Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 2

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Heavy skies greeted us for day 2 of our 2017 multi-day training camp. It looked cold out there… the reality was very different. It was a hot day with no wind. Almost oppressive!

The early hours were dominated with admin and but then it was time to do a final recce of one of the coastal runs that we will run with camp attendees. In previous years’ we had attempted to hug the coastline and take a rough trail (with scrambling) to a coastal town, Tenesar, and then navigate around the trails to Montana Teneza and Montana Blanca.

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We had failed!

Often losing the path to undertake an extreme version of sktyrunning that was far too risky for those attending a multi-day race.

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The wonders of Google Earth and Movescount software afforded me the opportunity to look at the area in detail in advance of this years’ camp and yes, we nailed it! We had a wonderful 20km recce which provided some stunning views, challenging terrain and plenty of laughs.

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Everything is place now. The clients arrive today, Thursday and it’s all systems go.

The camp will officially start this evening with a shake out coastal run to loosen the legs, make everyone feel relaxed and then we head straight to the bar for welcome drinks and a first night group meal.

The action starts Friday at 0800 with a long run that will vary in length based on the speed and ability of our three groups, the participants can expect anything from 24 – 36km.

Happy days!

Want to join our 2018 camp? Go HERE

Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 1

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The snow, the ice, the rain and the cold arrived in the UK. Temperatures plummeted. Lanzarote was the only place to be and thank goodness our multi-day training camp is now an annual fixture.

Elisabet Barnes, Niandi Carmont and myself arrived on this majestic Canary island of Lanzarote, two days ahead of our 2017 camp to put logistics in place and do a final check of some of the run routes we will use.

Blue skies and 20 degree temperatures greeted us. The bright blue sky, the warm rays immediately rejuvenating us from the cold and dark of the UK. No confirmation is needed but within seconds we know only too well why we do this camp at this time of year.

Today was all about settling in but it would be rude not to get out on the trails as the day came to a close. Using one of our training run routes, we ran, climbed and scrambled one of the many volcanoes that are located on this island. It was a magical way to end the day.

Wednesday, we will do a full long run route recce and then on Thursday, our clients will arrive from all over the world to start a full-on week learning how best to train, prepare and plan for a multi-day race. Lanzarote is the perfect environment for this.

Out 2017 #multidaytrainingcamp is underway!

Episode 126 – Stevie Kremer, Trails Are Free Movie, Sondre Amdahl

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Episode 126 of Talk Ultra is here, Happy New Year! – We have an interview with Stevie Kremer, we chat with Lindsey Topham about her movie, ‘The Trails Are Free’ and Sondre Amdahl tells us about racing in Hong Kong and how is preparation for The Coastal Challenge is going… Speedgoat is back too!

New Year and Talk Ultra needs your help!

We are five year’s old this January and as a show we are proud that we have produced a wealth of content for free. The show will always be free! However, demands on time, production costs, editing really impact on Talk Ultra, therefore, if you love the show please help us out. You can make a one-off donation, a yearly donation or maybe donate monthly… just £1 or $1 would make a huge difference. We are currently in the process of setting up a Patreon page that will allow you to gain access to the Patreon Activity Feed that will be for Patreon supporters ONLY! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create!

More info to follow. Thanks!

Donate HERE

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Support on PATREON HERE

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RUNNING BEYOND BOOK is travelling the world and of course I recommend it as a great Christmas present… we mentioned in the last show about Running Beyond Event which will take place 3, 4 and 5th March in London, plans are progressing for that… in addition, Niandi and myself will now be in Amsterdam on Feb 3rd, 4th and 5th for a Trails in Motion event and Running Beyond book signing with Mud Sweat and Trails and I will be also going to Sofia in Bulgaria on the 17th, 18th and 19th March for a trail, mountain and Skyrunning expo.

00:26:32 NEWS

Across The Years – 24, 48, 72-hours and 6-Days

24: Kelly Agnew and Chavet Breslin ran 124 and 119-miles

48: Karen Bonnett Natraj and Alex Ramset ran 140 and 177-miles

72: Iso Yucra and Anne Lang ran 248 and 200-miles

6-Day: Ed Ettinghausen and Liz Bauer ran 451.4 and 418.9-miles

Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan

Gediminas Grinius and Andrea Huser won the 100-mile in 20:04 and 26:01.

