The butterflies have arrived. The week leading up to the event, you know the feeling – I’m sure everyone gets it? Self doubt, does my leg hurt, am I eating enough, am I eating too much, I don’t know what I should be doing with myself – I’m sure you’ve all been there. Yeah, that’s where I am at. 💩ing myself.
Anyway, our next advice comes from Ryan Spencer who is known as @RyanSpencer56 on Twitter. He’s given some really positive words here and a link to an article about the mental aspect involved in Ultra running which he has written, it’s well worth a read.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into Ultra running.
I grew up in South Africa on the route of the Comrades and went to school on the route as well. It was a big deal over there in the 80s (still is), always knew someone running and cheered them on as a kid, vowing to run ultras when older. It set the tone for me as living on the halfway mark of the Comrades, a marathon was only ever halfway! Ran Comrades in ’06.
Moved to Cape Town in my teens and ran the 2Oceans 35miler. That all set me up for ultra running.
Moved to the UK 20 years ago and ran ultras here when there were hardly any events or ultra marathoners. And no social media either for encouragement. Now there are many!
2) When, what and how far was your first Ultra? Tell us a bit about it / add pictures if you have any.
Ran the 2Oceans in ’96 as a teenager as my first ultra. I loved the experience and knew it was for me.
3) Which Ultra would you now put down as your favourite and why?
For now the 2Oceans is a favourite as it was my first, the one I initially aimed to complete to set me on this path, and have completed it 4 times. Although there are many more new events that could become favourites.
4) Do you follow a training plan?
Been doing these events on and off for many years so don’t follow a training plan as I generally have an idea of what it takes to complete them. There are so many different opinions on what to do for ultras it can become confusing. Experience will teach you what works for you. But my rule of thumb, whatever distances of training is required, I do them slowly and with walking breaks. Then I can cover reasonable distance and still recover to do more.
5) What advice can you give for those looking to complete their first Ultra?
Take it all easy. The best bit of advice is to treat the event as a day out. Forget times, take the pressure off, walk the uphills, chat to other runners, spectators and aid station people; eat, drink and just enjoy the day. You can walk long periods if the going gets tough. Think of the sense of achievement and (hopefully) adoration from others once you’ve completed it.
6) What fuel do you take on when running long and how often?
By doing morning runs with no fuel, I’m training myself to require less nutrition. Hardly take any gels on long runs or events. Solid food works well, then walk for a bit to digest it. Stomach can be variable so eat when feel like it rather than forcing stuff down. Everyone is different, need to find what works for the runner.
7) What is the best equipment / clothing you have every purchased for running?
A waterproof jacket is one of the best bits of kit I have. I feel the cold so love knowing it’s there for when the rain comes or just to wear to stay warm.
8) What would be your dream race?
Would love to do something like UTMB or Western States 100, both iconic and challenging.
9) In one word describe how we can expect to feel whilst completing our first Ultra.
Elated, Euphoric, Awesome (if I may choose more than one! That sense of achievement of finishing, especially if there were bad parts when you thought you may not do this, is difficult to describe and needs experiencing)
10) Favourite re-fuel food
If it’s the end of a race it’s whatever is around, but usually straight after the event the stomach is all over the place. Once home and feeling a bit better, an all-day breakfast is fantastic!
I do feel almost every runner can complete ultras. It requires getting the head around the distance and just taking it easy. Once the mind is in the right place it can be done. Look at past results and think if those people can complete it, why not you?
When standing on the start line of an ultra, or during it when the going gets tough, just remember the reasons why you are starting this race or why you are there. There must have been a string of reasons why you signed up. Remember those.
The mental aspect is as important (if not more) as the physical. There’s a lot to say about it, I wrote an article about if if you have time to read it http://www.apex-sports.co.uk/document/item-22-training-the-mind