Martin Saldais has been running the Pomona race since 2008. To his surprise that year, he ended up in the midfield after a year of dedicated training. It took him several years, but in 2017 Martin entered the ‘Sub-30’ club in the great race after coming agonisingly close a few times. I sat with Martin to find out what it takes to get into this club and what it means to him to have achieved his goal.

How long had you been trying to get under the sub 30 min mark, and did you think it was always possible?

When I ultimately got fitter and more competitive after my first attempt at Pomona, I tried to plan my training a bit better. Talking to others, to locals who ran the race. Trying to find out how they managed to get that time. I even spoke to the top three guys (not trying to copy them) just to get an insight into their training. I learnt that the adrenaline and the pace at the start had a big impact on their race times and they told me that they ‘fire’ just before the base. I finally got there in 2017, it took me a few years of trying though!

What did it mean to you when you came across the line in under 30 mins? Was it a milestone achievement?

It meant that what I thought was an impossible task was finally achievable. In 2012 I got 30:11! I was so fatigued and keeled over at the end of that race and I had had it! At the point of pure exhuastion. Even being that close, I asked myself how do I recover from this for next year both mentally and physically. It was a year of reflection and with some great planning and a longer pre-season training I finally got there! When I did achieve I wasn’t anywhere nearly as exhausted as the previous year.

What advice would you give to others who want to achieve the same milestone and how should they go about dedicating themselves to it?

Patience... It’s not something that will just happen overnight and your body has to adjust to the training and the style of running. Even though it’s a short race, it’s the toughest one I’ve done! I’d rank it even harder than my marathons which were on rough terrain and the Ultra marathon that I’m training for. I’d also add, don’t put all your energy into the one race, have other races to train for - both prior to KOM and after - If you just focus on the one race and then feel down about your result you can treat it as a stepping stone. You should plan a season and many other races. Get involved in the running community, there’s some great people out there to talk to.

You’ve ventured to New Zealand a few times for their sister race in Kawerau, they too have a sub club - but it’s sub 60. How do you feel that club compares to Pomona’s sub 30?

It’s very similar, the milestone that is, but the longer distance can make the New Zealand race seem harder. The atmosphere for the New Zealand race makes even entering it worthwhile. The other thing is the margin of error for achieving such a time at Kawerau comes down to the ascent I feel. The uphill climb is the same effort as Pomona - but twice as long. If you haven’t nailed that in the race then your time really suffers. That being said, the downhill element at New Zealand enables you to go really fast. Pomona is really tough on your legs and there’s a greater chance of injury so people guard themselves more. It’s a very technical descent and some people really make up for it in both races.

How has your recent running progress been, what events are you doing aside from Pomona?

It’s been good. I never used to train through summer. But now I do long slow runs and I feel pretty good, even with some hotter conditions. I’ve got niggles, but everyone does. I’m training for the UTA 50, which I’ve never done before, People like Ben Duffus will be doing it and the scenery is awesome!

What’s your best advice on race day, how do you mentally prepare for the great race?

I walk well away from the finish start line, warm up with a group of friends and make it a social aspect. You don’t want to be too serious and ignoring everyone but if you over think you can over act. I just have banter with my running mates and try to relax as much as possible. The race I did last year I was so relaxed, (even though it wasn’t the fastest). The top three obviously have a bit of pressure cause they are chasing times, but if you are just starting take it easy.

Martin’s best time at Pomona is 29:25 in 2017