Sondre Amdahl and Marie McNaughton won the 115km in 16:15 and 16:20

“TCC will be my main target for the winter/spring of 2017. I have had a couple of easy months after a DNS at the Tor des Géants (due to injury). I have had a good block of training in November, December, I raced at Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan in Hong Kong (115km) on New Year’s Eve which I won and then in January I will go to Gran Canaria to prepare for TCC.”

00:53:34 INTERVIEW with Sondre Amdahl

Read a preview of the 2017 The Coastal Challenge HERE

01:20:36 INTERVIEW with Stevie Kremer

02:12:14 INTERVIEW with Lindsey Topham about the film ‘The Trails Are Free’

The Trails are Free tells the story of how Boston based trail running club, the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC), promotes and preserves the culture of ultra running through a series of grassroots, community based races in the greater Boston area. The film captures the history of the club and how it has grown from a few members to over 4000 since its founding in the early 1990’s. From its start TARC has been more focused on camaraderie and community among runners than on competition and winning. The club’s motto “Leave No Animal Behind” exemplifies their welcoming spirit, as well as their humility, level playing field, and love for the outdoors. Trail Animals come from all walks of life and all abilities and there is no pecking order.

The club’s rapid growth has mirrored a nationwide trend in the sport in recent years. Where ultra running used to be considered an oddball sport, it is now the subject of many books and is gaining more mainstream coverage in film and on television. The threat of this community spirit becoming consumed by competition and commercialisation is becoming a realistic, legitimate concern.

In 2011 the club introduced the TARC Trail Series, a group of 10 trail races of varying distances, from 10K to 100 Miles. This film documents the ways these races have become a vehicle for preserving, promoting, and sharing the culture of the sport with new members. Race organisers keep race costs down by organising volunteers to mark courses, maintain trails, and provide support, provisions, and food for potluck-style aid stations. First place finishers win handmade trophies. There is no prize money.

“The Trails Are Free” was shot on location at various TARC races over the years. It is quintessentially New England. There is snow, mud, peepers, rocks, roots, and bright foliage.

Website HERE

vimeo trailer HERE

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Victoria

Two Bays Trail Run 56km | 56 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

Brazil

Brazil 135 Ultramarathon | 135 miles | January 12, 2017 | website

Brazil 281 Relay | 281 miles | January 12, 2017 | website

Chile

Ultramaratón Licanray – Villarrica | 70 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website

Ecuador

100 km Relevos | 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

150 km Relevos | 150 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Germany

Lower Saxony

  1. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website
  2. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website
  3. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM| 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website
  4. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website
  5. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website
  6. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM| 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

North Rhine-Westphalia

Nord Eifel Ultra | 56 kilometers | January 08, 2017 | website

Hong-Kong

Vibram® Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail® Race | 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Italy

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

S1 TRAIL – LA CORSA DELLA BORA | 57 kilometers | January 06, 2017 | website

Spain

Valencian Community

GR10-Xtrem Valencia Ultra Trail | 93 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Sweden

82 km | 82 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

United Kingdom

Buckinghamshire

Country to Capital | 45 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Derbyshire

Montane Spine Challenger | 108 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Montane Spine Race | 268 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

USA

Arizona

50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

California

50 miler | 50 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Avalon Benefit 50 Mile Run | 50 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

Pacifica Foothills Trail Run 50K | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Steep Ravine 50 km | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Florida

100K | 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

100M | 100 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Croom Zoom 100 Km Run | 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Croom Zoom 50 Km Run | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Hawaii

H.U.R.T. 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Idaho

Wilson Creek Frozen 50k | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Illinois

Frozen Gnome 50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Iowa

Tripple D Winter Ultramarathon Run | 50 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

Louisiana

Wild Azalea Trail Challenge 50 | 50 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

Maryland

PHUNT 50K | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Michigan

Yankee Winter Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

New Jersey

Watchung Winter Ultras Trail 50k | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

North Carolina

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50k | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50k Relay | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Salem Lake Shore Frosty Fifty | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Weymouth Woods 100k Trail Run | 100 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

Oklahoma

Ouachita Switchbacks 50K | 50 kilometers | January 14, 2017 | website

South Carolina

Harbison 50K | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Tennessee

Swampstomper 50k | 50 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

Texas

Bandera 100km | 100 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Bandera 50km | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Big Bend 50 | 50 kilometers | January 15, 2017 | website

