Archive for the ‘Ultra distance running’ Category

Riding a bike for 12 hours through the dead of night may sound like the act of a madman, but it can help ready your body and mind for the toughness of ultra-marathon running, writes James Cracknell in his weekly Q&A

Look around you: James Cracknell running the 2006 London Marathon

James Cracknell running the 2006 London Marathon Photo: Alamy

Hi James. I’m running the Saffron Trail ultra-marathon in July (70 miles overnight, 20-hour cut off). My training is going OK, but I’ve never done anything like this before. Any last-minute pro tips for training / race day? Thanks. Robin

Hey Robin,

Nice one for taking this on. Technically, a 35 mile run is classified as an ultra-marathon, so by starting at 70 miles you’re doing the equivalent of diving in off the 10m board before trying the 5m. Ballsy stuff!

A double ultra is achievable if you settle on a strategy based on how your training has gone, then stick to it. Heart rate, pace, nutrition, hydration and rest are the all important factors here. You need to know your numbers before you get to the start line.

As for race day, the first objective has to be to complete the distance; if you don’t finish, every other goal is irrelevant. Be confident in the pace you’ve learned works in training. No matter what others do in the first hour or two, ignore them and keep to your strategy. 75 miles is a long way. If ever there were a time to call upon Aesop’s fable The Hare and the Tortoise, it’s now: stick to your own pace and you’ll outlast anyone who hares off at the start. And remember: you can always up the pace later in the race, but if you empty the tanks in the first 30 miles there’s no coming back.

I wouldn’t stop for a lengthy rest as it will be so difficult to get going again. If you need a breather or you’ve got a muscular pain, try slowing down or walking rather than coming to a complete standstill. Stopping for any significant length of time is going to make those legs seize up, and you’ll only feel worse when you set off again. You’ll almost hear your legs screaming: “are you kidding me, I’ve already run 30 miles!”

Work on your food/nutrition strategy in training, develop a plan and stick to it from the start. Even if it feels like you’re eating and drinking more than you need, it’s a long way and you want to keep those tanks full. Little and often is the name of the game. Here’s a little tip: a cube of jelly left to dissolve slowly in your mouth will help keep your blood sugar levels constant.

For confidence, I’d do a long run (at least 40 miles) before the race, just to get used to being on your feet for that long. If you’re worried about injury then you could do a long cycle ride. In fact, I’d probably do 12 hours on a turbo trainer through the night. It’d be boring, hard, and you’ll have the strong sensation of wanting to stop, which (not to put you off) will be exactly what you’ll feel like when you’re running through the night. The training ride will prepare you for that mental challenge. By making the worst part of training more horrible than the event, race day won’t seem so bad or unachievable.

So, in summary, get the below sorted:

1. Pacing plan

2. Nutrition plan

3. Hydration plan

4. Long run or cycle through the night as preparation

5. Be confident in your preparation, ignore everyone else and stick to your plan

Oh, and put plasters on those nipples!



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The experienced endurance runner says this challenge will be his toughest yet

The experienced endurance runner says this challenge will be his toughest yet


HE’S pounded the pathways from Scotland to the Sahara and raced up the cliff face of Mount Kilimanjaro.


So when ultra-runner Dr Andrew Murray says he will confront his “greatest challenge yet”, everyone’s ears should prick up.

This summer, the endurance athlete will weather some of the world’s most hostile conditions to run the equivalent of four marathons in just 24 hours – to the Amazon Basin.

The 33-year-old from Southside will descend 19,000 feet from the summit of the Andes Cotopaxi in Ecuador – braving sub-zero temperatures – to the Pastaza river which feeds the mighty Amazon, where temperatures can peak at 30C.

Launching the 100-mile race on Saturday, the doctor’s lung-bursting feats will put the English football team in the shade as they kick-start their World Cup campaign against Italy on the same day in Brazil.

Dr Murray, whose previous achievements include a week-long challenge to run 50km on the world’s seven continents, said he was wary about traversing the “Avenue of Volcanoes” which boasts some of the most regular eruptions in the world.

