Sunday, August 29, 2010

Out Running Overtraining


This afternoon I received an SMS from my training partner enquiring how my planned run earlier in the day had gone (as she had been out of town). I replied that I’d had a busy day with one thing and another, and maybe a rest from running would be a better option.

The response came back “You can’t underestimate the power of rest!”

This got me thinking about the importance of rest in your training schedule, and specifically with reference to overtraining, which is a common curse for the eager ultra marathon runner.

When training for any ultra marathon event, and especially for the longer events of 100miles+ or multiday events, almost all the advice has the common factor of running a lot of miles in training. In addition there also seems to be a requirement to run 6 days a week as a minimum, where the recovery days are of the magnitude to show up in a regular marathon runner’s schedule as a long session.

However, we are mere mortals, and as I have stated on many previous occasions, we are all different. Without the proper base level of fitness, planning and structure in your running life, you could well find yourself suffering from overtraining.

The symptoms of overtraining are numerous, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out the link between the cause and effects. These effects include lethargy, ulcers, elevated resting heart rate, and it takes longer to recover from hard sessions or from injuries.

Also there is the psychological impact of frustration from a drop off in performance. This can lead into a downward spiral, as you think you need to train more to get better, your performance worsens, and so down the spiral you go. Of course we all know that the reverse is true, but often we don’t want to acknowledge this truth.

But how is it that the elite of the ultramarathon world can run over 100miles a week in training, week after week, and not crumple into a heap on the side of the road their body thoroughly exhausted? Why is it that the elite seem to not be burdened by the overtraining curse?

You have to look at the way they train. Sure they are out running loads of miles, but it’s what they do between their training runs that makes the difference.

They will be indulging in ice baths, deep tissue massage and other physical therapies; they will have a carefully balanced diet and specialist nutrient supplements; most importantly they will be getting plenty of sleep. I used to look at Paula Radcliffe’s training program, and noticed that the difference between a profession and a good amateur was a 2 hour sleep in the afternoon between sessions!

Sleep is the time when your body can focus its energies on recovery, repairing and rebuilding any damage at a cellular level, your immune system has time and energy to get to work, and of course your energy stores recharge so you are good to get up and run again.

A reasonable inference from this is that with enough sleep (hence recovery) you cannot overtrain.

The reality is that most of us have other priorities in our lives, which mean that getting 10 hours sleep, eating, working, socialising, playing with the kids, and running for 5 hours, just doesn’t fit into a 24 hour period. So either the priorities have to change, or you have to adjust your goals.

So if sleep is the key, perhaps the most successful ultra distance runners are those who can get by on the least amount of sleep (by “get by” I mean can still function normally). That certainly seems to be a common factor with a lot of the legends of ultra endurance.

That then poses the question whether your body can be trained to cope with little sleep, or if it is physiologically hard wired?

I’ll let you know!

Happy running,
Andy

“You will never find the time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” - Charles Bixton

Training 27-8-2010 (19.1km trail)

Training 28-8-2010 (19.3km Trail)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

If I only buy one piece of exercise equipment, what should it be?

The beauty of running, be it for a marathon, a fun run, or just some recreational jogging is that it is one of the most affordable sports going.  You don’t actually need any kit, none at all if you live in the some liberal places!

The normal process is that when you complete your first 5km race, you find yourself entering a 10km, and than a half marathon, and then quite possibly a marathon. For some of us the need for challenging oneself goes a little further.  The fact is that it is an addictive sport, and most of the people I know who participate are not just happy to take part, but also like to do as well as they can.

So you have to train, and as you start to take your training more seriously you suddenly find yourself in a sports shop looking at all sorts of gym gear, exercise equipment, specialist running shoes, GPS watches and iPods.

The purpose of these, for you should ultimately be to improve your performance. This can take a number of forms, from strengthening weak joints, to improving your running gait, or preventing running injuries, or improving endurance. Whatever the reason there is a specific product out there with the promise to fulfil your every whim. 

