Friday 24 November 2017

How can fozzy go the distance and crack his ultra challenge?

For ultra-marathon running, it is not always easy to adjust our pace.
For ultra-marathon running, it is not always easy to adjust our pace.

Gerry Duffy

Last week, a friend and FIT magazine reader – Will Forristal – got in touch. Earlier this year, Fozzy, as he is known to his friends in the Kerry Crusaders running club, achieved a huge personal ambition. His success was to dip under three hours in a marathon for the first time. With that box ticked, Fozzy wasn't long about recovering and readjusting his radar. The 35-year-old now has an ultra-marathon in his sights and is consumed in its ambition. He has, however, hit a quandary, hence his email.

"How do I train for an ultra? How do I eat correctly? But most of all, the one question that strikes most of all is, how do I slow down?"

For this week, let us put his question under the spotlight. How do we slow down to run an ultra? After all, if we try and run 39.3 miles or beyond at 26.2-mile pace, we will almost inevitably crash and burn.

As I replied, I explained that I was immersed in such a 'slowing down' journey myself right now; my August ambition (the Connemara 100 mile race) insists on such.

The simple matter is that many extreme romantics have tried to woo two lovers at the same time, but fallen out with both when they got caught. It is the same with ultra-running. It is not easy to readjust our pace, but it is a realisation we must accept.

I believe the crux of Fozzy's inquiry is more about how we convince ourselves mentally to run slower than we might be capable of and bursting to do. After all, physically slowing down is pretty easy.

The answer, I believe, is found in one word – respect. Nobody has even achieved a peak marathon time without having respect for the distance. Ultra running requires it in equal measure.

For a 39.3-mile ultra or beyond, we can employ one of two strategies. We can be smart and slow down both our training and race day accordingly, or we can learn it the hard way. Many years of running has led me to understand that the former is a more enjoyable strategy.

Don’t forget to pick up FIT Magazine every Monday with the Irish Independent. And you can now join in online at for all the tips, race reports, advice and stories from the fitness world.

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