Drunk on endorphins from running two half-marathons in the space of a week, I have decided that for my next challenge I will attempt to run an ultra-marathon. In May (13 weeks time) I will be running 50km in the blazing summer heat of Cyprus. There is 1400m of elevation gain to contend with and there will be snakes coming out of hibernation. I am in for a treat!
After shifting around this weekend’s half marathon in 1hr 41min, one of my colleagues at work said, “You can’t half shift for a big lad!”
Yes, he was referring to my unconventional running physique. I covered my body shape in enough detail in my last post so I won’t go on about it here but let’s just say that to run a 50km ultra-marathon, I need to shift some weight. It’s not much fun having to lump 90kg around for 50 km.
Why an Ultra?
Probably because I have a sick fetish for self-punishment…
In all honesty, I struggle to keep motivated when it comes to anything unless I have a clear goal to work towards. Having a fitness goal that I know will be challenging will keep me focused for the next 13 weeks. I can’t just turn up on the day in the shape I am in now and run a 50km race. If I did, I may get around the course but I will be in complete agony afterwards. I want to be able to run this ultra and feel relatively good about it afterwards. To treat the distance with the respect it deserves.
In all honesty, the distance scares me a little. After my one and only marathon run, I swore I would never run that distance again. So instead I have decided to run further. That makes complete sense!
I’ve not picked an easy one for a first ultra. The route is mountainous, it will be hot with temperatures of about 34 degrees centigrade being common at that time of year.
To complete this race I need to be prepared. That preparation starts now.
If you were to google “50km ultra-marathon training plan” you will receive countless results. One of the most useful resources I have found is this wiki type page on ultra running by fellrnr.com. We live in a world that gives us all of the information we need to achieve anything. The hard bit is sifting through the contradicting advice and then getting out and actually doing it.
From what I understand, the key to successfully running an ultra-marathon consists of a number of key factors:
At the moment I run an average of 80 – 100 km (49 – 62 miles) a month. This isn’t anywhere near enough miles to be able to run a successful 50 km trail race. Longer and more frequent runs, on hills and trails are the way forward.
After spending three years at University studying Sports Coaching and Performance, I appreciate that there is no such thing as a perfect training programme. I need to be able to incorporate a programme into my work and family routine. There will be the occasional week where I won’t be able to get as much training in as I will be busy running military training but I will be doing my best to keep to the programme.
After scouring the net, I have decided to adapt a programme that was put together by veteran ultra coach Sean Meissner. The original programme can be found at this link.
As I have 13 weeks, I will be starting this programme at week 4. On Fridays I usually have fitness training with the Army so when appropriate, I will be including this into the training programme. I will also be continuing to play squash weekly. The most important part of the programme is ensuring I complete the long runs and get the miles in my feet.
This is something I’ve never taken too seriously. I pretty much eat what I want. For the next 13 weeks I will make a more concerted effort to eat nutritious foods and drink less alchohol.
As with a normal marathon, I will have to ensure I eat the correct food (fuel) during the race. As I could be running between 5-6 hours (hopefully no longer!), I will need to replace the lost calories during the race. This is something I am looking forward to the most!
Not as important as the previous two factors but ill fitting trainers or shorts that chaffe will be irratating at best and could cause injuries at worst. I will be keeping it simple when it comes to kit. I will have to consider the heat when it comes to the race and ensure I carry enough water.
At the moment I am alternating between a pair of Brooks Ghost 10’s (road) and Salomon Speedcross 4’s (trail) trainers. I find both pairs to be really good and I would highly recommend them. If I had to choose a favourite, it would probably be the pair of Brooks but the Salomons are much better for the rough terrain.
My aim is to post a weekly update on this blog to keep account of my progress. I will be tracking my distance, how I felt and any problems that I encounter over the coming 13 weeks. My goal is to finish the 50km ultra in good shape. A time below 6 hours would be fantastic but my ultimate aim is to just complete it.
I have previously ran a flat marathon in 4hr 31minutes with zero training so I’m hoping that with some hard work, I will be able to run those extra 5 miles in a good time.
If you are intersted in joining me on the ultra in Cyprus, you can sign up here. There is a 107 km race for those that are crazy enough.
You can follow me on Strava if you would like to see how my training goes in more detail.