This April sees Co-Founders of Runr, Craig & Matt, take on the epic South Downs Way 50 mile event, put on by Centurion Running, and Craig wanted to share what the draw was for him to commit to running such a long distance!
Have you ever wondered why people want to run further than a marathon?
Why is 26.2 miles just not far enough?
Well I thought I'd find out by signing up to a 50 mile event - the South Downs Way 50!
Having run four marathons, I know what it's like to spend months training for a long distance event. I've run in the London Marathon twice, both in the usual month of April, and starting training on the 1st January was always tough after usually overindulging at Christmas.
Having said that, there was something intriguing about having this longer distance to train for which I found strangely exciting!
The SDW50 event starts in the Sussex town of Worthing and finishes in Eastbourne. It's a beautiful route up onto the South Downs Way path and then you run east all the way to Eastbourne. Simple...
As soon as I signed up for the SDW50, I knew I needed to plan out what the months leading up to the event looked like. For me, this included 2 key areas - a strong training plan to follow which would get me up to being able to compete 50 miles, whilst I also decided I wanted to look at my nutrition at the same time.
The first thing I wanted to do was create a training plan to follow. I needed something to keep me on track as I always find it too easy to let a week slip by and feel like I've not done enough running. There's nothing worse than the guilty feeling of thinking you've not trained enough in the build up to an event.
At the same time, it's vitally important to listen to your body. We've all had injuries that are caused by running too much and even if the plan says you're due to run today, if you've got a niggle, rest.
It's always recommended that you have someone create a bespoke training plan for you. Having done several marathons, I know how much I can push my body so I opted to use my experience and create my own one.
After researching several 50 mile, 16 week training plans, I created my own calendar to follow. It factored in building my mileage each week and, with it being a long event, it included back to back runs to create the effect of running on tired legs.
I then pinned it on my office wall and started to tick the runs off as they were completed.
As the weeks have past, I've broadly stuck to my plan. Yes, I've missed some runs. Yes, I've bailed on a hill session in favour of a flat run along the seafront. But what has given me confidence is having a solid plan for increasing distances over time and including runs that have a good level of elevation in them.
The SDW50 has an elevation of over 5,700ft so it's been important to include hills in some of my runs. Living in Portsmouth on the south coast, my usual runs don't get much over 20m in total, so I knew this was something I needed to do!
As we near race day in April, my recent longest ever run took me over 32 miles running from Winchester to Portsmouth. This was a great mental milestone to overcome as nearly 6 hours on my feet, covering 2500ft of elevation and running more than 5 miles further than I had ever previously done, was a marker that I'm capable of achieving these long distances.
As well as having a strong training plan in place, I also felt there was a chance to improve my diet which I felt was important to compliment my training for the event. I've always eaten fairly well, but I knew there was room for improvement - too many sweet treats when grabbing a coffee and probably one or two too many beers over the course of a week could definitely be cut out!
With this in mind, I reached out to a friend who is a qualified nutritionalist, Tim @ FoodFlexibility. The aim was for him to analyse my diet, understand my goal of completing a 50 mile run and advise me on how to improve the fuel I was putting in my body.
Now it might sound obvious, but until you start recording what you eat and drink, you don't realise what you consume. As soon as I went through the process, it was staring me in the face that sugary snacks and alcohol aren't ideal for getting your body into the condition you want it to be in for an ultra!
It didn't take many changes, but once I put a plan in place around what to eat, how often and how much, I really found the benefits of having a healthier diet. Better sleep, more energy, better recovery after runs. Lots of these things have helped me improve my running and are part of why running 32 miles was comfortable.
Preparing For Race Day
At the time of writing, race day is around 3 weeks away on the 9th April 2022. The plan between now and then is to keep the legs ticking over and keep following my training plan.
I've done all of the long runs now, so distances from 14 - 16 are the main training runs. Hill sessions are still to be completed as you can never write them off. A good hour long run with decent elevation might hurt the legs, but you know it's all training that's in the bank and that you'll thank yourself for doing come race day!
I can't wait to hit the start line in Worthing as I have the confidence that everything up until now has gone to plan. Keep eating and drinking well, keep the runs going as per the plan and think about my kit and logistics for the day.
Who knows what will happen on race day but I've enjoyed the experience of training for the event which is great and hopefully I'll cross the finish line with a big email on my face!