With autumn just around the corner, it can be hard to get yourself out for those runs. The nights get darker that bit sooner; there’s a crisp, cold feeling in the air; and the temptation to stay on the sofa having a Netflix binge with a hot drink gets ever stronger. It’s also the start of autumn race season, with plenty of events happening in September, October and beyond. Even if you don’t have a race to train for, staying on track with your running through this season will keep your endurance and stamina in peak condition ready for next year’s running plans.
Here we have compiled 5 tips to help you stay motivated through the next few months.
Hit the trails
Autumn/winter and trail running really do go hand in hand. There are loads of events around this time of year, but going off-road is perfect for your day-to-day runs as well. No matter where you live, you’re never far from a footpath, forest, river path or heath that you can explore. The ever-changing landscape at this time of year will help distract you during your run (but do pay attention to your feet; there are trip hazards aplenty!). You will have to bear in mind the decreasing light, particularly in the evenings and early mornings, but if ever there was a time to try the trails, this is it!
Stick to a plan
Write down all your planned runs, as it makes it harder to miss them. Add them to your diary so you can see them in black and white. Yes, it’s tempting to hibernate until March, but that won’t do you any favours in the long term. Make a plan, set targets and get it done!
Try something new
If you’re not in training for anything in particular, this is the perfect time of year to try some different running sessions. Hill training and interval workouts are great, as they are over and done with quickly, but you still get a quality run in. You could also look at cross-training; hitting the pool or riding your bike in place of a couple of rules could improve your overall cardio fitness (and get you triathlon ready for summer if you’re that way inclined!). Plyometric workouts or HIIT sessions in your week can build explosive power to shave your parkrun PB, or add in cosy yoga/Pilates sessions for a good all-body stretch.
Join a club
It’s much easier to stay motivated, if you have someone to run with. Not sure a running club is for you? Why not give it a try first – most clubs will let you try a few sessions for free before you have to commit. Running with a club with give you company, as well as sessions you might not do on your own. If you don’t fancy a formal running club, do a shout out on social media for running buddies – you never know who else is finding it hard to get motivated and will be grateful for the push!
Get the right kit
You know what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. If you’re cold and wet on your run, you’re never going to enjoy it! Invest in the right clothes for the season and you’ll find yourself far more comfortable and motivated to leave the house. It’s not cold yet, so you don’t need full winter kit, but try capris instead of shorts, a lightweight hat and gloves for early mornings, and a long-sleeve layer or light jacket you can take off as you warm up. Oh, and don’t forget lights! After the summer, it can be hard to get back into the routine of wearing high-vis and lights – be safe, be seen.
Are you thinking about taking on your first ultra-distance race? One of the hardest parts of the training can be tackling the big distances, often on your own and outside race conditions. Here, Run Deep’s own social media manager Helena Stroud gives her insight into how to push past marathon distance when training for an ultra, taken from her new blog website, focusing on the mental and emotional preparation needed for ultrarunning: https://ultragrit.net/
For many people, 26.2 miles can be a real mental block in a training schedule. It’s a totally arbitrary distance, but we have spent so long being told that the marathon is the absolute pinnacle of running achievement that it can be difficult sometimes to plan a long run which doesn’t end up being marathon distance or less.
While 26.2 miles is a great distance to run, what it should never be is a mental block. What you don’t want is to reach 24 or 25 miles in your first ultra race and start to flag – or, even worse, to hit marathon distance and just give up and DNF because a marathon feels like it’s the most you can do.
As with all mental prep for ultra running, your training should help to build confidence by letting you practice scenarios that you have identified as problematic. So how can you train to not have a problem pushing past marathon distance?
So, here’s the obvious bit: you have to run further than marathon distance in your training! Wow, what a revelation, eh?!
Here is the other bit: combining running more than marathon distance with other elements that are likely to crop up and make things difficult during your race is even better. Replicate your likely race conditions as closely as you can, with all the stuff that could quite easily go wrong, and you’ll bump up the value of your long run as a training tool enormously.
When I set out to run my first more-than-marathon-distance training run, I deliberately made it as hard as I possibly could.
I set out in the very early morning, at about 5am when it was still pitch black.
It was very, very, very cold. The race I was training for took place in February, and this training run was in early January, in the snow, with a biting wind. Not comfortable in the slightest.
I went down to the North Downs Way, and parked my car next to a café. I then ran exactly a half marathon out, and then a half marathon back to the car.
I identified these elements as being the things which would make it very hard to go further than a marathon during my first ultra. By the time I hit marathon point in my run I had, by design, run for hours in the dark and snow; got extremely cold; and was now at my car with the promise of shelter, a place where I could get warm, and have hot drinks from the café.
I had set up every temptation for myself to not continue past marathon distance.
I was the only person who would have been disappointed if I had stopped after running a marathon as a training run. But I continued and pushed on for another 9 miles, doing a 4.5 mile out-and-back to take that training run up to 35 miles, the longest distance I had, at that time, ever run.
Pushing past marathon distance was hard, but I had made it deliberately hard. By the time I reached my car, I was running dire 12-minute miles and my gloves were soaked through. However, I changed my gloves, got a quick cup of tea from the café, and by the time I went out again to finish the run I felt amazing. I was back to 10-minute miles, my legs felt fresh and strong, and those last 9 miles were a real pleasure.
An exercise like this doesn’t just stop the marathon, or another arbitrary distance, from becoming a mental block, but it teaches you that you can overcome mental blocks and that doing so feels physically refreshing too. It’s a great lesson to learn in advance of a race because when you’re struggling, you can bring your mind back to your training and remember that your mental and physical condition can drastically improve, even when you’ve been feeling terrible, and that all you have to do is run a few more miles.
So, my steps for pushing past the marathon are:
Plan a training run where you’ll be running further than marathon distance.
Build into the run other elements that you can identify as being problematic during your race (i.e. cold, heat, isolation, navigation, fatigue etc).
Plan to hit marathon distance at a place where you could easily stop and call it a day.
Run past this point to break through the mental block you have created.
This will all help to build your confidence in training for an ultra. Enjoy!
Wow, it’s been almost a year since we launched issue 1. Since, then we have done another 6 full issues and a free marathon special! We have plans for more free mini magazines going forward, as well as some exceptionally great content for future issues.
For now, here is issue 7, which is available to download now for just 99p! That’s a third of a price of a cup of coffee from your preferred drinks establishment 🙂 Download it as a PDF to your phone, computer, tablet – whatever – and you can read it whenever and wherever you like. Once it’s downloaded and saved, you can read it offline – handy if you’re off racing/camping/holidaying.
Issue 7 has some great features from our lovely running community, including:
The appeal of lapped races
It’s not for everyone, but it’s hard to ignore the explosion of timed events in the last couple of years. We find out why they are so popular and how they can get you running distances you never thought possible.
Running around the world
We’ve got some first-hand accounts of races all over the globe this issue. This includes a fascinating insight into running in North Korea; running the Great Wall and all its steps; and tackling the mountains of Chamonix.
The Secret Marathon Runner
I’m sure we’ve all been there when a simple joke has gone a little further than planned… The Secret Marathon Runner explains why he’s on a mission to run as many marathons in disguise as possible.
Hydration for runners
Drinking should be so simple, so natural. But as runners, it’s quite important to know what to drink and when. Our guide leads you through the finer details.
Sounds painful, but this treatment could be the very thing you need to cure chronic injury. Our regular physio tells us more about shockwave therapy and when it can be effective.
Ultramarathons are exploding in the UK. There are now more of them than ever. It’s hard to pin down the best, as we think there are so many great ones to choose from. Here we have put together a list of just 5 ultramarathons in the UK in 2018/2019 that we’ve experienced personally or heard brilliant feedback about from previous entrants.
The Tiree Ultramarathon receives rave reviews from everyone who has taken part in it. At 35 miles, it is an achievable distance when stepping up from the marathon distance. There is some navigation required between checkpoints, but as you are running around the whole island it can be difficult to get too lost. Maps are provided and you get a t-shirt, medal and goodie bag for taking part. You do need to get there, and there is a ferry from Oban or a plane from Glasgow, but it is worth the effort for the stunning views.
A lapped route covering 50 miles (ish) over the trails of the Rushmore Estate near Salisbury. There is a generous cut-off, plenty of epic aid stations, which everything you need to keep you going, and one of the best medals around. Plus, as an added bonus, if you can’t make the 50 miles in the time allowed, you still get a medal for the Ox Frolic, a 12-hour event taking place at the same time, so no one goes home empty handed.
While many ultras are trail, there are the odd road races too. Dartmoor Discovery is one of
these and it’s a popular event too – you need to get your entry in quick when it opens. The 32-mile, single-loop race starts and finishes in Princetown. It has plenty of tough hills, as you would expect from Dartmoor, and there is a cut-off of 6 hours 30 minutes, which is strictly adhered too. You get a bespoke medal for your efforts, followed by a legendary disco.
100K along Britain’s oldest path. It’s certainly an epic challenge, but this race has a good reputation for being great for newcomers to the distance. You can opt to do day 1 or day 2, 50K each; you can do the 100K over two days, camping in the middle; or you can do 100K straight through, giving plenty of options for all abilities. The signage is good and fully stocked pitstops every 10K or so to keep you going.
Not an easy course, but this 50-mile route in the Lake District is one of the most-popular ultras out there. It follows the second half of the Lakeland 100, and you will face tough terrain and skilled ascents. It’s a huge challenge, but there is a very generous 24-hour time limit, which makes it far more achievable. It does involve navigation, so this is a skill that you will need to practise.
Not convinced that you’re ready to take on an ultramarathon? In our latest issue of Run Deep magazine, we have put together a feature on ultra running and how it is more accessible than you might think. We have two real-life accounts from novice ultra runners who took on challenges outside their comfort zones and found a whole new joy of running. Download your copy today for just 99p: https://www.rundeepmag.com/downloads/issue-6-may-2018/
You’ve done the training, put the hard work in and now the time has come to actually run your first marathon! Here are our 5 top tips to give you the marathon experience you deserve.
Don’t neglect the taper
A marathon taper is a funny old thing. You spend the months leading up to the taper looking forward to the rest, imagining lie-ins at the weekend instead of 6am alarms to fit a 20-mile run in. But come the last 2-3 weeks before the marathon when you drop your mileage you can start to feel a bit lost. You’ll feel aches and pains that weren’t there before, wonder if you’re coming down with every bug and virus around, and you’ll convince yourself that you can’t possibly run a parkrun, let alone 26.2 miles. Welcome to ‘maranoia’. Taper is a key part of your training. When you’re training week in, week out, your body is accumulating fatigue – you never properly recover from one session to the next. The taper is the chance for your body to heal and refresh, so that when you start running on marathon day, you feel springy and ready to go. You shouldn’t just stop either; decrease your mileage a week at a time for the last few weeks. If you have just done a 20-mile run, your next long run will probably be about 12-15 miles, and then 8-10 the week after before the marathon. You can still run the same number of times a week, but keep the pace easier and the miles lower. You will feel the benefits on race-day, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Trust your training!
Watch your nutrition
In the last couple of weeks before a marathon, keep an eye on what you are eating and drinking. You don’t need to go overboard on carbs or change your diet drastically. Just make sure that you are feeding your body good, nutritious food to help it with the healing process during your taper. Lots of fruit and veg, with a wide variety of colour. Eat high-quality grains and pulses, good fats and lean meat. Drink plenty of water daily too. The aim is to keep your body well hydrated in the weeks leading up to the marathon. And don’t try anything new! You don’t need an upset stomach from eating something that doesn’t agree with you this close to race day.
Get some rest
You will probably find it hard to sleep in the days leading up to your first marathon thanks to a combination of nerves and excitement. Make sure that you get plenty of rest and sleep in the weeks before instead, so that you are refreshed and you’re giving your body the best chance to re-energise after months of training. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every day. Keep a couple of evenings a week free of any training and put your feet up. Now’s a good time for a Netflix marathon! You will be grateful for a well-rested body when it comes to the big day.
Our heads can be our own worst enemy and your mind will probably do its very best to convince you that the marathon will go badly. It’s not uncommon to keep visualising scenarios where you get ill or injured in the lead up to the race. Or you may have dreams about missing the start, forgetting to get your bag on the baggage truck, leaving your number at home… This is all quite normal – we’ve all had the inexplicable marathon dreams! Instead, try and remain positive. Visualise the positives instead: how will you feel when you cross that finish line? Look back at your training and remind yourself that you have put the work in.
One way to lay some of your mind demons to rest is to start getting organised for race day early. Make an extensive list of everything you need for race-day. You should also consider all the logistics, such as travel time, hotel check-ins, number collection. Make sure you have a detailed itinerary of where you need to be and when. The more you can plan, the better, as you know that you’ve thought about every detail and there is less to go wrong.
Want another 5 top tips for your first marathon? Download our FREE Marathon Special now, which has more advice, a marathon diary for 2018, a print-and-keep kit list and real-life stories of runners’ first-marathon experience.
It’s not easy getting back into exercise after having a baby. Mountain runner and adventure racer Moire O’Sullivan (https://moireosullivan.com/) knows this all too well, as she shares in her book Bump, Bike & Baby: Mummy’s Gone Adventure Racing. We’ll be reviewing the book in full in the next issue of Run Deep magazine, but Moire has kindly supplied us with an extract from it for the blog. This extract is taken from a couple of days after the birth of Aran, Moire’s first son. Her husband Pete suggests they take their dog Tom for a walk after realising Moire has practically not left the house since Aran’s arrival…
‘Why don’t we go for a walk with Tom?’ Pete says. ‘I think we’d all appreciate some fresh air.’ The mere mention of the word ‘walk’ sends Tom into a mad frenzy. It looks like we’re going out, whether we like it or not.
We opt to visit the deserted beach I walked on just before my waters broke. I enclose Aran in his wrap on the excursion, and despite being buffeted by strong coastal winds and swirling sands, he soon nods off to sleep. The beach walk is the remedy I needed. Every step I take makes me realise that my lung space has finally returned. I don’t feel too breathless from the gentle steps I take on the shore.
Pete runs after Tom, who has spotted another dog frolicking in the waves. However, I am very aware that even a gentle jog towards the sea would be a very bad idea. Aran’s abrupt exit has caused my pelvic floor to collapse. In addition, I have suffered a urinary prolapse. I am so stretched down there that I fear running might cause all my internal organs to slump out between my legs.
I am disappointed with myself. Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan was back running ten days after giving birth. I am nowhere near that stage. So if I ever had the notion I was even close to Olympic material, I now know I was terribly mistaken.
When I get back to the house, I email my biking and pregnancy guru, Susie Mitchell, to see how soon she started exercising. Though she had a C-section, so had different issues to deal with, she suggests that once I can sit on a bike saddle, I should be able to go for a spin.
I am not convinced by Susie’s suggestion. Sitting on a bike sounds really sore. But there is ultimately only one way to find out how bad the pain will be. I wheel out Bike, who has undergone solitary confinement in the garage for nearly two months. I slowly slip myself on to the saddle.
Much to my surprise, it is not sore at all. Within seconds I shout, ‘Pete, can I go for a bike ride?’
Back in the day, I could hop on my bike and inform Pete when I’d be back from my spin. But now, with baby Aran about and me breastfeeding him, we need military-precise coordination for when I can and can’t leave the house.
‘So, if I give Aran a feed now, he probably won’t need one for another hour,’ I say to Pete, trying to work out when and for how long I can abscond.
‘But what if he looks for a feed while you’re away?’
‘I don’t know,’ I say, trying to escape the house with Bike. ‘Can’t you figure that out yourself?’
Pete looks at me blankly.
‘Look, I’ll be back in sixty minutes,’ I say to Pete, begging him to let me go. ‘If he cries, I don’t know, sing to him or something.’ I cycle off before Pete can lodge a formal protest.
Riding Bike is sheer heaven. I had forgotten how fast you can go, how the wind whips your hair and catches your breath, how the rhythm of the pedals soothes away all your cares. It is also wonderful to be back cycling without a baby inside me. My lungs feel as large as life, no longer squashed against my ribs. I can push myself a little harder on the hills, and not worry about raised heart rates or overheating myself. Gone too are the fears I had of falling off Bike and doing Bump permanent harm.
It is not only the joy of being outdoors and doing some exercise that thrills me so much. It is the fact that I am getting a brief break from motherhood. Since giving birth two weeks ago, I have felt so fat and unfit. With Aran waking up every couple of hours at night, sleep deprivation is hitting me hard. Now, for this single hour, I am doing something I love that could reverse all these afflictions. I tell myself to cling to this time that it is solely mine.
I arrive back home, on a high from my ride. It’s great to have different chemicals coursing through my veins instead of pregnancy hormones. I bounce through the front door, full of serotonin and dopamine. I feel like a completely new woman.
Aran is starting to stir from his slumber on Pete’s shoulder.
‘Perfect timing!’ I shout to Pete with a smile.