West Virginia

Frozen Sasquatch Trail 50k | 50 kilometers | January 07, 2017 | website

Wisconsin

Frozen Otter Ultra Trek – 32 Miles | 32 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Frozen Otter Ultra Trek – 64 Miles | 64 miles | January 14, 2017 | website

Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon 150 Mile Run | 150 miles | January 06, 2017 | website

Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon 35 Mile Run | 35 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

Tuscobia Winter Ultramarathon 75 Mile Run | 75 miles | January 07, 2017 | website

02:42:05 Close

02:47:07

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HEREAndroid HERE or via a web player HERE

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com

The Coastal Challenge 2017 Preview on IRUN4ULTRA

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The Coastal Challenge is multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Considered by many an ultimate multi-day running experience, it challenges even the most experienced runner.

The 2017 The Coastal Challenge is just weeks away from starting. Runners from all over the world will arrive in San Jose and then travel to the start in Quepos for the 13th edition. And what a line-up the race has… Reigning ladie’s champion, Ester Alves is back along with Elisabet Barnes, Anna Comet and Veronica Bravo. For the men, Jason Schlarb, Sondre Amdahl, Chema Martinez, Tom Owens and Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito head up a quality line up.

Read all about it on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

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Michael Wardian – The Running Man on IRUN4ULTRA

“He keeps running and running. Michael Wardian just never stops. Many runners have been given the tag, ‘Forest Gump’ and in 2016 we certainly witnessed a couple of real life ‘Gump’s’ in Pete Kostelnick and Karl Speedgoat Meltzer who respectively set two new records: Running Across the USA and setting an FKT on the Appalachian Trail. Kostelnick and Speedgoat produced two remarkable performances, but Michael Wardian raced 47 events in 2016, he raced 1,254-miles in total and in the process, he set 2 World records, had 8-victories, 22-podiums, 31-top ten placings and 26 ‘master’s’ victories. Wardian is a man on a mission and 2016 is not an unusual year… this committed husband and father of two races like this, year-in and year-out.”

Read about Michael Wardian in my article for IRUN4ULTRA  HERE

Multi-Day Running in a Rainforest – Hint ‘n’ Tips

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-3069Multi-day racing brings many challenges and variables not only in the terrain that you can and will encounter but also how one journeys from day-to-day. For example, the Marathon des Sables is a multi-day race that requires self-sufficiency, the only exception comes with water, provided by the race but rationed and the provision of a ‘bivouac’ which provides basic cover which must be shared with seven others. It’s why the ‘MDS’ has become THE multi-day race to do. It strips the runner back to basics.

The Coastal Challenge with takes place in Costa Rica, by general consensus, provides a more challenging course than its desert counter part, however, there is no self-sufficiency.

Don’t be fooled though, the race throws many a challenge at participants and below we provide ‘Hints-n-Tips’ that will make a journey into the rainforests of Costa Rica not only more enjoyable but more successful.

What is The Coastal Challenge?

The race is a multi-day journey that travels from Quepos to Drake Bay over five days and the sixth day is a loop around the Corcovado. Distances are as follows:

  1. 32km (917m+)
  2. 44.6km (1788m+)
  3. 38km (1811m+)
  4. 35km (2054m+)
  5. 52km (1822m+)
  6. 23km (584m+)

Is the race harder than Marathon des Sables?

To provide an ambiguous answer – yes and no!

NO:

  • The race is not self-sufficient and therefore runners only need to run with a small pack with essentials and water.
  • Aid stations are provided with some food and therefore the need to carry anything heavy is minimal but one should think about personal needs, tastes and requirements.
  • You take your own tent (or hire one from the race) and therefore you have your own space to sleep and recover.
  • You have a bag or box that is transported each day to the finish of each stage and therefore you can have fresh clothes, shoes, medical supplies, food etc at your disposal.
  • Food is provided in  the morning, post run and in the evening – you can pretty much eat as much as you like.
  • Many of the campsites are in amazing locations and some local amenities are available, for example, you can have a beer or a cold drink most evenings.
  • The ‘long day’ is not as long as MDS.

