Friday, February 4, 2011

12 Hours on a Treadmill - Did I keep my sanity?

You don't often think of a treadmill when you think about ultramarathon running. I had an interesting time during my 12 hours on a treadmill this Tuesday, some of which went to plan and others which did not.

For the full 12 hours I set the incline to 2%, and ran for 1 hour at a time with 5 minute breaks in between (for the first 6 hours anyway).

Keeping mentally sane during the run was one of my main concerns. Daytime TV and music videos are bearable for a 30 min session, but not 12 hours.  I did find ways to entertain myself though...

I was lucky enough through the day to have my wife, Angie, call in with fresh supplies and to take a few photos, which provided a nice distraction.  I also had the company of Tylana, my training partner, for a couple of hours and Colin, from the local university who called in to discuss what monitoring they want to do in the build up and throughout my 33 marathons run later this August.

I actually found it quite easy to switch off, and get into a bit of a trance like state as there was no need to concentrate on where I put my feet as would be normal when trail running. Interestingly when I was running like this my heart rate would drop by maybe 5-8 bpm.

Throughout the 12 hours my heart rate was remarkably stable, ticking over at 135-140 when running at 10kmh. This dropped back to about 120 when I walked.

The frustrating component of the day was my nutrition. Early on I was eating and drinking well and felt very good.  After about 6 hours I began to start getting some gut discomfort and did not feel like eating anything. This to me is a sign of dehydration as the blood supply drops off to the gut and digestion slows. The trouble was I was drinking at over 1litre per hour, which isn’t far off my limit.

At Tylana’s suggestion I eased back for a good half hour by walking and then drank a 1.25l bottle of coke, had a gel, and ate a couple of sandwiches. The coke was great for the caffeine hit, as I was pretty tired at this point.  This certainly helped, as did a nice large coffee an hour or so later.  Basically though I know that this is an area I need to work on. Colin (an ultrarunner himself) offered a couple of suggestions to settle the stomach, Ginger and Liquorice. So that’s something else I’ll need to test run in the coming months.

So the last few hours were not that enjoyable, with much of the time counting down the minutes to the next break. It’s so different to a race where you can push hard to get to the next checkpoint and a rest, as no matter how fast you run on the mill the time doesn’t pass any quicker!
The cape was the kids idea, and only lasted 2 hours, too hot and sweaty, I don't know how Clark Kent does it!
At the end physically I felt quite good, muscles were not sore and not tired (I wore full length compression tights for the first time and think they may have been a factor, and will post on these another time when I have given them a longer trial). Heart and lungs were fine. Stomach wasn’t too comfy, and I did have a few nasty areas of chaffing which made the shower after and sleeping uncomfortable.
My boys "lending a hand" to make the full 12 hours!
I ended up completing 94.5kms and having burnt off 9600calories (if you can believe the machine). I drank over 12litres of fluid, and my weight had dropped by 4.7kgs (about 10lbs) by the end of the 12 hours.  So by my calculations, including weight of food consumed, my body sweated out about 18 litres of fluid, no wonder my feet were pickled by the end of it.

Run Happy!


  1. Congrats on that tremendous feat.... I would be clawing my eyes out after an hour.

    Love the video.... great running styles!!! lol

  2. Andrew, that's a phenomenal effort and a great distance. Total respect and admiration mate. Well done.

  3. Very impressive! Treadmill is such a mindgame - totally in awe you could this for so long.

  4. That is amazingly impressive. I get bored on a treadmill after a half hour, I cannot imagine doing 12!

  5. Thanks for the comments. It's funny now looking back on this I find myself drifting into familiar ultra runner territory by having crazy thoughts such as "I wonder how I'd do over 24 hours?" and I need to try it again to work on those problem areas". I shall resist for now!

    The great thing was I got out and run 18kms yesterday in the heat and felt pretty good. It would seem that the training and hard work is starting to pay off.

    (I shall be putting a patent on my specialist treadmill running styles!)

  6. Wow. You made it. Congratulations!

  7. awesome stuff andy. well done!

    didnt realise your were english! we're everywhere...

  8. Thanks guys

    Close Ian, but far from english, I'm Welsh (and yes we're everywhere too!).

    Hope you're getting back on track and the hip is behaving.

  9. Johann sent me a link to this post.


    I'll be doing a big treadmill run May 7&8th.

    Hope I can finish strong like you!