Kevin Mitchell has developed a reputation in boxing for walking into difficult fights. In each of his biggest bouts, against John Murray, Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns, he was expected to be the boxer keeping his opponent at bay. Instead, he took the hard way and battled it out, for better or worse.
The Englishman will carry that brazen attitude into a new venture this weekend, as he will lace up and compete in the 2013 London Marathon.
“I’ve always liked to run, ever since I was 10-11 years of age,” said Mitchell (33-2, 24 KOs), who will be making his marathon debut. “”It’s been nice. I don’t have to cut weight — I get to have my pasta!”
The lightweight contender certainly won’t have to chew ice chips or spit into a cup during this training the way he would preparing for a fight at 135 pounds — that would just be begging for dehydration on Sunday. He’ll need all of those beloved noodles to fuel him through his running, and without a fight presently on the schedule, a few pounds here and there aren’t a major concern.
What could be a concern however, is that Mitchell has never covered more than 12 miles in a training run leading up to the race. Most marathon training plans emanating from Europe call for a long run of at least 18 miles to be completed, while American plans typically have runners bang out a 20-mile long run before they’re ready to pin their bib on.
“Training up to 12 miles and then going and doing the boxing training is hard work, it ain’t easy. You get sore feet, and your toenails turn black and things. Then you try to go box in the gym and bounce on your feet, it’s quite hard,” Mitchell told RingTV.com. “I have friends who are running the marathon who have gone up to 20 miles. But I can’t go run 20 miles, and then in the nighttime go 12 rounds on the bag.”
Though he hasn’t thrown down any super long runs, his regular weekly mileage is more than satisfactory for a first-timer looking to cross the finish line. Three times a week, Mitchell runs nine miles, while another three he runs six miles, taking one day off.
In recent years, Detroit-based coaches Keith and Kevin Hanson have developed a popular training system called the Hansons Marathon Method. The idea behind it is that one single long run is not as important as regular quality runs. The two train their runners from the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project using those principles, and have produced some of the best American distance runners of the past 10 years.
Working in Mitchell’s favor is that his regular routine is not far off from a typical Hansons schedule (http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/marathoning-hansons-way?page=4). Save for a 14- and 16-miler one would typically complete on that plan, Mitchell’s schedule is nearly identical — six days a week, always benefitting from the residual effects of hard, “medium long runs.”
Obviously, already being a world-class athlete is also working in his favor. Other fighters have maintained a boxer’s schedule and turned in impressive performances on the road. Former titlist Victor Ortiz blazed through the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon in three hours and 27 minutes. Recent title challenger Diego Magdaleno ran the Los Angeles Half Marathon in 1:31, while junior lightweight prospect Kevin Lavalee ran the Quebec Half Marathon in 1:33, just 12 hours after winning a fight.
Mitchell contends he is naturally prepared to run 26.2 miles this weekend.
“World class boxing is definitely tougher. The toughest job in the world is definitely a boxer. Whatever level you’re at, even if you’re a journeyman, it’s a hard way to earn a living. World class boxing is another level,” said Mitchell, who aims for a finishing time of 3:50.
Pre-race jitters aside, in the wake of the tragic events at this week’s Boston Marathon, there is understandable concern about a “copycat crime” in London, as there is any time an act of terror is carried out.
“I’ve had friends say you should be careful, you shouldn’t run and everything, and I said no way will that stop me from running the marathon. I just think it’s disgusting that people would let bombs off during a massive, huge charity event,” said Mitchell.
The 28-year old Dagenham resident plans on putting his hand over his heart when he crosses the finish line, a sign of support for Boston victims that originated in a social media campaign by British running organization SPAT.
Mitchell’s heart will surely be heavy as he strides toward the finish line, as he is running in honor of his seven-year-old cousin, Michael Huth, who passed away last year after a battle with Neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer. As of press time, Mitchell has raised nearly £2,000, and has already committed to running the race for the same cause next year as well.
Once he’s collected his finisher’s medal, he will resume focus on his ring career, which took a setback last September in his fourth-round TKO loss to Burns for the WBO lightweight title. It was his second crack at some semblance of a world title, having been stopped in three by Katsidis for the interim WBO strap in 2010.
When it comes to his main profession, Mitchell understands he’ll need to crank up the mileage if he wants to excel.
“The last four years, I’ve been fighting the world class, but only fighting once a year, and you can’t be world class fighting once a year. You can’t keep up with them, said Mitchell. “I’m hoping to get two or three fights, maybe for a European title or something like that, then I’ll be back fighting for a world title.”
If you wish to donate to Families Against Neuroblastoma and support Kevin’s marathon journey, please visit: http://www.justgiving.com/Kevin-Mitchell2
Corey Erdman is a staff writer for RingTV.com, a host at Fight Network in Canada, and a regular commentator for WealthTV. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman.