I am often asked “what training do you do? You must do loads!”. Well, I have to say that I don’t think I do do loads. I used to put in some pretty heavy weeks of up to 150 miles in 6 days, but found that as time moves on, so does my running pattern. When I first begun training for the Grand Union Canal race, my schedule would roughly be ; two weeks of between 40-60 miles each followed by a heavy week of 110-150 miles then followed by the most important ingredient that I still fully believe in and use to great effect, a week of no running whatsoever. And when I say no running, I mean no running. No sneaking out for a 15 minute recovery run. As time moved on, and I satisfactorily completed all my races, my confidence grew in what I was doing. Also, as I spoke to more and more ultra runners, I discovered that my schedule of regularly taking a whole week off was by no means unique, but a little unusual.
The last time I recall doing any ‘training’ was in January. So how on earth do I seem to be getting stronger as the year continues? Well, last year, when I begun doing my large solo runs of 50-100 miles, things begun to change somewhat. I’ve always had the rule that when I do a large run, I take a week off. By the time I have recovered from my last big run, I really fancy another big run. So I end up planning another one, followed by a week off. The more of these big solo runs I did, the more the confidence and the excitement grew and the more I wanted to do. I started looking at any long distance trails and calculating whether I could do it solo with my newly pushed out limitations. With each 100ish mile run I complete, the more straightforward it seems. They don’t scare me anymore. I am just more aware of the hardship that you must go through than before. My respect for the distance is greater.I now know that within around 3-6 days depending on the terrain and the ascent, I will be pretty much recovered and good to go again, but I will make myself rest for the rest of the week. So today, I find myself in a situation where I run for fun only. I have discovered that what I love is to run off road for a long time, preferably all day, so if I get a chance in my life to fit a decent run in at the weekend (if I’ve had the appropriate rest of course!) then I will. I have had a few months where I have just run four times. Granted those four times are over 50 miles, but I will be stronger by the end of the month than the beginning.
I am sure that I could possibly get faster and more efficient if I did some hill reps or speed sessions etc, but one of the many major attractions of this sport is that it is one massive experiment. I love the fact that there have been barely any scientific studies into ultra running. Any distance below, you can look online or open a magazine and find a very specific training plan to get that sub whatever time you want in the desired distance. The top ultra runners around the world experiment in many ways and all seem to plough there own field. Some swear you need to train all the time, others very little, but quality. Some just run for fun with no specificity, and others have a very strict training schedule. They all seem to work. Could some be better with different techniques? Probably, but that leads me on to the fact that this sport is at least half to do with your mental strength as it is physical. A great deal of what I do revolves around making me happy. Since I have moved away from any real training structure to a rather spaced out schedule of High mileage individual runs, I have found myself enjoying what I do more. That’s not to say that I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing before, but what I’m doing now has really struck me. It is more a love, a passion which brings about such deep emotions that I am shocked. I love nothing more than being about out for first light out on some trail somewhere alone pushing my physical and mental boundaries that little bit further..
I truly believe that a fairly large part of why I am having a better year this year is because of this total love of running and being out there that I wasn’t experiencing too much before, whereas I get this buzz on almost all my runs now. I know that this wouldn’t work for everyone, but what I’m sure would work is to focus on the things that make you beam a manic grin when you are doing it. It may be sprints, uphills, road etc. With me it just happens to be big days out in the wilderness. That is my motivation. Find your love and do it!
Run for the love of running. As soon as you lose that focus your running will show it.
Please, feel free to fire any questions my way if you want.