I take Aran off him and carefully slide Aran under my biking top. Though my breast milk is now laced with lactic acid from my exercise, Aran doesn’t seem to mind a bit. He drinks greedily from the supply, then falls back fast asleep.
Finding it hard to stick to your usual running schedule while the UK experiences an extended period of hot weather? The temptation is there to get back from work, stick your feet in a paddling pool and settle down with a cold beer and a good book for the night. Or is that just us?
Here in the UK, we’re just not used to having the mercury hit the high 20s that often, let alone for more than the odd day or two. We’ve put together our top tips to help you keep running during the heatwave (even though there is always the chance normal conditions will have resumed by the time you read this…).
Adapt your clothing
What you wear when you run can have a lot to do with how hot you feel. Choose your running clothes wisely if you’re heading out while the sun’s up. Wear loose-fitting, technical fabrics. This isn’t the time for your favourite black compression shorts – black will make you feel warmer and the compression technology pushing against your skin is doing you no favours. Good running gear is moisture-wicking, so it pulls sweat away from your skin to stop you overheating. A t-shirt can be better than a vest if it’s really sunny, as it helps cover your skin – sunburn is a surefire way to make running in the summer unbearable and a serious health risk. Don’t forget to add something to cover your face and eyes. Some runners like sunglasses, which are especially good if you suffer from hayfever too (summer really is the gift that keeps on giving for some of us). A visor is a good shout, as it keeps your face in shadow but keeps your head free to expel excess heat. Stick to lighter colours as much as possible too.
As Baz Luhrmann said…
“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists…”
We can’t say this enough. If you’re out in the sun for a long period of time, wear sunscreen. A really good one that is designed for sports or is water/sweat resistant – normal sunscreens can sometimes make you overheat as they don’t let the sweat escape, and as you warm up they can feel slimy. Put it on 20 minutes before your run to let it sink in, and apply before dressing so you know you’ve covered everything. A decent Factor 30 in these conditions will protect your skin.
Water and salts
When you sweat a lot, you will lose two important things in your sweat: water and salts. You should aim to be hydrated the whole time, rather than heading into your run without enough water in your system and trying to catch up as you run. Drink around two litres every day; maybe even more in this warm weather. Carry water on every run, even if you don’t usually, or at the very least grab a couple of pounds just in case you need to make an emergency supermarket stop. Sports drinks are packed with electrolytes, which are essentially the salts you are losing when you sweat. Consider adding an electrolyte tablet to your water for running or pick a specially designed hydration sports drink. Don’t down your water either; keep steadily sipping it as you go to stay hydrated.
Pick your times
It’s not always possible to choose when you get to run, but if you can, try and avoid the hottest parts of the day. Normally this is considered to be from noon until 4pm, however during this current heatwave, temperatures have often gone up to the high 20s until late in the evening. Getting out first thing in the morning is your best bet, as the sun hasn’t had time to reach its maximum capacity. You will find it easier to run at this time, but if you’re not usually a morning runner, it might take a few goes to find your natural rhythm when it comes to eating and fuelling up. If you have a shower at work, you could run to work, shower and know that your training is over and done with.
Choose cooler routes
Running on the roads is going to be the hottest. The pavements will be throwing the heat back up at you, and when you’re surrounded by buildings, you will find the heat trapped on the streets. If you have any chest problems, the combination of air pollution and hot weather can cause problems. Now is the perfect time to get off-road. Many parks, forests and river paths will enable you to run partially in the shade, which will make your run feel so much easier. If you can get near the water, the sea breeze could also help to cool you down (although dodgy tourists might add a mile or two on to your run!).
Don’t start hot
If you are already boiling hot before you even go out for your run, your body temperature will just rocket really quickly. Try and get cool before your run so you start with a lower core temperature. Stick water bottles in the freezer or even your hat, so you can have something cold close to your skin at the start of your run. Your water will defrost as you go and at least you won’t have to drink hot water too early in your run.