“I will be going up a few volcanoes over 5000 metres – three or four times the height of Ben Nevis,” he said.

“What you are nervous about is what is outwith your control – for example, you could have an avalanche and the temperatures are likely to be extremely low.”

Colleague and ultra-cyclist, Chris Oliver, 54, praised Dr Murray’s strength but said he was a “nutcase” for taking it on.

The consultant trauma orthopaedic surgeon, who cycled across the US last year, said: “I think it’s pretty tough running 100 miles in a day, especially in the heat and the humidity and over tough terrain.

“Andrew is an extreme example of physical activity. He’s an ultra example of fitness and he’s an inspiration to many people. That is wonderful and all credit to him.”

Despite swapping snowcapped peaks for the searing heat of the jungle madness in just one day, Dr Murray said he would still have time to catch up on the England match.

He said: “I’m aware that altitude, heat and humidity are usually the enemy of the long-distance runner, and I’m sure I’ll have sympathy for the English football team who will be running around in the Amazon jungle on the same day. But I have been kitted out with the gear that will help minimise the effects of the heat and it would not be a challenge unless it was harder than what I have done before.”

And Dr Murray may even venture back along his epic trail to find a suitable vantage point for a visual treat of erupting volcanoes.

He said: “You can see rocks being thrown up into the air which will be great because I know we have Arthur’s Seat, but it isn’t exploding so sitting there with a beer watching them exploding will be pretty special.”

Dr Murray has already raised £150,000 through his other challenges for charities such as the Scottish Association of Mental Health, African Palliative Care Association UK and the Yamaa Trust and has competed in seven ultra-marathons, winning races in the North Pole,Antarctica, and Outer Mongolia.

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Comrades Marathon 2014 Results: Men and Women's Top Finishers

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Bongmusa Mthembu was crowned 2014 Comrades Marathon champion on Sunday. The South African ran a time of five hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds to triumph in front of a home crowd.

The official Comrades Marathon Twitter account was on hand to capture the first-place finisher’s crowning moment, with countryman Ludwick Mamabolo finishing second and Gift Kelehe in third:


Mthembu was four minutes and 41 seconds faster than nearest rivalMamabolo, clocking in with an average time of three minutes and 41 seconds per kilometre.

Elena Nurgalieva had the opportunity to record her ninth victory in the 89-kilometre ultramarathon, but she dropped off the leading pace with barely six kilometres remaining, giving way to NedbankInternational runner Eleanor Greenwood.


2014 Comrades Marathon Men’s Top 10 Finishers
Position Name Nationality Time
1 Bongmusa Mthembu South Africa 5:28:34
2 Ludwick Mamabolo South Africa +4:41
3 Gift Kelehe South Africa +6:06
4 Stephen Muzhingi Zimbabwe +6:45
5 Rufus Photo South Africa +6:57
6 Mncedisi Mkhize South Africa +7:33
7 Jonas Buud Sweden +9:44
8 Manoko William Mokwalakwala South Africa +10:56
9 Prodigal Khumalo Zimbabwe +11:03
10 Latudi Makofane South Africa +12:08


Greenwood finished atop the women’s pile with a time of six hours, 18 minutes and 15 seconds. As East Coast Radio’s Andre Bloem points out, the result represents a break in the Nurgalieva hold over the largest ultramarathon in the world:



Had Elena, the more successful of the Nurgalieva twins, been able to prevail, the Russian would have tied Bruce Fordyce’s nine race wins—five more than any other woman has ever managed:



As it is, however, she misjudged her run and blew up short of the finish line, slipping to Greenwood’s perseverance at a crucial juncture in the course.



