From 3 miles to Ultrathon … the story so far!

Posted by Mark Lyons in Training, Ultrathon | Leave a comment

In February I bought a pair of running shoes and embarked on a mission to run a 1/2 marathon in April , then I set a goal of a marathon in September and achieved this in Amsterdam with Darren Murphy , but instead of taking the foot off the gas like most sensible people would do , I upped the ante’ and embarked on a new far greater challenge , to complete “The Marathon Des Sable” , a multi stage race over 6 days ,racing 156 miles across the Sahara Desert , often called “The toughest foot race in the world”

This is a very tall order and has started to take over my life , I can think of nothing else , obviously I go about my daily life as normal but what I used to call my spare time is now Des Sable time .. Training is now totally geared to this race and my days out are all based around being fit enough for this race… so basically , yes it is consuming my life … its not all bad though as I am enjoying it , if it was feeling like a chore then it would be worthless .. , I wonder if my friends are enjoying it quite so much though , Kenny especially as I daily grill him for advice and confirmation that I’m doing ok ,Conrad with the constant barrage of Emails that I send him looking for advice and Nicky who just listens intently although this may be something to do with the fact that I’m paying him to be there .. haha

So my next step after a marathon is Ultrathon , these are super tough races above a Marathon distance and across mixed terrain ,to do these races you need to be ULTRA fit , so up went my training load again , running twice a day , back into the gym and loads of swimming for my lungs , I am really reaping the benefits of the training now , my running has improved so much in the past 8 weeks and my ability to recover from the previous days effort is almost magical .. Running over 79 miles last week and finishing it with a 4 hour marathon on Sunday…and on Monday I was ready to go again !! this amazed even me , however this week I did cut the mileage back in preparation for my first Ultrathon and I’m glad I did ..

Race Profile

My first Ultrathon constituted of 29 miles across the most rugged part of the West Highland way, it started in Kinlochleven and climbed 1500 feet in its first 4 miles, then dropped over the devils staircase into Glencoe and raced across Rannoch moor, over into Glen Orchy, all the way along the Glen to finish off in Tyndrum … 4000+ feet of ascent and descent, mostly over rocky and uneven terrain, a lot of it was covered in snow and ice, what a day!!

On the hill

Both physically and mentally demanding in the extreme, it took me over some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery in Scotland, topping out after a huge climb up the back of the Devils staircase and looking down at Glencoe in all its glory, seeing its mountains topped with snow and the sun shining across the horizon was almost magical… then continuing over the hills into Rannoch and beyond , every corner of the run was jaw droppingly beautiful , this did help keep my mind off my sore legs , and oh my god they were aching , every muscle was being pounded like never before … this type of running requires a lot of strength as well as agility , it has far greater demand on your legs than of a marathon , where its just one foot in front of another , over and over again , I was really stepping up my game even attempting this race.

Accuracy of where you place your feet is also very important, the terrain is rough and uneven and a twisted ankle waits for the unwary, this keeps you occupied but also tires you mentally as the miles go by, however despite aching legs I held it together until the end and crossed the finish line just over the 6 hour mark, a very good first Ultrathon indeed.

I was glowing with self satisfaction the whole way home , I really couldn’t believe what I had just done , even now I can hardly believe what I did , this was marred slightly however by the fact that my legs required me to stop the car every half hour to stretch them out , 5 hours later I was in the bath , still dreaming of Highland mountains and the finish line .. definitely my finest hour ..

Id like to say that physically I was finally there but I am not , I need to be capable of doing 6 of these Ultrathons back to back in the Desert with temperatures of 56 C , I hope I can keep going and continue to get fitter , I do know that it is getting harder to keep up the training load and that injury just cant happen as it will knock me back weeks , I just need to keep trying to improve and on the day I will make it happen through sheer determination ………….

Challenges like this one don’t come easy .. You need to fight for them .

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