Sam Sunderland Interview: Wings For Life World Run

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Having made a name for himself as a fast and accomplished motocross rider at just 24, Sam Sunderland is ditching his bike and relying on his body in the Wings For Life World Run. We spoke with Sunderland about race tactics, leaving his bike behind and motocross fitness. 

How are you preparing for the Wings For Life World Run? 

I’ve been doing some more running work recently just to get my body used to not being on a bike. As a professional rider I’m usually in pretty decent shape anyway. When I won a stage in the Dakar Rally earlier in the year I was riding for around 3½ hours through a lot of different terrain like rivers and sand dunes for more than 350km, and you need to be in pretty decent shape to keep going.

Do you have any specific tactics for lasting as long as possible?

Not really. This is a different type of race to what I am normally used to where there is a definite start and finish line. In the kind of racing that I do we regularly ride for well over three hours in pretty tough conditions, so I think I’ve got the staying power to give it a good go.  

How far do you think you’ll get before the car catches up to you? 

I’m not sure but I’m hoping that my mental strength will push me as far as I can go. I’m in pretty decent shape and my endurance levels are good so I am hoping to keep going for a while. I think the great thing about this race is that if I fancy it I can keep going for as long as I can and if I’m not feeling it within the race I can reassess my targets, which isn’t something that you can do in a motocross race. 

Does the training that you’re doing for the run fit in with your regular bike training at all? Will it be beneficial for when you compete on your bike again?

It’s always a good idea to keep your base level fitness as high as you possibly can, so cardio training is an important part of what I do. And I’m sure training for Wings For Life will only help me when I am on two wheels. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if find that my body deals with a three-hour motocross race a lot better after this. 

Will it be tough for you competing on foot rather than on your bike? 

[Laughs] I wouldn’t mind being on my bike, though I’m not sure if the course is long enough. Plus I might be tempted to take an off-road route and I don’t think that the catcher car would be able to follow! It might actually be a bit easier than what I’m used to because I won’t have to haul my bike up any of the steep hills.

Have you had to change your diet much to train for the event?

Not really. Diet is a key part of my regular training so I’m pretty much there when it comes to preparing for the race.

What made you decide to take the Wings For Life World Run Challenge?

I love different challenges so I was immediately interested. But I’m also a supporter of Wings For Life, which funds research into spinal cord injury. Every single penny of my entry fee goes to them so I was keen to take part.

Sam Sunderland will take part in the Wings for Life World Run on 4th May 2014. 

Former web editor

Between 2014 and 2015, Andre Jackson was the web editor of Men’s Fitness UK, which predated and then shared a website with Coach. A love for climbing ropes and boarding slopes, he doesn’t have the most traditional of workout plans but he’s obsessed with finding out how much protein he can get from everything. His favorite gym move is double wave battle ropes, his favorite sports are football and snowboarding, and his personal best is conquering a V6 bouldering climbing wall.