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Alton Sports Ambassador – Meet Al Pickburn!

At Alton Sports, we love celebrating local runners and their awesome achievements. We do this via our Ambassadors Program. Meet our latest team member, Alastair Pickburn.


Alastair (Al) Pickburn Running Bio

Age – 36

Family – Wife (Milly – Diabetes Specialist Nurse) 2 Children (Cameron,5 and Isabelle, 2)

Job – Product Manager for global manufacturing company in Eastleigh

Check out – Personal Blog  / Strava / Instagram 


Why do you run?

I started running sometime in 2010 having not done any consistent running before in my life. I got persuaded into running by my sister-in-law, Valeria Sesto, who similarly came to competitive running later in life (and is now an accomplished marathon/ultra-marathon athlete herself). She always said I’d likely make a good runner, but to start with I found it hard to believe! Clearly after nearly 30 years of non-running my legs took some convincing about the idea… After a few months I found myself getting into the competitiveness of Tuesday night intervals with Vale’s Lymington training group. I started entering a few local races, my competitive instinct kicked in and I was hooked J. I am definitely strongly biased towards endurance events. My first marathon was at Abingdon in 2011 and I ran 2 hours 55 mins, which left me wondering what could achieve with successive years of training… Fast forward to the present, I’ve run in excess of 20,000 miles and the pinnacle of my running to date was breaking the 2hr 30 min barrier at London in 2017. That said my running is not purely about chasing personal bests (and the odd race win/podium). Running has become an important part of my life, both from a general health and mental well-being perspective. It helps me relax and gives time to think about things at home and work. I’ve learnt to juggle family life, work & running, I’m often out for a run at 5:30am (before our children wake up!) or in interesting places around the world (when I’m travelling with work). I also love being involved with the local running communities. I’m a member of the New Forest Runners and Lymington Triathlon club. I have been part of the organising committee for the New Forest 10 Mile race, which included being Race Director for the 2017 event. I’m Co-Event Director for a new junior parkrun event in New Milton, which has probably been the most satisfying running related thing I’ve ever done. The health & well-being of the general population is something that I that a strong interest in. I’m keen to look at ways in which people can be encouraged to be less sedentary (at work and for leisure), more active and eating better. So it’s brilliant to be able to encourage the youngest generation into physical activity!

Previous challenges you have faced and over come?

I’ve had my fair share of running injury issues. My late start into the sport has led to some slight bio-mechanical oddities in the lower half of my body… Gradually over the years of occasionally physio visits I’ve learnt a lot about where my major weaknesses lurk and how to work on them (in short, plenty of gym strength work has been, and continues to be, required!). My worst injury lay off was in 2017. I spent the whole year, following the London Marathon in April, recovering from a chronic Achilles Tendinopathy in my left ankle, which was induced by 100+ mile weeks training for the marathon. It was a very frustrating injury, I could run, but to get the tendon to heal required just the right amount of loading, too much and it would get worse, too little and the recover would not progress. It took a fair amount of physio help plus trial and error to get the loading balance right. Heel drop/raise exercises played a key part in the rehab process, some with weight and some just using my body weight. I also got some great help from Scott at Alton Sports in Eastleigh working out which shoes would be best to promote healing. I moved from using generally lightweight neutral shoes (Adidas Adios Boston, New Balance 1400) into the more cushioned and protective Adidas Supernova with Superfeet insoles. I finally got my Achilles close to normality by Christmas 2017 in time to build back up into London Marathon 2018 training.

New challenges for the future?

The first few months of 2018 was focused on this year’s London Marathon. After losing a lot of training time to injury in 2017 I was really happy to get a solid spring training block in, with pretty much no injury problems. I was targeting a 2nd sub 2:30 marathon time, but the weather had other ideas and the hottest race-day on record meant I had to rein in my effort to prevent overheating. I still ran 2:33 for 53rd place overall, which is my best ever placing at London!

For the rest of 2018 there are a few events on my radar. The most imminent is going to be the Endure24 team relay race near Reading on 9-10th June. I’ve heard great things about this event, which is described as the ‘Glastonbury for runners’ and I’m really excited to be running as part of a team with Mizuno. Looking further forward into the summer I’m planning on getting out for some more off-road ultra fun, with the Serpent Trail 50k across the South Downs for the first time and Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 50k race. I plan to run these events competitively, which means I’ll need to start getting some more time on my feet on the trails of the New Forest and up some decent hills! I’ll also be donning my New Forest Runners vest and taking part in the excellent RR10 club cross country series on Wednesday nights. However, the focus of the summer is to relax more before potentially building for an autumn marathon, with either the PlusNet Yorkshire or Bournemouth Marathons being options in October.

I’ll be posting updates on my running activities (both competitive and recreational/travel related) to both the Alton Sports blog and my own blog . If you are interested to see what my weekly training looks like you are more than welcome to take a peek at my Strava profile and I’ll be posting photos of what I get up to Instagram / Twitter as well. Look forward to meeting people at future events or just out on the roads/trails somewhere!


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