2014 Comrades Marathon Women’s Top 10 Finishers
Position Name Nationality Time
1 Eleanor Greenwood Great Britain 6:18:15
2 Elena Nurgalieva Russia +5:04
3 Olesya Nurgalieva Russia +6:36
4 Irina Antropova South Africa +15:53
5 Camille Herron United States +28:48
6 Jo Meek Great Britain +33:29
7 Caroline Wostmann South Africa +37:40
8 Frida Sodermark Sweden +39:19
9 Zola Budd Pieterse South Africa +42:32
10 Martinique Potgieter South Africa +44:35


While Nurgalieva is well-versed in the ways of winning under the South African sun, this was a maiden championship for Mthembu, presenting two quite opposite modes of victors in this year’s event.

Mthembu placed third in the 2010 Comrades Marathon, and this year’s run will be remembered as a moment of realisation for all his past attempts in taking home the biggest prize at stake.

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To say Ellie Greenwood won a marathon yesterday would be wrong. The Canada-based Scot became the first British woman to win the Comrades Marathon – a race almost double the usual 26.2 miles.

Greenwood finished in 6 hours, 18 minutes and 15 seconds to end an 11-year run of Russian winners. She came from behind in the closing miles to overtake the Russian twins, Elena and Oleysa Nurglaieva, who came second and third respectively. Between them they had won the previous 10 races. Her fellow Briton Jo Meek came fifth.

Greenwood, 35, admitted she had a “pretty terrible race” but added: “I didn’t come all the way here to give up.”

Zola Budd, who 30 years ago ran barefoot for Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics, came seventh. Bongmusa Mthembu of South Africa won the men’s race, ahead of his compatriots Ludwick Mamabolo and Gift Kelehe.

The Comrades has been run since 1921 on a course between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The start alternates each year; the 2014 edition was a “down” race, starting in Pietermaritzburg and finishing on the coast. Over18,000 runners started yesterday’s race.

Greenwood’s previous achievements have largely come in trail ultramarathons. Two years ago she broke an 18-year-old course record for the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in California; a race traditionally stacked with the cream of the ultra-distance crop.

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KATHMANDU, May 27: The Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon and 60K Everest Extreme Ultra Marathon is all set to kick off on Thursday, May 29, marking the first ascent of the world”s highest peak 61 years ago, the organizer Himalayan Expedition said on Tuesday.

Himalayan Expedition has been organizing the marathon for the past 11 years on the same date, and introduced the ultra race last year as part of diamond jubilee (60 years) celebrations of the first ascent of Everest. Both the races begin from the Everest base camp located at an altitude of 5,364 meters and traverse through the beautiful landscape of the Everest region before ending at Namche Bazar (3,440 meters). 

The most distinct characteristic of the race, held at the highest altitude in the world, is the thrill and adrenaline rush it provides to the participants on the challenging terrain. 

The 60K race has also received overwhelming responses from participants from across the globe. A total of 17 runners — 10 foreigners and 7 locals — have confirmed participation in the second edition of the race introduced last year. 

Event manager of both the races, Shikhar Pandey, said, “We have finished all the preparations. Check points are set up at every 5-7 kilometers distance for the main event — marathon. Water supply and medical facilities will be available at the check points where needed.” 

As the organizer of the toughest race in the world, Himalayan Expedition is also equally concerned about the safety of the runners. 

“Besides the basic safety measures of keeping marshals and doctors at different check points, there are trail markers such as ribbons and flags so that the participants do not get lost. We also have a helicopter on standby at Namche for emergency rescue if any participant gets injured,” Pandey said.

Runners from across the globe, including from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the USA, will join local runners in the marathon. So far, the locals have had the most successful record on the race track, winning all the titles in the thin air of the mountains to which the foreigners find it difficult to adjust.

Adding more excitement, the races are set to begin at 8:8:48 am, so timed to match the height of Mt Everest. 

Frank Rocktaschel, a German runner said, “More than a competition, the marathon will be a lifetime opportunity for me to witness nature at its best. I think I will be the happiest person after I overcome the challenge of the rough terrain.”

Brazil”s renowned ultra-runner Bernado Fonseca, the winner of the Antarctic Ice Marathon and 100K ultra race, is set to compete in the 60K race.