Racing in hot weather
If you have a race planned during the heatwave, then things are a little different. You can’t adjust the time of your race to suit the coolest parts of the day. All you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Make sure you know what kit you are running in and try it out. If something chafes on race day and you’re hot and sweaty, you’re going to feel that pain. Plan to carry your own water, rather than relying on just the aid stations. And also plan how you’re going to carry that water. Research where drinks stations will be positioned, so you can top up as needed. Make sure you have electrolytes on you and consider carrying salt tablets, particularly if you are prone to cramps or excess swelling (often in the fingers). Adjust your expectations of the day and accept that you will likely have to go slower than planned. If you can, start to acclimatise to the weather and get out for a few practice runs to test your tolerance, kit and hydration choices. Finally, just try and enjoy it. There will be other races, other summers and plenty more cooler weather ahead!
Back in issue 3 of Run Deep magazine, we ran a story about amazing ultra runner Tina Page. Now she’s back with another amazing challenge that will see her summit even more mountains – 1,000 of them in just 365 days!
Self-confessed ‘back of the pack’ trail runner, Tina Page, who last year took on the National Three Peaks Challenge in an epic solo, unsupported 500-mile run, successfully completing 19 marathons in 19 days, is now brushing off her trail shoes once again for a new flapjack-fuelled adventure in continuing support of Mountain Rescue Teams and Search Dogs.
What started as an attempt to summit the 180 English Mountains (as classified by the HEWITT system) has sort of spiralled! She now plans on reaching the top of a whopping 1,000 mountains! Yes, you did read that right… This includes peaks classified as Hewitts, Nuttalls and Scottish Munros, and takes in all the best of our British hills. You can find out more about her challenge, and why she upped it to such epic proportions here: https://adventurehobo.blog/2018/05/20/why-run-1000-mountains/
She will be attempting to complete all 1000 mountains in the British Isles over 365 days, and started the challenge in mid-June. On all her adventures, her companion is he mascot, Patch the dog, who features in her amazing photos.
The challenge is to raise funds for The Search And Rescue Dog Association and Mountain Rescue England and Wales. She will also be supporting the double award-winning Lakeland fell protection charity Fix the Fells. She hopes to reach a target of £50,000 over the next year.
Whether you are preparing for your first marathon or your 100th, feeling nervous is quite normal. Some of us are more prone to nerves than others, feeling that familiar flutter of butterflies before a parkrun, or even a training run. Race-day has so many elements to think about. Not only is it the culmination of months of training, there are the added logistics of travelling, bag storage, number collection, remembering to pack everything and frantically watching a weather app to predict what conditions might be like. It’s okay to feel nervous, but it also helps if you can manage some of the worry too. Here are some strategies you can use to stay on top of your nerves.
The more you know, the less there is to worry about. Most races will have a course map you can look at in advance. This may also include the elevation profile, so you can mentally prepare for the ups and downs. Not everyone likes to know the route in advance, but if the unknown makes you uneasy, studying the course can really help. You could also browse the race photos from previous years to see the route and what it looks like, to help you picture yourself running it. When you know what to expect, you can make a race plan. If the first half is all uphill and the second half easier, build that into your race plan. If you go out too hard on the toughest part of the course, you won’t be able to make the most of it when you reach the easier sections. You can also choose landmarks on the route to spot on race-day, so you can break the race down into sections. The same goes for getting everything ready for your big day. Lay out your kit, pack your bags and double-check your travel plans the day before. Make sure you have your race number or any registration details you need to pick it up on the day.
Remember you’re ready!
Maranoia can kick in big time when you’re tapering and on the start line. You will worry you haven’t done enough, that you’re undertrained. Take the time to look back at what you have achieved. Seeing the difference from the first run all those months ago to your best run in peak training can help to calm the nerves. It proves you have put the time and effort in. You need to put some faith in your training.
Follow your routine
Routine really helps keep nerves in check. A race isn’t your usual Sunday morning affair, but running is. You’ve done the long runs and you’re ready; this is a just a shift of location. Keep your morning routine as normal as possible. Get ready for your run as you always would, eat the same breakfast and try to relax. Do another run through of your kit and get dressed. Follow your race-day plan and get to the start with plenty of time. Use the facilities, drop your bag off and go through your usual warmup routine if you have one. Some runners like to have headphones for the start area, even if they don’t wear them for the race, so they can switch off from what’s happening around them while waiting to go into the start pens.
Run at your pace
The combination of nerves and uncertainly can see us starting the race too fast, keen to get going. It’s easy to get swept up in the crowds, particularly in a big race. However, this will only mean you’ll exhaust yourself later on and you need to play the long game. Fall into your own pace from the very beginning and ignore anyone around you. It definitely helps if you put yourself in the right start pen at the beginning for your intended pace, as this will stop too many people from trying to push past you in earnest. Just focus on your own race plan and stick to what you’ve practised.