Just like a Gym membership!
There is one which sort of fits into this category, a gym membership. For some people it is a necessary evil as they are time poor, or perhaps there are no suitable places to run in lunchtime, or you don’t enjoy running amongst car fumes. Unfortunately a gym membership is much like a puppy, it’s for life, not just for Christmas (it certainly seems like a life sentence when you try and cancel your membership, but that’s another story).  I’d also argue that you get very poor value for money, doing things you can do just easily at home with just a few simple pieces of kit.

Personally I’ve got a barbell for doing squats, a couple of dumbbells for curls, etc, I have a fitness ball, a balance board and a Theraband.  The total cost of these is the equivalent of about 6 weeks membership at one of the national fitness chains. It’s clear that owning your own kits is economically very sound.

So to go back to the main subject of this blog, what is the one piece of equipment you should buy? The answer for me is simple, the Theraband. It wins hands down and for a number of reasons.

It is incredibly versatile.  You can get various thicknesses to give you a range of resistances, but I don’t think this is necessary as you can use a single length for light work, or double up for a stronger workout.  I tend to use it in a loop around a table leg, and you can increase the resistance by make the loop smaller. You don’t even need a fixed point to attach it as you can just loop it around both legs and work both opposing muscle groups at the same time.

It’s cheap, for a few dollars you can buy metres of the stuff.

It’s lightweight and portable. It takes up next to no space at all, which makes it the ideal piece if of kit for the travelling runner.

It’s maintenance free.  There are no moving parts, it’s simple, and will last for a long time if kept clean and dry.

Most importantly it is highly effective for strength and endurance training, especially of those core and supportive muscles that our modern day sedentary lifestyle have allowed to waste. I use the Theraband for strengthening all muscle groups from my core to my feet, but you can use it anywhere across your body. You’re basically limited by your imagination for exercises which you could incorporate it.



My favourite uses are for strengthening the arches of my feet, and my hips and gluteal muscle group.  To maximise the benefit you should focus on posture, alignment and control. It is far better to do slow and controlled movements to ensure that the target and weaker surrounding muscles are getting exercised to mimic the stresses and strains we put on our bodies when running.

Happy Running,
Andy

“Simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication” – Leonardo Da Vinci

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Training 22-8-2010 (27km road/trail run)

Training 23-8-10 Home based gym session:
4x(25 push ups, 20 deep squats with weight, 40 face down leg raises, 20 sit ups on fitness ball)
4x(16 bicep curls, 20 lunges, 40 glutes with fitness ball, 30 bicycles)
4x(20 single leg squats, 16 pec flies on fitness ball, 16 hip raises on fitness ball, 12 leg pushes, pulls and thrusts from hip with Theraband)

Training 24-8-10 (27km trail run)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The most important distance in Ultrarunning

It’s no secret to any of us who run, that to complete whatever distance you choose, requires the psychological desire to keep running until you reach your goal.

For a 100m sprint the mental component is only required for a few seconds, and the focus is to ensure your body is giving 100% of its physical capacity for the duration of the race. However there are physiological limits on the speed at which you can run, given the anaerobic nature of the exertion and the use of the fight or flight energy reserves.

As you progress to longer and longer distances, there is of course a physiological component, but the importance of the mental will to keep going takes a more significant role.  It is actually very unusual for a runner to drop out of a race because they are physically unable to continue. The only occasions of this I can recall are related to injury such as a sprain, or through heat exhaustion or dehydration.  More often than not the person will drop out of a race by choice, with the belief that they can’t go on. I’m not for one minute suggesting that we should all continue to run until we are physically unable to continue, but more to open the discussion as to how much we could achieve with the correct motivation and drive.

The thing is from a physical perspective we can do far more than we think, as our perceived ability is based upon what we have experienced. The running forums are full of stories from runners who have exceeded their expectations, and develop a life changing belief that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. Sure we may have to do more training, and have to change our priorities in life, but we believe we can do it.

