For most people, becoming a professional athlete marks the fulfillment of a life long dream rather than a high-risk career move after the age of 25. But Tom Evans falls into a unique category of sportspeople, having given up his job as a Captain in the British Army to become a full-time ultra-marathon runner in 2017.
Growing up in Sussex he showed promise on the track from a young age but preferred rugby, and running remained more of a hobby than anything else throughout his education and army career.
Then a bet with some friends in a pub would change his life. Two of Evans’ mates had recently placed in the top 300 at the legendary Marathon Des Sables, a six-day race across the Sahara, but he wagered he could do better. That drunken bet resulted in him becoming the first European or American man ever to place on the podium, finishing third to send shock waves through the ultra running world. “It suddenly dropped that ‘mmm, you have a bit of an engine, maybe you should do some specific training’”, Evans told The Times last year.
Not one to do anything by halves, he then made the decision to leave his former life and take up running full time. A number of major race wins have followed, including at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and a victory over 100km in New Zealand on the Ultra Trail World Tour earlier this year, not to mention third place at the coveted Western States in California.
More recently, Evans has been focussing on some shorter distances and has shown serious adaptability. He qualified to represent Great Britain at the European Cross Country Championships last season and clocked an impressive 13:48 in the England Virtual 5k Championships last weekend, putting him second at the time of writing with a day left for athletes to submit entries.
A place on the start line of the Olympic Marathon in 2021 is his next target. While he admits it’s an uncommon route for athletes to start at ultra distances and cut back down, Evans says “running is running” and believes he’s capable of mixing it with the best in the country to compete for a spot on the Olympic team.
The trial race in London next year is his next big target and while he’ll start as a big underdog, Evans’ grit and determination will make him a tough competitor to look out for.