Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

How to… Get started in ultra distance running

Five-time North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc winner Lizzy Hawker shares the five best pieces of advice for people who want to learn how to run ultra distances

Want to learn how to run long distances like the athletes that take on ultra marathons? WideWorld has asked Lizzy Hawker, British ultra marathon runner and five-time winner of The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc for her five key pieces of advice for anyone who wants to start running ultra distances.

1. Getting started

The most important thing in the first place is to dream, to have a goal that you want to work towards and then to give yourself the chance to start to explore that dream. The important thing is to try to work out what means the most to you and what you can do without. Start with small steps that you can easily incorporate into your life as it is now, and each step will lead on to another until you are ‘living’ your dream. After all, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ (Lao Tzu)

Whatever your goal is, take the challenge and enjoy your journey. Focus your energy on finding the way to live your dream and enjoy the journey because always, always it is the journey that is the important thing, not the destination.

2. Training tips

For me, there is no real ‘average’ training week. My training tends to vary during the year depending on the race or challenge I am focusing towards next – i.e. whether marathon distance or shorter, city (i.e. flat roads) or mountain, or ultra distance (roads, trails or mountains). Each type of running requires quite different training.

Over the years I have built up a high level of ‘base endurance’, so for my next focus race I just adjust training to meet those specific needs. The average would probably be around 130-160 km per week, but sometimes during the summer just one or two weeks might be very high volume due to a long race, followed by some long trainings, eg. up to 250km! Running aside, yoga and meditation have become an important part of my ‘everday’.

My top 3 training tips for runners:

  • Keep in the moment. Whether in a race or in training, keep your focus.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Be light. Focus on running lightly because less strain and tension reduces the physical impact, and positivity keeps your motivation.

3. Get the best kit

The wonderful thing about running is its simplicity. You can simply put on a pair of trainers and go. But, when running long distances in the mountains the superlight kit that The North Face is producing [Lizzy Hawker has been supported by sponsors The North Face since her first ultra in 2005 - Ed] means I can keep comfortable in all weathers and stay free just to focus on my run.

4. What to eat/drink to keep you fuelled

What I eat during the race itself depends on the length and duration, but it is important to strike a good balance to maintain sufficient energy for the race you are doing. I prefer real food to gels when possible, but easily digestible food is key. In training, I do tend to eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, with as little processed food as possible.

5. Recovering after running an ultra distance

After an ultra distance race I usually take 2 or 3 days without running, instead hiking or active recovery. It’s also important to try to get sufficient sleep (often a challenge if you are travelling back home etc.), and to give myself the space and ‘quiet’ time to recharge mentally.