Mack, founder of Threshold Sports, is writing a series of blogs about preparing for, and taking part in, our new ultra marathon, Race to the King.
“I have had two instructive experiences since I last wrote to you. The first was a recce in the west of England with some of the Threshold crew for a new running/walking event in 2017. We walked non-stop for 48 miles so it was a good gauge of how I’ll find the King challenge. I wanted to pick out a couple of things I learned:
The mind is a powerful thing. Like many of you I suspect, I have not hit 100% of my training goals. Regardless, I made my mind up on the morning of the recce to finish it whatever. Once you are in this mindset you prevent yourself looking for little ways out.
Walking in to the night from 9pm onwards was glorious. I was worried that I’d be yearning for creature comforts after 12 hours of walking but it was quite the reverse. The stillness, beauty of the landscape and camaraderie between us all made it a magical 3 to 4 hours. There was a novelty to the 2am pit stop similar to being out late and feeling mischievous.
But then, inevitably, the all over body weariness descended and I felt miserable for an hour. I’d rather have been anywhere else. Every body part groaned and no food treat assuaged the dull ache. These lows eventually subside, you need the self-awareness to recognise it’s a navigable trough. I found talking to my fellow Threholdians and being honest about what hurt really helped rather than trying to appear macho. Dark humour emerges and you realise everyone is in the same boat. We crossed the finish line at 9am and after 24 hours and it felt utterly utterly amazing. There is much to look forward to on the steps of Winchester Cathedral.
The second was a 10-mile walk across Exmoor. It was joyous to yomp and natter on a range of topics that rarely get discussed in screen filled lives, but, my major take out from my companion Richard was that people look to this blog for sound advice. ‘Yikes’, I thought, I’d better tighten it up. I asked our Route Director, Dave, who is a navigation and trial running/walking expert, to put a few words of wisdom together for you ahead of the big weekend. And so to some gems from Dave…”
“It is probably not a surprise to you but the Race To The King is hilly. From the very start the route climbs steadily for 3 plus kilometres. Descending too fast will very quickly result in micro damage to the muscle itself both at a chemical and structural level eventually making every step uncomfortable. Going uphill or downhill for long periods is all about short steps and with slightly bent knees when descending – no power moves required!
All your kit must be well and truly tried and tested before event day. That means everything: clothing, packs, drink bottles, torches and maybe most importantly shoes. Shoes need to be designed for the job. That means dealing with mixed terrain for a long period. Whatever shoes you go for the most important thing is that they are comfortable at the start and at the finish hours later when your feet have grown a size or two. Clothing needs to be loose, comfortable and quick drying. You will also need layer options to deal with the English weather.
Moving at the right speed from the start is without doubt the most important tip. And to put that another way: If you go too fast, too early you will pay for it long before the finish. If in doubt, go slower than you think you need to and reassess after halfway. Better to enjoy the event and finish later than to burn out early and suffer.
Degrees of discomfort
Suffering…Even if you get everything right on the build-up, training, nutrition, shoes, there is most likely going to be a degree of discomfort. That’s just how it is with long events.
No one is going to find RTTK easy, it is a tough event with everyone on their feet for a long time. Most will experience some lows and dark times along the way; low energy, sore feet or aching limbs. It’s important that everyone taking part understands and maybe even embraces the fact that at times it’s going to hurt. It’s what makes it different from Parkrun or the treadmill in the gym. It’s what makes it a challenge. It’s why you have entered and why your friends and family are going to be applauding your amazing efforts once you finish.”
Thank you very much to Dave for his words of wisdom. I’ll end this blog in the words of TS Eliot:
“If you are not in over your head, you’ll never know how tall you are”
More is in you.
Read Mack’s first blog here about preparing for the challenge.