YES:

  • The terrain is very varied and at times brutal, you need to be able to handle technical terrain.
  • The course has many 1000’s of meters elevation and descent.
  • Fire trails connect the forest, beach and technical sections which are hard on the legs.
  • Beach sections are long and physically exhausting and mentally tiring.
  • The heat is relentless.
  • The humidity is 75% + and you will sweat, sweat and sweat.
  • Your feet will be in and out of water everyday.
  • The long day is not as long as MDS but at 52km with 1800m+ of vertical over very technical terrain with relentless heat and humidity, it is more than enough of a challenge.

How does one achieve success at TCC?

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KIT:

Bag/ Storage:

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Within reason you can take as much kit as you need as this is transported daily by the race. The race organisation ask that you use ‘Action Packer’ boxes for a couple of reasons: 1. They are waterproof. 2. They are easy for the race to transport as they pack together and are durable. However, from a UK or Europe perspective they are a nightmare to travel with and are troublesome. I recommend *The North Face Base Camp Bag Duffle (here), an Overboard Waterproof Bag (here) or an Ortlieb Waterproof Bag (here). Waterproof is important as you ae going to a rainforest and you do stand the chance of rain on at least one day. You can of course use individual waterproof bags inside to separate and itemise clothing, equipment and so on. *The TNF is not 100% waterproof but I have used it and had no problems.

Clothing:

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You have a bag that can carry all your kit, so, take 6-8 sets of clothing. It’s really simple, you run in one set of clothing and at the end of the day you freshen up and change into the next days run clothing (which you can sleep in). You can of course add some additional casual clothing if required.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-9808Make sure clothing is breathable, comfortable and I recommend that tops cover your shoulders as this can be a problem area in such intense heat and sun. You will need a hat without a doubt and some prefer to run with a hat that has protection that comes over the back of the neck. Ladies – just a word of warning on ‘strappy’ tops, they expose more of your skin and you end up with some crazy sun tan.

Feet:

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Not looking after your feet is one of the main reasons (in addition to dehydration) why you will not finish the race. Feet will get wet everyday and you will run on all sorts of varied terrain from gravel fire trail to technical and rocky boulder sections. Your ankles will be twisted and your feet can feel pretty beat up. Obviously you can take advantage of having more than one pair of shoes, I would definitely take two pairs and ideally three. Maybe you could take one pair a 1/2 size larger as a ‘just in case!’

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-9973Think about the fit of your shoe. Forget the advice about going a size larger, for me, this is just bad advice. A shoe that is too big will allow your foot to move, a moving foot causes friction, friction causes blisters – the rest is a horror story and believe me, I have seen some horror stories at TCC. You need a thumb nail of space above your big toe, no more! Of course I provide generic advice here and should YOU know you need something different from experience, trust your instinct. Because the trail is often technical, you need a shoe that can handle a multitude of surfaces that includes rocks, gravel, sand, wet rock and so on. You need trail shoes! Consider your gait, the amount of drop you prefer and how much cushioning.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-0044Only you know this and nobody can tell you which shoe to use. Also considerer that a shoe needs to be breathable – your feet will get very hot but more importantly your feet will be in and out of water. A shoe that drains water is essential. As an example, Scott Kinabalu (here) has drainage holes that allows water to escape, inov-8 are also making a shoe called ‘Chill’ which is designed for hot weather (here). Some runners like to tape their feet to protect them, if that is the case with you, do that in training so that you understand how that impacts on what size of shoe you require.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-6245Good socks are essential and in four years of running and working at TCC I have always worn Injinji and never had one blister! Take a fresh pair for each day. Finally, the TCC does have one or two foot doctors who will look after you should a problem happen, my advice, avoid the problems by understanding your needs before arriving in Costa Rica.

Tent:

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The race can provide a tent for you which you can hire, however, I prefer to take my own. The most important thing with your tent is that it must pitch ‘inner’ only. The reason for this is that it’s hot, really hot, and therefore you want as much air-flow as possible. An inner tent with lots of mesh is ideal too. You also don’t really need to worry about the size, I don’t recommend bringing a huge tent but I also don’t recommend bringing a tiny tent. Although I recommend an inner pitch tent, please bring the fly sheet that makes it waterproof – it is a rainforest remember! You can just throw the fly sheet over if required.

