Is running long distances a lonely profession?

Having the support of friends, colleagues and peers is an essential ingredient in all walks of life and even more so in the gruelling world of sports.

In the late 1950s, when Alan Sillitoe released his book “The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner” he wanted to show the world that even a poor disruptive teenager could excel at long distant running – only if the correct support mechanisms are in place.

The same applies today, and Keytree is extremely proud to be the sponsor of Andy Vernon, distance runner and second only to Olympic Champion Mo Farah in the United Kingdom at 10k.

Dominic Maher

Dominic Maher

Team Member

Andy is one of the United Kingdom’s leading athletes who won the gold medal at the European Cross Country Championships early in his career and has since gone on to win silver at 5,000m and bronze at 10,000m in the 2014 European Championships. In 2015, Andy successfully defended his British 10k title after winning for the second year in succession.”

Andy met up with the team at a recent Keytree event and told us that only a few years ago he was scraping by but sponsorship by Keytree is an integral part of any success he has as an athlete.

He said: “Without the support of Keytree it would be difficult to complete. Their support helps take away the worry of not knowing how I will pay the rent.

The money also pays for physiotherapist bills and training camps, which helps me stay injury free.”

Early career

According to Andy, his running happened by mistake. He explained that when he was less than ten years old, there was a race in his local town. He had no idea what it was so he spoke to his father and asked if he could go home and fetch his trainers/runners. His father returned and Andy entered his first ever race – and came 1st. His passion was born at this moment.


Andy’s favourite place to train is Mount Laguna, located near San Diego.

He explained that it is easy to access from the airport, provides altitude training and is secluded. Only a few cabins and not a lot else going on – apart from one shop and a café that opens on the weekend.

For each colourful antidote, there is something not so pleasing and Andy’s worse experience came when he was training in Australia in January 2015.

Andy was in the mountains where the weather is more extreme than most training camps.

He went out for a two-hour run one morning and faced horizontal driving sleet, snow, rain and hail. His first half an hour was uphill, so it’s a tough start. When he reached the top, it was 30mph winds with 80mph gusts.

He said: “My face was numb, and we had two hours of that. Looking back, I thought we were pretty stupid doing it. We could have made ourselves ill and missed a week of training”.


Having an injury at this level does not mean you take it easy. In fact, it will probably mean more training than normal.

Andy had a bad injury during the winter of 2014/2015 meaning lots of treatment and time off. First was the cortisone injection so he could get through the Commonwealth Games and Europeans. By September, there was lots of treatment and this intensified over the next couple of months.

There was no improvement, so it was off to Limerick in Ireland to see a specialist who, in Andy’s words “hammered me for the whole week”.

All of this hard work didn’t fix things but gave him a fighting chance for the tendon to heal. Andy had a PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) done, where they draw out your blood; then they spin it.

It separates the plasma from the blood cells then the plasma is injected back in, which is the medicinal part of it.

All of this means one thing – when injured you can train a lot more.

We are not talking about broken bones only a muscular injury. You can afford to push yourself a lot more, as there is less impact when you are carrying an injury. You can recover a lot quicker.

But this is only a small ingredient of the success formula. Andy explained what it takes and said:

Self-determination to succeed is the most critical part of the cycle. If you do not give 100% there is not much point in doing it. Anything less will get you nowhere. You have got to do 100%, and even this for a lot of people isn’t enough. There are only a few people a year that win medals, so you have to commit to it

– Andy Vernon

Is social media a valuable add-on/resource for an athlete?

Red-top newspapers and sports supplements enjoy a tiff between sportspeople and Andy is no stranger to this. A well-publicised spat on Twitter between him and Olympic Champion Mo Farah made the headlines at the start of 2015.

But Andy explains that this was done merely in jest and was blown out of proportion by the newspapers.

Drawing on this experience and if you are an aspiring sportsperson, Andy has some good advice. He said: “Think before you tweet – ask 100 people what they think of your comments before you publish”.


Andy is a fan of technology but an even bigger fan of gadgets and gizmos, but he had no idea how much work goes into creating a website.

He said: “I didn’t realise that websites can take up to 12 weeks to build, including a whole a team working on one for that long. That surprised me as you could build a house in that time”.

Thank you for the support. It’s an enormous help as without money I cannot live and compete.

Andy Vernon

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