He said, “I want to test and challenge the limits of my body. Sherpas (the locals) seem as if they are from another planet. It is almost impossible to beat them.”

The marathon starts from the Everest Base Camp at an altitude of 5,364 meters and passes through Gorakshep (5,160 meters), Lobuche (4,928 meters), Thukla (4,611 meters), Bibre (4,492 meters), Dingboche (4,530 meters), Pyangboche (3,995 meters), Tyangboche (3,890 meters), Lobisasa (3,495 meters), Kangjuma (3,592 meters), Chortern (3,560 meters) before concluding at Namche Bazar (3,440 meters). 

The ultra race takes the same route until Pyangboche, from where it changes track toward Phortse, continuing on the uphill trail toward Nhala, the highest uphill trail running stretch of the world. Crossing Nhala, a small pass below Gokyo, runners descend toward Machermo, Dole, before finally crossing the last pass of Mong La toward Kyanjuma junction and down to the finishing point. 

Altogether 135 runners — 96 foreigners and 39 locals — are competing in the marathon. There are five foreigners in the half-marathon, and 10 foreigners and 7 locals in the 60K race.

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Britain’s most-decorated long-distance triathlete Chrissie Wellington will tackle the Three Peaks Challenge this weekend with an added twist – she will cycle between the mountains and then run up them.

After leaving triathlon in 2012 to start a new phase in her life, the University of Manchester graduate is now taking on the test as part of a four-person team of seasoned endurance athletes to raise money for charity.

Starting today at the foot of Snowdon they aim to cover the 29 miles of climbing and 421 miles of cycling all within a 48 hour period.

While the four-time Ironman triathlon world champion is used to pushing herself to the limit she admits that this is going beyond anything that she has experienced before.

“It’s going to take me totally out of my comfort zone. The unknown is scary, frightening and bears little resemblance to what I’ve done before,” she told ESPNW.

“Sure I have a history of cycling, running and doing a bit of what sometimes resembles swimming, but I try to get that over and done with in under nine hours.

“Those who know me realize that I am a passionate devotee of the eight-hour slumber. What will I do if I don’t manage to get a decent bit of shut-eye?”

After tackling the highest peak in Wales the group will ride 168 miles to Scafell Pike before taking on the longest running route in the event, 11 miles of climbing to take them up to 3,478 feet.

“When we get on the bikes after Scafell, the thought, ‘OK, 250 miles to cycle now,’ will probably not be a useful one,” the 37-year-old said.

“I will be trying to draw on all the tools and strategies I have developed over the years to help me cope with the highs and lows, the pain and discomfort, and to quiet the voice that questions why on earth I agreed to enter such a ludicrously challenging challenge.”

With temperatures predicted to hover around zero on Ben Nevis on Saturday the team are well aware that conditions will be tough.

Matt Edwards, sport development manager at the University of Bristol, who initially suggested the idea, says they cannot rely on Britain’s notoriously changeable weather to play ball.

“We want to be able to complete the challenge even if this means crampons and ice axes rather than trail-running shoes and a pair of shorts,” Edwards said.

“We need to prepare for all four seasons multiple times.

“However in the U.K., at the start of May, with four people, a support vehicle, 29 miles of mountain running and 421 miles of road cycling to navigate, the chances of everything going smoothly and in our favour are almost zero.”

The team are raising money for Jole Rider, an organisation that provides bicycle to children in Africa, and The Rainbow Trust, a charity that supports children with terminally children.

Updates on the challenge can be found on: 

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massivedesertshuffle (MdS2014)


I won’t keep you in suspense. I finished it!!! I completed the ‘Toughest Foot-Race on Earth’, and I loved it!!! The Marathon des Sables 2014 was both the toughest and my most proud athletic/endurance achievement to date and I can’t see anything topping it to be honest. Proof of my completion can be seen in the photo below where my very good friend Pete (also finished it!) and I are proudly biting our medals at the finish line to check it’s real (note: sadly, the medal is not real gold!)

