Well, I was determined to try and prepare properly for this ultra, as I knew I’d be pushing myself just to get around in the cut-off time. Below are some of the things I did:
Training PlanI started with a “train for a marathon in 12 weeks” programme, but one which started from a reasonable base-level of fitness. I did this up to the first weekend in July, when I’d entered a trail marathon as part of my preparation (more details below). I entered all of the training runs I would need to do into my iPhone calendar, which I have shared with my wife’s phone, so that we could try and plan our busy family life around making sure I got my key runs in. A link to the training plan I used is here: https://www.all-about-marathon-training.com/marathon-training-schedule-12.html
Once I’d done the marathon and had approximately another 11 weeks until the ultra, I shifted to a 50-mile ultra-marathon training plan. I chose a 16-week plan and basically started from a point 11 weeks back from the end, as I knew I had the right base level of fitness. As with the marathon plan, again I took the runs from this and programmed them in to my iPhone calendar. The training plan I used can be found here: https://www.runnersworld.co.uk/training/16-week-50-mile-ultra-marathon-training-schedule
Now, I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t quite get out for all of the runs, but I did my best to make it out on at least 90% of them, particularly the long weekend ones, and making sure I pushed myself pace-wise on the shorter ones.
I also did my best to make sure that my longest runs were on terrain as close as possible to that which I’d be running over on the day of the event. To do this, I headed to the Peak District a couple of times, up into the hills in Lancashire and over to Hadrian’s Wall territory near Newcastle. This is all a bit of a trek, so it was essential that I had the planning in the diary to make sure we could fit family life in without it being too badly affected - fortunately, I have a truly amazing, supportive and understanding wife!
I ran three key preparation events during my training;
High Peak 25kThis went really well. Although it was fairly short, it was very hilly and steep and I was pleased to find that my body coped well.
Northumberland Coastal Trail MarathonThis was tough, as it was on the 1st of July and was stinking hot! I got quite a lot of cramp, found that my shoes were uncomfortable when my feet expanded and actually considered dropping out at around 20 miles when I went through a tough patch.
Although my overall time was ok for the conditions (just under 5 hours), this was only really thanks to a supportive phone call with my wife and I took a bit of a knock to my confidence from the run.
Great North RunThe Great North Run is a bit of a family tradition now, and I wasn’t about to miss my tenth running of it just because I had an ultra-marathon six days later! I did at least take it fairly easy on the race and took a huge confidence boost from how my fitness allowed me to get a respectable 1:46 finish whilst not pushing myself.
Pre-Race Fuelling & Pre-Hydration
On the morning of the event itself, I had some overnight oats (porridge oats, plain yoghurt and a selection of fruit, left in the fridge overnight) on the bus on the way to the start line and a banana during registration. These are both things that I’m used to having, but that I knew would provide good, slow-release energy for the first part of the race.
1. That was the most positive I’ve ever been throughout an event. Other than a period on the way into Scarborough when we were running by torchlight and the seafront didn’t seem to get any closer, I didn’t have a single low point all day.
2. I fed off other people for most of the day. I’ve always known that this is something that affects me, but previously haven’t really actively used it. On this event I decided to be the happy one in any conversation. I decided to get the joy out of every exchange I could have with people and to try and keep conversations flowing with various people throughout the day. This worked a treat and really helped the miles to roll by.
3. When I was on my own, I still felt strong. This is something that’s not been the case on previous runs, but this time I basically only went ahead of others if I knew I was feeling really strong. This meant I was in a good space when doing it and I knew I was likely to catch up with someone else for a chat anyway.
4. I built upcoming rewards in for myself as I went. As I was unsupported, I was entirely in charge of my own destiny. So I decided that at Whitby I would get myself a drink that I fancied (genuinely the best ice-cold apple juice I have ever invested in - and yes, I would class it as an investment in this instance!) When I was nearing Scarborough, I promised myself the same thing, and it worked again (the second-best ice-cold apple juice ever!)
5. I didn’t worry about distances. That’s something which is very easy to say, but I basically just decided that the checkpoints would come when they came, as there was nothing I could do about it, so I should just try and enjoy myself while I trundled my way there. This really helped to keep my mood nice and steady, rather than the peaks and troughs I saw in some of those around me.
6. Feeling strong is a self-perpetuating cycle. Every time I got a burst of energy, the positive feeling of being strong just lifted me even more.
7. Only since I started thinking about my mood has all of this become possible. The 60 may well just have been one of those days when things all went well, but I personally doubt it. I willed that result into being by choosing to be positive.
If you’ve made it this far and want to listen to my prattling in person rather than just by reading it, you can watch my video blog here: https://youtu.be/sv7-Be3scN0