Follow these tips and hopefully you will feel a little more in control on race-day. If you have any top tips for combating nerves, let us know on our social media channels.
Jenny Tough lives up to her name. She is an adventurer, writer, speaker and filmmaker with a thirst for a challenge and not afraid to throw herself into epic environments. She has travelled six continents solo, cycled around Europe, paddled through the South American jungle, ran marathons on four continents, hiked throughout Asia, trekked in Patagonia, dived with sharks, surfed in the North Sea, competed in numerous adventure races, and lived in five countries. We find out more about her latest challenge, her preparation and what drives her
You were the first person to run solo and unsupported across the Tien Shen Mountains in Kyrgyzstan. What was it about the challenge that enticed you in the first place?
I grew up in the Canadian Rockies, and mountains have always felt like home for me. My desire to go to the Tien Shan was born from a need to explore mountains, and during my research of this mysterious mountain range I somehow came up with the idea that I would cover the whole thing on my own two feet. I’ve been a runner for a long time, looking for bigger challenges every year, and I began to wonder just how far it was possible to run. This seemed like a great way to find out.
Kyrgyzstan isn’t exactly your typical holiday destination. For people unfamiliar with the country, can you tell us a little a bit about the country and what you learnt about it and the people during your time there?
I have to admit, even when I landed in the capital of Bishkek I still wasn’t sure if I was pronouncing Kyrgyzstan correctly! It’s an elusive little nation, still baring the scars of the Soviet era (they were celebrating 25 years of independence when I was there). In addition to the incredible mountains that cover the entire country, one thing that really drew me to Kyrgyzstan was that nomads still live in the traditional way in the mountains, dwelling in yurts with their small flocks of goats, sheep, and horses. Getting to know the nomads and seeing their way of life was a true highlight.
How much did you have to improvise when it came to your route? Was it a case of having a plan for each day of the expedition? Or just taking it day-by-day?
Because no maps of the interior existed, the route that I had plotted in my GPS was really just a hopeful guess created through endless zooming on satellite images. I had no idea if my routes would work out, and many times they didn’t. I could often find nomads to give me advice, but they would usually only know their small territory, so it really was a case of planning day to day and being really flexible. My original ‘route’ that I plotted in my GPS did not match very closely to the track that I did in reality!
It’s fair to say you went through a lot during your time there. What were the toughest moments? Do you ever look back and wonder how you managed it?
I still can’t believe I got away with it… So many difficult moments and situations unfolded, and I really don’t know how I managed. I started the adventure by succumbing to altitude sickness that plagued me for nearly a week (and resulted in a host of poor decision-making), got lost on several occasions, ran out of water on even more occasions, had a pretty severe near-death experience, and got bad food poisoning at the very end which took me days to recover from. Things got pretty real out there!
You’re an incredibly driven person, so to read about how close you were to quitting throughout the journey really hits home. How did you keep yourself going?
There’s an old adage that says, “when you think about quitting, remind yourself why you started”. I went to Kyrgyzstan to have a real adventure and to push the limits of what I was capable of. The breakdowns along the way were like validations that I was truly pushing myself hard. And when that motivation fails, there was always the reality that if I didn’t keep going, I would be stuck out in the mountains and would never get home. You have to keep moving!
In contrast to the lows, what were the highlights? Can you look back and enjoy these more now?
I had highlights every day that I’ll never forget. I enjoyed perfect mountain sunsets, stunning alpine lakes, and enjoyed true alpine wilderness – my favourite natural environment. But my highlight has to be the time I spent with the Kyrgyz nomads – they showed me so much incredible kindness and hospitality along the way and taught me a lot about mountain culture.
How did you celebrate finishing the run?
I told myself that I would celebrate – I’m pretty sure I looked forward to a nice hotel and a big pizza the whole 23 days – but when I got there, it was kind of anti-climactic. I had been running for so long that it was just part of who I was, and when I got up the first morning after finishing I didn’t really know what to do with myself, and I really missed my tent and the mountains. The truth is, I still haven’t really celebrated what was to this day one of my favourite achievements.
READ MORE – See our full interview with Jenny in the latest issue of Run Deep magazine, issue 6, on sale now for just 99p