Team work: Pete and I crossed the finish line together and celebrate with our medals! (Photo credit: work: Pete and I crossed the finish line together and celebrate with our medals! (Photo credit:

The race was summarised by Race Director, Patrick Bauer: “We were lucky to have had exceptional weather without any wind (note: I’m not sure I felt lucky to have no wind/breeze!!), in contrast to last week where a storm stirred up winds…

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29th Marathon Des Sables

Posted: May 1, 2014 by kirisyko in SykOtic, Ultra distance running

Go Run

So, Marathon Des Sables complete! What a fantastic event, I had a great time and it made all of the long hours of preparation worthwhile. Especially as I finished 55th overall and was the 9th fastest Brit, which put me right up there with some very serious runners.


Each day had its own challenges, be them dunes, jebels, blisters, the ground or heat. I pushed it as hard as I could each day though and was happy with the what I put in. My training schedule worked as well as it could I think, and I struck a good balance between endurance and cross training.


I had aimed to carry as little as possible and achieved this without ever going hungry or being overly uncomfortable, although the cold meals and cold sleeping bag got a bit boring after a few days. Saying that there is little I would change in…

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Montane Lakeland 100/50

When: 25-27 July, 2014
Where: Coniston, Cumbria

Why You Should Do It?

To be fair it’s a little bit too late for this year’s event, but it you’re looking for a truly epic ultra running event, they don’t come much tougher than the Montane-backed Lakeland 100 and Lakeland 50 races. Runners set off from Coniston at 6pm on Friday evening and have 40 hours, until 10am on Sunday morning, to complete the circular route with 6300m of climbing over its 100-mile distance.

And that’s without the event taking in the big summits, instead it tends to roll through lesser known valleys and fells for an alternative experience of the area. Softies can opt instead for the Lakeland 50, a half-distance event that kicks off on Saturday morning just twice marathon distance… drop-out rate for the big-un is between 50% and 60%. Best start training for 2015 then.

Extra Inspiration

Lakeland 100 on video / Lakeland 100 In Pictures

Extra Information

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Rory Bosio says her favorite type of workout is destination running. Photo: Tim Kemple

This California-based professional ultrarunner is always on her feet whether she’s training, working as a pediatric intensive care nurse, or skiing.

Last summer, Rory Bosio set a new record in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 104-mile trail race across France, Italy, and Switzerland that sends runners around the highest mountains in the Alps.

When a professional athlete turns in an impressive race, some people may chalk it up to part of the job—it’s what they do for a living. But this 29-year-old is an atypical professional athlete. Besides training for ultra races around the world, she also spends 24 to 36 hours on her feet each week as a pediatric intensive care nurse.

“That’s definitely a challenge,” says the Truckee, Calif., resident. “I don’t run on the days that I work, unless it’s my first day on, just because I’m on my feet for 12 hours.”

Her training approach is odd for a professional runner: She rarely wears a watch, she doesn’t use a GPS or keep track of her mileage, and in the winter, she usually only runs two to three times a week to make room for all types of skiing: cross-country, downhill, and backcountry.

“I should be better about keeping track of it to look at things, but I just can’t be bothered,” she says with a laugh.

However, Bosio’s training is far from careless or unplanned. She gets in those super-long runs just like most ultrarunners do, as well as intervals and other race-specific workouts.

“I mentally keep track in my head—I need to do this type of workout,” she explains.

ut she’s not the type of athlete who’ll go do a workout just because it’s time to do that type of workout. “If I’m tired, I just won’t do it.”

In August, Bosio will likely find herself toeing the line again at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc—she’s got it penciled into her schedule.

How she’ll perform there is anyone’s guess. But now that she’s got last year’s race under her belt, fans of the event could be in for something special. Indeed, Bosio says last year her only goal was to finish, and she felt intimidated by the course and distance. In the end, she sliced more than 2 hours off the previous record and became the first woman to finish in the top 10.

“Beyond finishing, everything else was icing on the cake,” she says.