Equipment:

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Unlike other multi-day races, what you require whilst on the trail is quite minimal. I recommend a ‘vest’ like pack that can hold bottles, bladder or bottles and bladder. You will drink lots and lots and over the years I have found that having a bladder and two bottles takes some of the worry away from drinking. At times, aid stations can be very far apart, you don’t want to be without water! I would take a simple first aid kit, a whistle (just in case), purification tablets, phone, pocketknife, cash and some sun cream. In past editions, some runners have taken a ‘Spot’ tracker or similar. Poles at times will be useful, it depends if you are a racer or a completer. Importantly, should you take poles, make sure they fold, make sure you can store them quickly and make sure you know how to use them. I would bring your favourite run snacks (gels, bars or whatever) and think what you will need for six days. I have mentioned clothing and shoes, no need to compromise, so don’t! Think about toiletries, medical supplies and personal items that will make your journey in the rainforests better – for example an iPod. You will not need a sleeping bag, it’s too hot, however, I do recommend that you bring a sleeping bag liner, it can often get just a little chilly around 2 or 3am. Pretty much everyone sleeps in run clothing. Bring a sleeping matt and one that provides good comfort, some campsites are rocky!

Hydration:

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Think you have already understood that it’s hot, very hot. You will sweat immediately and you will sweat all day. This places unique demands on you and you will need to keep hydrated. I have already mentioned about carrying enough liquid – make sure you do! I would normally recommend drinking to thirst, but here, I would drink every 10-15min and keep that going. Electrolytes are a constant debating point, particularly with Tim Noakes ‘Waterlogged’ book. However, you will need to replace salts and how you do that will depend on you and your needs.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-7175The course has constant possibilities for you to submerge yourself in water and reduce your core temperature – do so, it’s essential! Never pass an opportunity. Just 2-3 minutes fully submerged will allow you to continue on feeling refreshed. Never run in the sun when you can run in the shade and cover up your head and shoulders.

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Top Tips:

  • Day 1 starts with 10km of good running. Everyone starts out way too fast and ironically, day 1 at TCC has the most drop outs through exhaustion and dehydration. Start slow! Ease into the race and without doubt, if possible, get some heat acclimatisation before coming out to costa Rica. Day 1 also starts much later than every other day, so, the shock is magnified!
  • From day 2 you will start running with sunrise, take advantage of the cooler hours but don’t go out running hard like a wild animal. You will pay for it.
  • Feeling tired? Run in the shade, walk in the sun.
  • Poles are a benefit at times and I would certainly bring them so you can make a choice whilst at the race.
  • Understand that this is a technical race with very varied terrain, lots of climbing and lots of descending. Practice this and prepare both physically and mentally.
  • Learn to walk – everyone will walk at some stage.
  • Take advantage of every possibility to submerge yourself in pools, rivers, ponds etc.
  • Use a buff or similar product and keep that wet and cool.
  • Pour water over your head regularly to avoid over-heating.
  • Use a hat.
  • Flowing water is often drinkable but be careful, I take water purification tablets as a precaution.
  • Never pass a feed staton without filling bottles/ bladder.
  • Think of your own food needs and diet requirements.
  • The course is exceptionally well marked and be attentive, it’s easy to pass a marker when you have your head down. Not seen a marker in 5-minutes? Chances are you have gone the wrong way.
  • Wildlife will surround you and the reality is that you will not see any of it as the animals are too frightened of you. However, you will hear lots of noises, that is part of the fun! You stand a good chance of seeing monkeys, maybe a snake, spiders and birds.
  • Calf guards or compression may be a good idea on some of the more technical sections, however, I prefer the airflow to keep cooler.
  • When back in camp after a day running, take shoes off first and put some flip-flops on and let your feet breathe. Check for any irruption and blisters and get that seen to asap.
  • Have a shower and freshen up, get some fresh clothes on.
  • Eat and hydrate.
  • Take a nap and elevate your legs.
  • Masseurs are available at a charge (tbc).
  • Evenings are very social and you will be able to relax and bond with fellow runners. However, you do have your own personal tent, so, you can escape and have quiet time if you wish.

