SAYSKY Athlete Simon Holbek

The Father-Work-Runner Balance

How do you go from 2.59.16 on the marathon to 2.21.49 and become the fastest Dane at Copenhagen Marathon for the past two years, while also being a father and working fulltime? This is pretty impressive and not least very inspiring.

So, we decided to send over a few questions to our long-time friend, Simon Holbek, about his life and the delicate father-work-runner balance.

You'll find the interview with Simon just below the picture.

SAYSKY Athlete Simon Holbek

Interview with Simon Holbek

Could you start by introducing yourself? 
I’m a 33-year-old runner, living in Copenhagen with my wife and little daughter. I started running back in 2013, where I finished my first real marathon just under 3 hours – got hooked by it and have been running ever since.

How do you balance working fulltime, being a fulltime parent and also being a fulltime runner?
It's a tough challenge that requires some sacrifices here and there. I try to prioritize family time as much as possible, which also has a huge impact on the way I train. To minimize the wasted time spent on commuting, I try to run as much as possible when going to and from work. This also means, that I will do my workouts/tempo runs along the highway with my running back during weekdays. Another consequence of optimizing my time spent on running, I think that 95% of all my runs are done solo.

You have become the fastest Dane two years in a row at Copenhagen Marathon - can you maybe reflect a little more on this? How was your training going up to this event? 
Copenhagen marathon is first of all something I look forward to during the cold and dark winter training. Whenever I tend to lose my motivation, it keeps me going that CPH marathon is just around the corner. The training leading up to Copenhagen Marathon has been very consistent and without injuries. I have had an average weekly mileage of 130k in the 10 weeks leading up to the race, which for me is satisfying. I think the consistency here has been the key for me.

Your 2019 Copenhagen Marathon time of 2.21.49 was a new PB - but did you come for more and was your goal to win (and hereby defend your title) or to set a new PB?
My primary goal was to run a sub 2.20 time, which I definitely thought was realistic. Becoming the fastest Dane was a secondary goal, but I knew that if could run a time close to 2.20, then the title would be within reach, although the Danish field was one of the strongest seen in many years. Becoming the fastest Dane in my home town is of course a huge achievement and experience, and something I am really happy to have “won” two times in a row.

What were your immediate thoughts crossing the finish line and how are the legs after the race? 
It’s always a relief to cross the finish line in a marathon, so I was definitely happy. It was also a very emotional feeling to cross the finish line. I was very exhausted; people were cheering, and a couple of good friends waited for me at the finish line to congratulate me. My legs were actually feeling much better than last year, especially in the days following the race. Last year I had to walk the stairs backwards the first two days due to soreness, but this year I would take them normally. Considering that I live on 4th floor, this was something I had been looking forward to with fear.

You have proven time and time again that you're indeed a fast runner and you have progressed a lot over the last years - what's the main difference? Have you changed your training philosophy, your training group or something else?

My training has changed radically since I became a father. I used to follow my training schedule exactly, but now my training schedule has to be very flexible as priorities can change over night. I might have an idea about which training session to complete the following days, but only to discover that my daughter is sick in the morning, which changes the focus and the time spent on running the following days. I have also down-prioritized intervals during weekdays, and instead incorporated more tempo sessions and fartlek (a variant of intervals, but with focus on effort and not on pace), as I can complete these workouts as part of my commuting.

You might say that I have become less of a slave of a fixed training schedule. I appreciate the workouts I can complete, instead of being frustrated about sessions that I had to alter or cancel. In the long run, I have convinced myself that consistency and staying out of injuries is the key to improvement, and hence, taking a day off once in a while might actually turn out to be the best decision sometimes.

Your next goal is the 10K Danish Championships at Royal Run, Monday June 10 - what are your expectations for the Championships?

If I recover fast enough from Copenhagen marathon and get to do a couple of fast interval sessions, then I will definitely aim for a sub 30 time. The field is strong, the course is fast, and I expect a lot of spectators, so I have to give it a shot.

Personal Bests:

  • 3000m: 8.35.69
  • 5km: 14.50
  • 10km: 30.51
  • Half Marathon: 66.58
  • Marathon: 2.21.49

Keep up with Simon here: Instagram and Strava

SAYSKY Athlete Simon Holbek

Pictures by: Jesper Bundgaard