Firstly, I want to just make it clear that I do not consider myself to be an expert on this. I am learning every day about what tends to work and what really doesn’t. I also find myself constantly making little changes to the way that I train – in the hope that when we eventually get to Iceland, I’m in the best possible shape to get this thing done.
The thing (of course) is simply a 500 mile run from one side of Iceland to the other. Mostly on dirt tracks and trails. We hope. In reality we don’t really know what the surfaces we will be running on will be like – though we can get a rough idea from our paper maps and the trusty Google Earth. A lot will probably come down to the conditions on the day. And our ability to stick to the route. And, of course, the possible persistence of winter and (hopefully) unlikely summer snow cover. There are also one or two bits of our route which we haven’t yet been able to find an established route across – and we will just be doing our best to navigate in the best possible way over the terrain we find out there.
These are probably the bits I look forward to the most. The unexpected adventurous bits which break up the inevitable monotony of running over 30 miles a day. But they also throw up an interesting question – how on earth do you go about practicing for the unexpected?
In this blog (boring as some of you may expect – and find – it to be) I plan to give a little insight into the training I have been doing, and the reasons why I think this will help me (/us) traverse that little Island in the summer.
As with any successful (and as we have not set off yet I think it is okay to call my attempt successful) training regime, the most important thing was setting out a solid plan. Having attempted to run 30 miles back to back in the past and failing (at first), I knew that I had to get more miles in before this run. Not only this, I needed to actually run slowly, and focus on spending as much time on my feet as possible. With this in mind, at the start of the year I made a weekly mileage plan.
Working backwards from the planned start date of the run I decided roughly how may miles I would like to cover each week and then simply worked back to a start point of very few miles in a stepped process, with a recovery week every four weeks to ensure I didn’t burn out before the start point. A couple of others in our group – who it is fair to say had very limited running experience – also wanted to follow the guide, and I had taken most of December off to go into the training healthy, so we really did start off with a very low weekly target. The rules that went with the mileage were simple. They were:
- Monday’s mileage should always be a walk and is a deliberate recovery session.
- At the end of every run, one should always feel like you could keep running – if you can’t carry on then you’ve been running too hard.
- Mileage is mileage – and pace is irrelevant in the early stages as it should come naturally over time.
When training for Rundinavia – Aleks very often made these points to me – and I nonchalantly carried on training outside of these rules. Before getting injured and not being able to run at all. This time, I woud not be so foolish. Especially as I now had a team to think about – and not just myself.
Anyway, back to the interesting stuff, the numbers. The weekly plan looked like this:
Beutiful stepped progress over a nicely rounded 20 week training plan (which would leave us two weeks of taperong time before start day. Of course, a plan is there to be broken, and my weekly mileage has actually looked like this:
As you will notice – it is not quite the perfectly stepped progress that I had set out to achieve – but it is going in the right direction. And a 45 mile week seems perfectly doable to me now. Something which once upon a time, I would have thought was ridiculous.
I should also state that some of the weeks are misleading – as although I may not have run quite so far – I will have done other forms of endurance activities – be it cycling, swimming, or even occasionally kayaking.
And week 14 was a holiday. During which I climbed Arthur’s Seat, Great Rigg, and Scafell Pike. I just didn’t set Strava because it was a holiday. And rules is rules.
How do you do 45+ Miles a Week?
This is a question which I get asked a lot. And a question which doesn’t have one straightforward answer.
The first answer is simple and comes back to the rules I outlined at the start. I go very slowly. I very rarely get out of breath on a run. And if I do, I tend to walk for a bit until I am no longer panting. Yes, sometimes I will be feeling good – and push myself for a good time – but the majority of the time I am plodding along, listening to some form of podcast or Radio 4 quiz, shouting out answers like a mad lady.
That (at least) explains the physical side of things. Most of my running is done at a sustainable pace – and so my body is quick to recover and injuries have been (touch wood) few and far between.
Another answer is having to want to do it. I will often run twice a day. I’m not good at getting up early, and so I find myself with limited time to do the miles. This means I often have to run before and after work. It is never particularly fun – and often I get sick of following the same few miles of path – but in the long run it will pay off. The fact that it should enable me to enjoy running across unexplored parts of the world make it 100% worthwhile. Not only that, but this time I have a team to consider – I need to be able to lead by example – and if I don’t train – that just won’t happen.
The final thing, I guess, is that I am not naturally a sociable creature. I don’t need to go out and surround myself with other people – and so spending a lot of time on my own isn’t a barrier for me. Plus, I very often run with my dog which is just as good as (if not better than) having friends. There is alo an inherent competitiveness which I seem to possess which means I’m pretty happy to push myself and a stubborness which means I’d quite like to prove to people I can do these things.
So basically – my top training tips are:
- Train slowly – and accept that progress will be slow – don’t look for PBs – wait for them to come to you
- Do it for a reason – I really wouldn’t say I like running – but I love exploring. Running is a great way to see new things.
- Ditch the idea of having a social life – or just hang out with people who don’t mind you turning up to things a bit sweaty.
- Buy a dog.
- Be stubborn and run to prove other people wrong.
As easy as that…?
Again, there is not a straight answer to this one either.
On the one hand – yes. If you get out there every day and run/walk a tiny bit further than yesterday, persistence is bound to pay off eventually and you will make progress.
On the other hand no. I haven’t gone in to the fact that there are some days where the last thing I want to do is run – and so I will find myself lying in bed doing absolutely nothing until I don’t have enough time to run and so don’t. There are also times where I head out with the best intentions of running many miles, but feel fed up and bothered after just a couple and head home again. But for every session I have like this, I have at least 4/5 good ones, it is just about remebering that on the day.
And that is pretty much it. Run lots. Run slowly. Just keep plodding away.
And be ready to adapt when we are out there.
6 more weeks to go.
Whilst this trip is bound to be an awesome adventure for the team – and we hope to have loads of fun out there – we are also trying to use the run to raise money for a very worthy cause – Acorns Children’s Hospice. For more information and to donate, visit our Just Giving page here.