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Check List:

  • Waterproof bag or box
  • 2/3 pairs run shoes
  • Run apparel for 6 days
  • Casual clothing
  • Tent that pitches inner only but bring fly sheet
  • Head torch/ tent light
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Travel towel
  • Phone
  • Knife
  • Electrolytes
  • Food for running
  • Whistle
  • Sun cream
  • Medical kit and medication
  • Cash
  • Credit card
  • Poles
  • Gaiters
  • iPod
  • Rope to make a washing line
  • Pegs

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Finally:

Running a multi-day race is an experience and something to cherish. Look around and take advantage of what is a stunning environment. Accept now that this race will challenge you and that it will be tough. Get your head in the right place. Prepare as best you can for heat, humidity, technical running, climbing and descending, if you come prepared, the race will be so much easier.

I always provide impartial advice based on my experiences and knowledge. However, I do accept that I don’t always know or understand what ladies require at a multi-day race. Niandi Carmont has run the shorter Adventure Race and the full distance race at TCC and she provides here a little additional advice for female competitors:

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You might be spending a significant part of your day out on the course but it is always nice to have something clean and light to change into other than run kit. Since you don’t have to transport this, think about light cotton sundresses you can change into after your shower at the end of the daily stage. It will be boiling hot and humid in the evenings so no point bringing anything warm.

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Flip flops are a must. Bring a good quality pair that won’t break the first day in camp. Your feet will swell up and will have macerated in run shoes the whole day. They will have taken a pounding and thank you for allowing them to breathe a few hours. Also I recommend taking showers with flip flops as the showers won’t be sparkling clean and this will reduce the risk of catching anything like athlete’s foot or plantar warts which are highly contagious and prevalent amongst ultra-runners.

Bring a 2-piece swimsuit – there will opportunities to bathe in rivers or the sea at the end of the day.

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I suggest a very, very light negligee to slip into in your tent if you don’t like sleeping in the nude as you will be sweating and no doubt not be using your sleeping back or liner. Temperatures hardly drop at night and it remains humid.

Don’t economise on sun cream – bring a spray, high SPF type, which is non-greasy. Don’t forget you will be sweating a lot in the high humidity so this will have to be applied regularly on the course. Carry a small tube (Tingerlaat (here) do a tiny tube with SPF 50). Take a small tube of anti-chafing cream or gel (Gurney Goo do small tubes) in your pack too. With the high humidity and being constantly wet, running through water even runners who don’t usually suffer from chafing will find this an issue. Apply beneath your sports bra and inner lining of run shorts.

I would recommend against running in ‘skorts’ as you will be constantly sweating and trying to cool off in rock pools to keep your body temperature down. The skirt part will just weigh you down with water. Bring single-layered run shorts or short breathable tights. You will probably suffer less from chafing too with tights.

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Hair conditioner is an absolute must as you will be showering every day and if you don’t want to end up with damaged, straw-like hair or knots, bring a good conditioner. I have had plenty of experiences of leaking bottles of haircare products so I take enough L’Oréal sachets which pack very well and are single use.

Don’t wear rings! Your fingers are going to swell up through heat and some dehydration – so leave the solitaire at home. You will just have to put up with the unsightliness of sausage-finger syndrome for a while.

Bring waterproof zip-locks for cash and toilet paper to carry with you on the daily stages as you will be running through a lot of water and believe me you will be happy to buy an ice cold coke some days on the course. Also make sure your mobile phone is in a waterproof casing/bag or don’t take it with you on the river sections.

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Ian Corless – RUNNNG BEYOND Interview

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The launch of RUNNING BEYOND book has required me to do several interviews recently and some of my words and images have appeared in print. The most current edition of Outdoor Fitness has a large spread and RUNning Magazine in Portugal has a spread.

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In the coming week or so, the UK’s Like The Wind will also have a multi-page feature on RUNNING BEYOND book showing several images over 10-pages.

Like The Wind, UK

Like The Wind, UK

Several week’s ago, my good friends at Marathon Talk Podcast, Tom Williams and Martin Yelling, did me the great honour of having me as a guest on their show. I have to say, these two guys are vey much the reason that Talk Ultra Podcast started and I am ever thankful to both of them and the support.

THE INTERVIEW

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Tom: This week’s guest has been a longtime friend of Martin and myself and a longtime friend of Marathon Talk – for six and a half years now so for probably something like four years, he’s edited the audio for Marathon Talk and probably saves mine or Martin’s blushes on more than one occasion, edited out the odd rude word perhaps in there and during that time he’s also built up the amazing Talk Ultra podcast which, has gone from strength to strength to strength and he is an absolute go to for ultra-running. He is as many would say, living the dream of making his passion his career and doing a really good job of it. He’s just bringing out a book, Running Beyond, which we’ll talk about in detail. Welcome Ian.