There are a great number of examples of extreme human achievement which illustrate this, from people such as Pat Farmer, Kurt Fearnley and Dean Karnazes who have all completed seemingly super human physical challenges, and yet each of them consider themselves to just be ordinary people.

So what is it that differentiates these “ordinary people”, from what we ordinary people would call “ordinary people”?

It’s an overused phrase that you need to have good parents, suggesting that genetics pay an important part in running ability. I believe that we all have the same fundamentals and that we can train our body to work efficiently; that is to say that our running style is not set in stone and can be altered through specific stretching and strength training. John Landy, one of the three great athletes striving to be the first through the 4 minute mile barrier (as detailed in Neal Bascomb’s “The Perfect Mile”) changed his style by keeping his head down out of sight of an observer behind a wall, to ensure he was running with bent knees.

So with all else being equal (or close to it) the real difference is what goes on in your head.  When I first started running I thought that to run a marathon was the ultimate running distance. After crossing the finish line of my first half marathon with my brother he asked me how I’d feel about doing it again? It hit home how far a marathon was beyond my world of experience. Of course running a marathon wasn’t impossible for me, but at the time it seemed like it was.

This is something that these guys (and girls) who exceed what most of us believe to be the limits of human ability must do with every challenge. They have to stretch the belief of what is thought to be the limit, and make that the new reality.

So the most important distance in ultrarunning is 8 inches, the 8 inches between your ears.

Get out of your comfort zone!
Andy

“Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceives ourselves.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Today’s Training:
20.09km 2:05:43

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Can I give you a lift?

Something happened to me today that has never happened to me before while I have been out running.  I was minding my own business in the early part of a run on a short section where I have to run along the side of a road. I heard a car approaching from behind, so I moved over well off the road to keep safe.  I waited for the car to pass, and it didn’t.  As I looked around to see where it was, the guy pulled up alongside and asked “Are you running or do you need a lift?”

At first I was a little disappointed that he had to question whether my speed was worthy of being called running, but I let that pass.  With a friendly smile I thanked him for the offer but declined. We parted with me commenting on how kind it was of him to offer, and that we’d both have a good day.

As he drove off and I plodded on I thought about what had just happened. Perhaps I had just skilfully avoided the attention of a serial killer. The more likely explanation was that the guy was just being genuinely kind and courteous, and this made me feel pretty good.

So as I pondered his question again, I realised that just by taking the time to make the offer he had already given me a lift.

There must have been something in the air as when I reached the summit of Mt Tinbeerwah (a frequent training haunt of mine) there was a young couple with their 10 month old son (Rafferty) taking in the views. No sooner had I arrived they had complimented me on running to the top and were offering me some oranges.  Given the earlier friendly experience, it didn’t even occur to me that the orange could have been laced with drugs, all part of the conspiracy to make training harder than it already is.
We sat and chatted for 15 minutes, and I was back on my way again. I found an unexpected spring in my step, as once again I had been lifted by the consideration of our fellow man. 

So next time you see someone out running give them a friendly smile and encouraging word. It will make you both feel better about yourselves.

Happy running,

Andy

“Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible” – Dalai Lama

Other training sessions this week:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Are Ultramarathons the solution to a Mid-Life Crisis?

I have had a discussion with a few friends recently about ultrarunning and the question came up of why we run such distances and why anyone would organise events to feed the obvious demand for long distance running races (see my previous post - Ultramarathons are the new marathons).  The knee jerk response, other than insanity, was that they satisfy the phenomenon of the mid-life crisis.  So while many people around the age of 40 feel the need to relive their youth by buying tangible items which to them suggest they are still young enough to have fun, such as a Porsche, or perhaps hang around in locations which infer youth, or more drastically undergo plastic surgery to temporarily give the image of youth, there are those of us who choose to do things which you would normally associate with the young.

