I first met Adharanand in 2019 when I went on a writing and running retreat in Devon that he was co-hosting with Richard Askwith.
We kept in touch.
A few weeks ago I took the opportunity to whizz down to Dartmoor for a one day running camp: The Way of the Runner. This time it was co-hosted by Adharanand and Barefoot Joe. It was a great day, as I expected.
As we said farewell, getting ready to head home from the car park, we mooted the idea of a conversation.
And here it is. Eau naturale. Anecdotes about and idiosyncrasies of ultrarunning.
This is the first in the series of top tips this week in the build up to the London to Brighton 100k ultra in association with Pursu nutrition bars. Pursu was created by Sanjay (above), who followed his dream and is pursing his passion for cycling and healthy eating. As well as being delicious, there are features of these bars that really stand out: no sugar, the finest ingredients (and they really mean that!), and sustainability (read more here). Pursu and Sanjay have been sponsoring #upandrun, which I am immensely grateful for, especially when I need fuel!
UP Top 5 Marathon Training Tips
There are many tips one could give, and indeed I have been given lots of advice that has helped me. Here are my top 5.
1. Get to the start line
This may sound obvious, but this is always a primary goal. It means that you have followed your programme and not over- or under-done the training. Along the way there are always aches and pains; that is to be expected. However, sometimes there is a decision to be made: should I train or not? This maybe when you have a recurring pain or an injury (they are not the same or well related — read here) or if you are unwell. The former you should take advice to determine what has happened and what you must do, and the latter will require a period of recovery.
People often fear that they will be behind in their training or lose fitness of they cannot follow their programme to the letter. However, when you remember that only by getting to the start line will you be able to participate, then the best decision becomes clearer.
2. Chill out the week before but plan it
For at least a week before take it really easy. It’s a wonderful time relaxing, eating and having more time…also known as tapering and maranoia! Suddenly it seems like you are not training, which can throw you. Keeping focused and planning the week is important. You will feel better for it as the excitement builds.
Your training plan will include tapering. This means a few easy runs to keep moving at an easy pace, and perhaps a short one (just a few kms) at race pace for the feel. The rest of the time can be spent keeping your body moving and relaxed with a daily stretching programme, yoga, lots of movement if you have a sedentary job, walking, easy swimming, breathing exercises, meditation, focusing on what you want to achieve (see below), consistent bed times and fuelling up. Make a plan for this and stick with it. Writing down your plan makes it more likely you will follow it.
3. Plan your travel and logistics
As relaxed as you maybe, plan what time to arrive at the start and how you will get there. You will be excited and nervous (they feel the same, so you can decide…), so to fully enjoy the build up in the morning, know what you are doing. Late surprises or forgetting kit is annoying and can easily knock you off track. Keep it simple.
This is a habit of peak performers, paying attention to the detail and focusing on what you can control: your plans and attitude. Things to consider: pack your kit the night before, time to arrive, how to arrive, breakfast, hydration, bag drop (there can be long queues), toilet (there can be long queues), when to get to the starting pen.
4. Use visualisation as a way to focus
Keeping focused is important, especially as the excitement builds. It is also a great thinking tool when tough moments arise during the run. What do you want to achieve?
There are many things you can focus on to lift your energy and maintain direction towards your picture of success. For example, visualise running over the finish line, bring to mind the purpose of your run (what is the reason why you are running the distance?), or think of loved ones who are spurring you on. Notice the change in your energy as you do.
5. Enjoy it and look around
It goes by in a flash. So, from the moment of registration until the end, look around and take it all in. You maybe running somewhere stunning or be surrounded by inspiring people who are running for great causes; take it all in and feel the positive energy.
All the training has been done. Usually the training is much harder than the actual day — that’s the purpose in a way. With two weeks or so to go, there’s nothing to be gained fitness-wise, so focus on preparing to be in the best shape (see above) so that you can enjoy the day. The moment that you duck under the finish line, you will feel an incredible wave of emotion in the light of what you have just achieved. The final straight is as close to sensing what it is like to be at the Olympics as people cheer and shout, and suddenly you experience that famous burst of energy, striding towards the end. For many though, this will not be the end. It will be the beginning.
Touch wood things are going pretty well. Training is totalling 70-80 km per week with 1-2 longer runs, interspersed with shorter dashes and trundles. As a trainer friend said to me once, ‘Just get to the start line without an injury and you’ll be ok’. There is some truth in this of course, but with the Brighton Marathon coming up soon, followed by the two ultras in May and July, the mileage is key.
If you’re interested in running, the following section outlines my plan. Feel free to skip on!
#upandrun ~ hashtag on Twitter to follow and tweet
Last week I set myself a plan to run 1 x 30 km and 4 x 10 km, totalling 70 km. It felt good and was easily slotted into the working week. This week I am practicing two longer runs back to back and will continue with this trend. Today was just over 22 km and tomorrow I will do a minimum of 30 km on slightly tired legs. Either side will be a few 10 km runs when I try to push the pace.
There are 5 weeks until the Brighton Marathon (Sun 14th April). The last week or so will be tapering and fuelling. Prior experience of ‘the week before’ tells me that I need a good plan. This includes plenty of mindful practice, imagery, easy movements, eating well and rest. I have found it to be a twitchy time with a unique restlessness of mind-body. This will be a good test.
Soon afterwards comes the Isle of Wight Challenge. There will be a few weeks of continued training with back to back longer runs and again the tapering a week or two before the 2-day event at the start of May. A longer gap before Race To The Stones (July) means resuming the mileage in warmer weather.
One of the pluses of these ultras is the scenery. I have been to the Isle of Wight and enjoyed the spectacular views from certain well known spots. The Challenge allows for the experience of the complete tour! That excites me. As does the route from The Chilterns, across the top of the North Wessex Downs, along the ancient path–5000 years!
The Brighton Marathon #upandrun is a joint project, UP and CRPS UK. The money we raise through sponsorship, the quiz night (details soon), auction and raffle will support our on-going work to make a contribution to people’s lives and to encourage society to revise the understanding of pain.
Further, look out for the run of UP workshops. The aim is to offer these across the UK if we can raise sufficient funds. You can support us << here >> . If you suffer chronic pain or know someone who does, you’ll understand the importance of this project.
For some time I have been eyeing up the idea of ultra running. Having spent the past few years training for and completing several marathons and half-marathons, the urge to take it onto another level overcame me. I booked myself a date with Race to the Stones.
An old friend completed the 100k run this year. I went down to collect him and watched the runners coming in. There was such a great vibe! Much like a mini-festival; relaxed, encouraging, inspirational and lots of smiles…in amongst some pain of course!
The course follows an ancient path. We will be running and walking in the footsteps of Vikings, Romans, dragons and Kings — not in fancy dress I hasten to add!
Journey from the Chilterns to the mystical North Wessex Downs past mighty iron age forts, ancient monuments and through some of Britain’s most stunning landscapes