Ian Corless: Hey Tom, thanks for having me! Feels a little weird being on this end of the microphone.

[laughter]

Tom: It’s been far too long getting you on the show and it’s nice to have the excuse of you having released your book Running Beyond – Epic Ultra Trail and Skyrunning Races. Foreword, nonetheless, by Kilian Jornet.

Ian Corless: Yes.

Tom: Tell us about the book. Before we go back and talk about this whole crazy journey you’ve been on over the last four, five, six years, tell us about the book.

Ian Corless: The book came about I suppose in a way by accident. It’s quite funny because Martin (co-host of Marathon Talk) said to me years ago, “Mate, you should do a book, you should do a book, you’ve got all these photographs you should do a book” and I did do a self-published book. But the problem with a self-published book is that you just can’t get the price of the book competitive. It just becomes ridiculous once you go to a hardback and color etc. The cost is just prohibitive. So I did a very small print run which was really for me, friends, family and a few people bought it and I used it as a giveaway to clients or potential clients and from that perspective it was a great vehicle. But then about two and a half years ago, I got approached by a publisher and they said, “We love what you do, we follow your website, we follow your photography and we think the time is right for a book”. Of course, it was music to my ears because normally you have to go hunting for a publishing contract and there they were contacting me. That was an amazing foot into the door.

The process then was deciding what that book should be and of course, because the publisher wanted to go in a certain direction, I had to adhere to some of the things that they wanted so it had to be commercially viable. They wanted it to be a coffee-table book, they wanted it to be big and utilize the photography that I had done but also it needed to incorporate my experiences going from race to race. Over the last five years six years, I’ve traveled extensively to races all over the world and basically the book is about that but it’s not an A to Z of races. It doesn’t start at A and it doesn’t finish at Z and it certainly is not a book about ‘the’ best races in the world – it’s the races that I’ve been to and experienced and, in my opinion, of what has grown my photography and my writing within the ultra-running trail and mountain world.

Tom: That’s quite an exciting thing, isn’t it? I listen to that and I think, “That’s really exciting I can’t wait to see it.” I went through a kind of process like that with a coffee table book a couple of years ago for park run, although I had no content in there of my own. I was just helping the guys do stuff but I think the guys did it really well. But for that to be your own book and your own content you must be really excited.

Ian Corless: Yes, I’ve got copies at home and it’s quite funny because the first hardback copy arrived about two months ago and you know what? I’ve not looked at it.

Tom: [laughs] You do know they spelled your name wrong on the cover, don’t you?

Ian: [laughs] I’ll be having a word with the publisher if that’s the case! I say I’ve not looked through it, I have. I’ve flipped through it. But it’s a massive chunk of my life and to actually sit down and flick through it page-by-page almost intimidates me because I won’t look at the positives, I’ll look at the negatives [laughs], and I’ll think, “Maybe I should have put that photo in” or, “Why didn’t I do this?” or, “Why didn’t I do that?” And so in a way it’s frightened me to actually sit down and look at the book now that it’s done. Because there’s nothing that I can do about it, I have to assume that myself and the publisher did a good job and now it’s left to people, yourself and the audience who are going to get it and let them decide whether we did a good job.

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Tom: You have got some rave reviews. We’ll talk about your journey in a second. We talked before we started recording about you having a huge level of respect in the ultra-running community now as a really great journalist. On your website and the promotion for this book, you’ve got Nikki Kimball, US ultra-runner saying, “Ian Corless continues to be one of the planet’s foremost journalist in the sport of ultra-marathon”. Check that out.

Ian: It’s awesome to hear that type of thing. It’s flattering and we’re talking now five six years down the line and I know one of the questions you’re going to ask me is probably how did it happen and in a way I don’t know [laughs].

Tom: Mike Wolf, “If you know Ian, it comes as no surprise… he is the most motivated, talented and insightful photographer, journalists out there.” This is amazing stuff, how did you get… so we tried to get Kilian Jornet on the show a couple of times, we’ve never managed it. He is one of those few athletes that has truly transcended their sport and in a good way just does whatever he wants. I’ve got Summits of My Life t-shirts and I’m a fan of Kilian Jornet. He has moved up to that level of being just himself. But here you are with him writing the foreword for the book?