After all running in an ultramarathon is considered as participation in an extreme sport. Surely not the domain of the middle aged?

The thing is for anyone who has progress their running life from 5km fun runs, to 10kms, half marathons, full marathons and into the world of Ultrarunning, you will have noticed a difference in the demographics at each distance.

A simple rule of thumb is that the longer the distance the older the bulk of the participants are.  I don’t have any specific research other than my own experiences, and would say that the best and most numerous participants at a 10km would be in their mid/late 20s, in a half marathon probably late 20s/early 30s, and for a marathon mid/late 30s.  There will always be exceptions, and I have suffered the frustration of being passed by many grey haired folk in marathons, when the normal expectation would be that I should be fitter and stronger.

When you get to Ultramarathons this trend continues, with the most popular and successful age group being in the early 40s (there is some interesting research on this topic in "The Lore of Running" by Tim Noakes) .  But is this because we’ve all been busy for the past 10 years raising children, working hard to break the back of a mortgage, or climbing the corporate ladder and simply not had the time to give our health and fitness the time it deserves?

Using my own circle of friends and family as a sample group, this would certainly seem to be the case.  About 6-8 years ago most of the people in my peer group led fairly sedentary lives, working long hours, and with little time available to train. The odd game of tennis, or golf, or perhaps running in a 5km race would be the limit of it.

Within the last 3 years my immediate group of friends has made healthy activities part of their daily and weekly routines, taking part in triathlons, endurance cycling, competitive tennis, and being active gym memberships (actually going to the gym as opposed to just paying for the membership and thinking that is enough to stay healthy!). I personally got back into running after a hiatus of a few years, and then returned running more challenging, longer events.  In the process I my weight has dropped by nearly 15kgs (32lbs), my blood pressure from 140/80 to 115/60 and my resting HR from 60bpm to 40bpm.

So rather than trying to buy something to make me look younger, I’ve effectively reversed the ageing process – and all thanks to running! Not only do you get the obvious physiological benefits, there are a number of psychological gains too such as the increased level of natural endorphins (your brain’s “happy chemical”) and reduced stress (physical exercise is a recognised treatment for depression and related conditions).

The thing is though while ultrarunning, or any running for that matter, can help fulfil those urges of a mid-life crisis, the reason that the mid 40’s is the most popular age for ultra marathons is more a result of the effects of ageing.  It’s well documented that as we age our performance at shorter distance events is reduced, but our endurance improves. However, if my predictions from last week’s posting are proved correct, then there will be more and more younger participants at ultra distance events. The one thing we can be sure of is that there will not be an influx of teenagers to these events as they could not get out of bed early enough to get their entry in!

Happy running!
Andy

“You will never find the time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” - Charles Bixton

Today's training

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ultramarathons are the new Marathons

Ultramarathons are the new Marathons
I got up at 5:30 the other morning because of my commitment to running ultramarathons. That’s nothing unusual you think, most ultra runners get up earlier than that for a training run, but this was not to run.  I had to get my entry in to the Great North Walk 100, as the entries opened at 6:00am and I did not want to miss out (unfinished business from last year!). It is just as well I did.

I sent my entry in at 6:00am and 30secs, and my entry was number 32, of a maximum 105 slots. Within an hour or so the waiting list had started and was filling up too. Last year I was a couple of days late, and got in about 15 spaces before they sold out.

For those of us who entered GNW 100s previously, it was well known that the pressure for entry spots was going to be high, but it was a topic that was not discussed.  In the previous 3 months I have not seen any mention of the race on the running forums (Coolrunning GNW), as everyone has secretly been hoping that the others have forgotten about it, and hence increase their chance of getting a race spot (which is done on a rigid first come first served basis).

I find this quite amusing as I have mentioned in previous posts (Does ultrarunning make you a better person?) ultra runners are a friendly, welcoming bunch, but it would seem we also have a sinister nature to us too!

