The Royal Parks Foundation Ultra (50km/31miles) was my first run past the 26.2 mile point and I learned a few things along the way.
1. Consistency is key
I love to have a perfect training plan, based on well-researched techniques and executed by experienced athletes. However, the best plan is one you can follow. I kept mine simple - run a few times during the week and go a bit longer at the weekend.
2. You can increase volume faster than you think
There’s lots of research out there that debunks the “10% rule” of increasing run distance. You’ll need to listen to your own body to work out what’s right for you, but I found that after a few weeks of (low heart rate) regular running I jumped from 10km to 20-25km long runs with no ill effect.
3. Be suspicious of footwear fads
The running shoe market exists to make sure someone somewhere gets paid. This is not a bad thing, I like running shoes. In previous years I have had gait analysis, structured shoes and even custom insoles to correct my imperfect running form. This year I picked a pair that had the least padding and structure I could get away with. Me and my dodgy run form have been getting on fine.
4. Work on your mental toughness
On race day I started to struggle at the 35km point. I was in Richmond Park and I knew every step of the way to the finish. In a marathon that’s 7km to go, I know how to tough that out. I had no idea how to manage another 15km, my mind was off the job in hand… 3 hours of non-stop running became a short walk. Short walks in marathon running are more addictive than crack.
5. Run a marathon in your build up
I’ve raced Ironman, done a few marathons and thought I knew better than what every training plan was telling me. I had regular long runs of 14 to 20 miles, so felt no need to go up to 26.2 in the build up - I raced a half marathon instead of the scheduled slow marathon run. 31 miles is a long way to run, my mind and my legs needed that marathon.