, I’m looking forward to the Julian Alps Trail 100km sky race in Slovenia. That’s the a-race for this year. Strange though, I’m not overly fussed about how I do or where I place for this one. I just want to have fun!

This next one might be a bit of a brave statement, and I’m scared to say it, but I want to put my Lakeland 50 disappointment to bed. The first time around was an infamously hot one and I struggled with the heat. I couldn’t eat and drank way too much fluid, including Coca-Cola, and just ruined my stomach. I am going back again this year with the aim of a more solid performance. I think I can run a sub 9hr. It’s a big race, and I’m excited because I’ve got unfinished business with it. You should try to get yourself on the Lakeland 100 mate, you’ll love it!


Thanks Tom, I really appreciate you taking the time tonight. Let’s hit up The Beacon soon.