These sort of entry frenzies is nothing unusual for major ultra events such as Western States, where there is a ballot for entries, the Six Foot track sells out in hours, the North Face 100km doubled its capacity and there were still plenty of takers for spare spaces, and some races you have to enter years in advance.

Such an occurrence is becoming more and more commonplace, and not just with the high profile races.  Clearly this isn’t just the same people entering more events, there are more ultra runners entering the sport, and I for one think it is great.

So what is the reason for more people wanting to have a go at ultras? I think the reasons are twofold. Firstly, whilst awareness of ultras is still far from the mainstream, with the likes of the “and Finally” sections of the TV Sports News, and coverage in the running press such as Runners World, it is certainly now in the vocabulary of most runners. When I was growing up the concept of running beyond 26.2 miles was reserved for the superhuman, and considered to be “bad for you”. This is not the case today.

Secondly and what I believe to be the main causative factor, is that whilst completing a Marathon is still a significant challenge, it not that uncommon to have completed one. I read in a recent survey that the main reason that anyone runs in a marathon is to “Challenge yourself”, but it would seem that a marathon is not challenge enough.

It comes down to the human psyche, and whilst we want to challenge ourselves, there are a large number of us who need that challenge to be relative to everyone else’s achievements. So while a running a Marathon is a significant achievement, if everyone’s completed the distance, it doesn’t really stand out as such an achievement, and to enter one isn’t seen as such a significant challenge.

So why ultramarathons? After all there is a massive challenge in running a marathon in a faster time. Why can we not just challenge ourselves by running the same distance, but in less time? The thing is non-runners or people who do a bit of jogging don’t appreciate the difference in effort and training required to run say 3:30 marathon compared to a 4:30, as most of them haven’t done either.  However, nearly everyone on the planet has covered 100miles, or can at least understand what that sort of distance is compared to normal every day activities (such as to my parents and back, or 4 back to back marathons!). So if we want acknowledgement and recognition from our fellow man, saying you have run an ultra distance event, makes you stand out from the crowd.

Basically the increase in popularity of running in an Ultramarathon is to feed our inner arrogance and boost our status among our peers!


Happy running

Andy

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Eddison


Here are a couple of recent training sessions, the first being a soft sand beach run, followed by 8 intense reps on a set of steps taking about 2 minutes to ascend each (a hard session getting lots out of a short period of time). The second is a standard training run with a few hills and a couple of sprints thrown in for a bit of fun.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting the most from the time you have to train for an Ultramarathon

This is a follow up to my previous posting (but I just don’t have the time) directed to the benefits of multitasking to gain a training benefit.

The focus of this post is to get the most out the time you put aside for training.

For those who have a structured training plan you can find that you have to reorganise your life, and often the life of those around you, to meet the complete the defined training sessions. This is a challenge when training for a 10km or Marathon, and given the additional training required for an ultramarathon the impact can be so restrictive as to make it unworkable and unenjoyable. We are in an era of being time poor with greater demands put on this limited resource.

So how can you ensure you are meeting your training needs, without it turning your life upside down?

The answer comes down to being flexible with your sessions, but ensuring that you are still getting the necessary benefits. To do this you need to understand two things, what the prescribed training session is intended to achieve, and secondly, what other training techniques can provide this same result.

All too often we can get stuck in a rut with our training, just jogging the same routes, or running up the same hills (one I am guilty of) or avoiding those hard sessions that we just don’t like doing. However when you understand the required training outcomes, we can find other ways of achieving it. The real beauty of this is that by putting variety into your training you keep it interesting, and will probably find additional training benefits without realising it.

The variety of different types of training is massive including hill repeats, intervals (of differing distances and recovery periods), tempo runs, Fartlek running, LSD (Long Slow Distance), all manner of cross training, sand running, circuits, gym work, weights, core strengthening, the list goes on. Each of these has been put together with a specific outcome in mind, and there are many overlaps between them. Knowing these can give you options dependent upon the time you have available.

