28 miles later

Yesterday I went for a run at 5am. My longest run ever.

Having missed a couple of training runs this week due to work and family commitments I was feeling a little down and worried about undoing some of the progress I’ve made during #projectultra.  I’m aware that training plans are only a framework and should be adaptable – the plan I’ve put together is a combination of two ultra plans I found in my research – but I like the reassurance provided by following a plan.

Anyhow, this week’s longest run on the plan was scheduled to be 26 miles. Having completed the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon solo on Boxing Day last year (my second marathon to date) I knew I could do it. However, the longest training run of the #projectultra plan is in 2 weeks from now, a 31 miler. Before I left for this run I’d decided to push the run up to 28 miles so 31 doesn’t seem such a stretch.

I ran, walked, kept a fairly steady pace until the last few miles (the shuffle stage) but I did it.

28 miles in the bag.

Even better, I felt like I could have gone on further. Which is a great feeling.

I’m going to do this. The North Downs Way 50 will be tough but I believe that I will finish and within the 13.5 hour cut off.

Belief is everything.

Envisage. Endure. Enjoy.

I will.

Leith Hill Half Marathon

I chose to spend my birthday running up (and back down, thankfully) Leith Hill.

Which was nice.

Leith Hill Half Race Number 2013 DCIM100SPORT DCIM100SPORT

Hilly, snow covered and icy at the summit, muddy and slippery on the way up and down. Great fun and good training for the hills and inclines I’ll face on the North Downs Way 50.

I made a real effort to improve my technique on the downhill sections of the run and to run or power walk the uphill sections.

Above all, I worked on my mental strength and the “just one foot in front of the other” continuous progress state of mind that I think will be so important for NDW50.

Less than 8 weeks to go now…

Where to now?

Last year I ran 21 miles at about this time as my longest training run for my marathon debut at the London Marathon. I returned home a shattered, battered man wondering how on earth I was going to be able to run another 5.2 miles. Yet I did it. I completed my first marathon 4 weeks later.

1 year on and I’ve run 2 marathons and have signed up for my first ultra marathon.

Long runs are now on both Saturday and Sunday, the aim being to train the body and mind to run on tired legs and (as far as possible) replicate the ultra marathon experience before race day. What I’ve noticed is that my perspective on the number of miles for the longer runs has changed. I’ve found myself breaking the runs down into smaller, more manageable distances and the run/walk/run nature of ultra running seems to suit me better than the all out marathon running.

Revising my Garmin data I was delighted to see that so far this year my #projectultra training has led me to complete the following:

49 runs
324 miles
58 hours of running

Today’s 22 miler was an early one. I set off with only a vague idea of where I was going to run but discovered some new trails, countryside runs and made a note of even more footpaths and bridleways to explore in future runs. I loved it. I wasn’t expecting to run off road much but still managed to do some and get some decent hills in.

I found it tough in the last few miles but dug in and was relieved to find myself thinking at the end of the run “Well, I could have kept on running at this pace for a few more miles yet.”

I’m feeling strong, confident and calm about the NDW50. It’s 9 weeks from today.

Hope I feel this good on the start line, and even more importantly in the second half of the race.

The hills are calling


It still seems strange to me that this time last year the furthest I’d ever run was 15 miles, as I prepared for my first marathon, yet in the last 7 days I’ve completed 2 x 20 mile, hilly trail runs. Is this really me? The asthmatic, wheezy and definitely not sporty child became a marathon runner and is now on the way to running his first ultra marathon.

Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to be invited along for a 20 mile run along the South Downs Way from Seaford (Brighton) to Eastbourne, accompanying Twitter running pals @bryanwe, @maximisemylife, @tomgoom and @DanPark81. Now these guys are all experienced ultra marathon runners (except Tom, who runs a pretty damn fast marathon) and I’m just setting out on my ultra journey. To be honest, I was a little worried that the pace might be too quick for me but soon realised that the going was good. The key to ultra running, it seems to me, is pacing yourself and keeping going. No matter how slow it seems at the time, a slow jog and some walk breaks is enough to get the job done. None of the time obsession of marathon running – which is good as I’ve yet to run under 5 hours for a marathon –  just the desire to finish within the cut off.

Our average pace over the 4.5 hours of the run was around 14 mins per mile. To finish the North Downs Way 50 within the 13.5 hour cut off means hitting an average pace of 16.2 mins per mile.

Today I ran another 20 mile trail run, this time alone and on a route where most of it was new to me. The Staunton Way is an interesting route, crossing the South Downs Way at times and with some stunning views. I was worried initially that I would struggle to finish within 5 hours as the pace seemed slow due to the number of hills encountered.  I kept going and tried to be sensible with my nutrition strategy by eating before I was hungry. I was happy to finish this 20 miles in just under 4.5 hours and to add another route to the list of long run options.

I’m now tired, hungry (even though I’ve had a big lunch) but, above all, even more determined to make Project Ultra a reality. I believe.