For example, hill repeats are beneficial for cardio vascular fitness, strength, biomechanical form, as well as mental fortitude; Interval sessions are good for cardio vascular fitness, speed and endurance; Tempo runs are good for increasing lactate thresholds, and endurance; Core workouts can be good for muscular strength and biomechanical form.

The trick is to change the intensity of the sessions to meet whatever the training demand is. Also you could integrate multiple training techniques into a single session.  Often I will push hard for the last 3-4kms of a 15km run in tempo fashion, or as I did in a session the other evening I came across a really good hill and did 4 intense hill repeats in the middle of what was originially going to be a gentle easy jog. Here's the session:

With all that said there is one session that you should not substitute and that is the long slow distance run, as there is no other comparable session which can give you the psychological training and experience that you need for an ultramarathon.

The main point of what I am getting at is that you needn’t be a slave to a training program, and that it is always better to do something than nothing. There is a saying that I particularly like which sums this up:

“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you think you can only do a little – do what you can.”

This for me is a mantra for all ultra runners, as the hardest step of all is that one at the start line of an ultra, as most “ordinary folk” wouldn’t even attempt it.

Happy running!
Andy

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill

Today’s session

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ultra Marathon Running - The real benefit of a training partner


I’ve posted before about how a training partner is a great motivator for getting you out of bed, when you otherwise would have hit the snooze button rather than put on your running shoes for an early morning training run. There is however much more to be gained, most of which you may not have even considered.

Ultramarathon running by nature of the training required is often a solitary sport, and tends to attract the more introverted (or as I like to call it thoughtful) types.  In the past I have trained for a 100km race almost exclusively on my own over a period of about 6 months, and whilst it is nice to get away from “normal” life and spend some time alone, I felt something lacking. 

A key area was in having someone to share your thoughts, training tips, running gear ideas, discuss the latest articles in Runners World, and all the other peculiarities you come across when preparing to run 100km or more.  My wife whilst being polite, isn’t really all that interested in my spilt times, the volume of sports drink I consumed, how much I sweated, and what I did to reduce chaffing in awkward areas. The interest is usually sparked when there is the opportunity to poke fun, and more likely about the volume of additional laundry created from all to frequent training runs.

The problem with this is that when you are in contact with someone who you know to share your interest, you end up downloading on them all your pent up “ultra-speak”.  In my case this is my sister, so sorry Lyn, but at least with family they are more likely to tolerate this without thinking you’re a bore.

So perhaps the solution is to have some sort of virtual training partner who you can share experiences and discuss running events, latest running shoes and marathons. There are options for this in place already in the form of social networking sites, and running forums such as offered by CoolRunning. The real benefit of these is that you get to share from the combined experiences of hundreds if not thousands of other runners.

The problem with running alone is that effectively your brain is a dictatorship and if it decides not to go running, then you don’t go.  With training partners involved the decision is governed by a democracy, and typically you will value the opinion of others more than your own as you don’t want to let them down.

This is where the virtual training partner has their limits as they can make you feel bad about not going out training, but you don’t think about that when curled up cosy in bed hand hovering over the snooze!

In addition to acting as a conscience for you and being a set of ears prepared to listen to ultramarathon speak, a real training partner can provide a whole lot more to enrich your training. As I mentioned in my post “Ultra running – Does it make you a better person?” your average ultrarunner is a pretty friendly sort of individual, and has a very optimistic outlook. Pessimists would not dare indulge in such a dangerous activity for fear of being eating by a bear, falling off a cliff, or damaging their knees. So the conversations you have tend to have a positive spin on them, and are full of encouragement.

I can’t remember experiencing negative talk with an ultrarunner, as even the most unpleasant of injuries are seen as a good learning experience, or an opportunity to test your physical and mental limits! This is just great for your self-belief, and something I am sure we have all had to draw on at some time or other in the latter stages of a 100miler.

Another benefit of a real training partner is that you end up sharing running routes and trails, providing variety to your normal running repertoire. It is very easy to get stuck in the same old routine, without knowing that new and interesting alternatives may be just around the corner.

All that said it is important that you choose the right running partner, ideally one with similar goals, values and motivations – you could be spending 5+ hours at a time together, so you don’t want to make sure you are going to get along! So if you’re just jogging find someone who jogs, if you’re training for an Ironman or Triathlons find someone doing the same.  If you can’t find someone local to you who shares the same interest, perhaps broaden your search to someone with different goals to you, and train with them on the sessions where your goals overlap.

I was inspired to write this posting as I struggled out of bed the other day, tired after a 4 hour hill run the previous day, to run with my training partner. Had I not made that commitment it is likely that I would not have got my shoes on. The great thing was the positivity of the conversation with regards to training, future events and previous injuries. Had I been alone, or shared my thoughts with a non-runner, the response could have been a polar opposite. So thanks Tylana!

Happy Running!
Andy

“The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” – Winston Churchill

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ultra Marathon Running - Can you get famous running ultras?

Running Ultramarathons is getting more and more popular, Ultras are the new marathons, but can you get famous from jogging 100km or more?

I suppose it comes down to how you define famous.  It could be a friendly pat on the back from a stranger at an Ultra event, or perhaps you would hope for a slightly higher profile generating millions of tweets, or overloading Facebook.

Either way why would you choose Ultrarunning as a means of gaining fame? There has to be hundreds of easier ways to get yourself on the cover of a magazine than putting yourself through 24 hours or more of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention months of training).

The most compelling argument I can think of is that while the sport is still in its ascendency it is easier to be a big fish in what is still a relatively small pool. The further you run the smaller the competition. To stand out in the world of the Marathon you have to beat millions of people, to stand out in the world of Ultramarathon you may only have to beat a few thousand, and in some events only a handful of people.

The trouble is though that in the history of running nobody has really become a household name through running ultra marathon distances. Ironically the most famous is probably Forrest Gump, as I know from the regular words of encouragement from teenagers whilst out training!

In Australia probably the best known ultra distance runner is Cliff Young.  His fame is more for his relaxed attitude and “normal-ness” rather than his running achievements. The other two ranking in the Australian chart are Yiannis Kouros (who’s list of ultra achievements is as long as your arm) and Pat Farmer who I’ve covered in previous blogs who’s achievements include a 15,000km run around Australia and he will be setting off on a run from South to North Pole later this year (Pole to Pole Run).

In the rest of the world you have arguably the world number one ultra runner Scott Jurek, who has probably gained more acclaim for his featuring role in the Ultrarunning best seller “Born to Run”; Representing the ladies there is Ann Trason, in my opinion the greatest female ultrarunner of all time; Finally, there is Dean Karnazes, who is perhaps the only deliberately marketed member of the ranks of mainstream ultra fame.

The thing is before I got into ultrarunning, partly inspired by Dean Karnazes’ book Ultramarathonman, you could have mentioned any of these names and as far I was concerned you could have been talking about reality TV show wannabes.

Here are 2 seconds of my 15 minutes of fame, which is part of a documentary about The North Face 100km I competed in during May. For those of you in Australia with an interest, it will be shown of Fox Sports 3, 3rd August, 3pm (prime time viewing!).  I feature at 2mins 48secs, see if you can pick me out, just don’t blink!

Third Edition of The North Face 100, May 2010, Australia NSW from The North Face Australia on Vimeo.


So, for now anyway, if you want to use ultrarunning to get famous you’re probably better off dressing up an animal, sitting it in front of a musical instrument, video it with a funky soundtrack and posting it on YouTube!

Until next time, Happy Running
Andy

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it" - Pablo Picasso

Here are a couple of latest training sessions


A new route, Cooroy Mountain with spectacular views