Ian: Yes.

Tom: He’s written some really kind words, “Ian’s photographs can tell you the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race.” Tell us a little bit about Kilian, how you managed to get that for a start but also what your experiences are with him as a person and what’s he like?

Ian: I first met Kilian in 2012 at Transvulcania. That was probably the key phase of how everything started for me, when things really started to take off and I began to realize that there was an opportunity for me to convert what I was doing into a business. Prior to that, I was a photographer and always have been a photographer but I was a commercial photographer shooting advertising, food, room sets, people, all those types of things. Talk Ultra, a little bit like yourselves with Marathon Talk, came out of passion and an interest in the sport. I was competing in sports as you guys did cycling, ironman, and running. I was doing this thing that was an enhancement of my life and something that took up a massive chunk of my life but when you’re doing something you love it’s never quite work, it’s never quite hard. You always bounce it off with the fun and the bonuses.

So 2012 I was invited to Transvulcania and it was a skyrunning race and Skyrunning held its conference and it was about how the sport was going to change. They invited the world’s best runners to the race, of which Kilian was one of them and he went on to place second I believe in that race behind Dakota Jones. Of course I met him and that was the first time we chatted but it was very much like meeting somebody famous and they hold you at a distance because you’re a journalist and they’re a famous runner and that was the scenario.

Tom: He is to ultra-running what Kelly Slater is to surfing or Michael Jordan is to basketball. He is the greatest of all time. I don’t think many people would disagree with that?

Ian: No. He has elevated the sport to a completely different level. He is within the very minute world of ultra-running and trail running, he is global superstar and I’m not saying that everybody on the street would know him, but certainly people who are interested in sport will know of Kilian Jornet and in recent years because he’s extended what he’s done to more extreme adventures and recently he’s just come back from Everest.

All those things click together in him being a megastar but also that brings a lot of pressures and he does get mobbed. The equivalent is imagining walking down the high street and David Beckham comes walking out in Manchester or Liverpool… He would be mobbed and Kilian is the same, particularly in Spain. He is a little bit defensive at times but over the years, because we’ve seen each other at a great deal of races, we became friends. I have that relationship with him… I don’t phone him up every week though, you know what I mean…

Tom: Ever since he got a restraining order…

Ian: Ha! Exactly, ever since he got a restraining order but if I see him we talk, we chat, we sometimes have dinner, we’ve been out for a drink. If you’re going to write a book you might as well have the best runner in the world write the foreword. I sent him an email and I said, “Look, feel free to say no, because I appreciate you get asked a lot of times for this type of thing” but he replied back and said, “Absolutely, no problem. I’ll do it”. It’s fantastic to have Kilian’s name on the cover of the book.

Tom: It’s a lovely photo that you’ve got, the black and white portrait of him looking down. It’s stunning. Let’s go back to the beginning. You knew Martin for a long time before you knew me.

Ian: Yes.

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Tom: At first I was editing Marathon Talk around the stuff I did and then we joined forces with you to launch Talk Ultra. Then in time, you took over the editing of Marathon Talk and you still do that to this day… I do visualize you editing in something like rusty twin prop plane over some snowy peaks. You haven’t done this your whole life though?

Ian: No.

Tom: …it was a kind of a career transition. You’ve already mentioned still life photography, photographing whatever it is – a bunch of grapes in a bowl? You’ve made that transition, amazing transition. What was the inspiration or motivation for that? When, why did that happen?

Ian: It’s quite simple actually. It’s 2008. This is a difficult thing to talk about because it’s about one of those moments in my life where everything changed. Everything. In summary, without going into too much detail but I’m more than happy to go into detail if you want to, I lost my job, I got divorced, my dad died of cancer and I said, “That’s it. I’m never doing anything again that I don’t want to do”.

Tom: How old were you then in 2008?

Ian: I’m 50 this year [laughs].

Tom: Okay. What’s that, eight years ago. So you were roughly 42?

Ian: Yes. So I made this decision. That’s it, I’m never going to do anything that I don’t want to do again.

Tom: What were those things? What were you doing that you didn’t want to do?

Ian: I think it wasn’t so much things that I didn’t want to do. It was I appreciated life and I’d appreciated that I had made some real gaffs in my life. I’d made financial mistakes; I’d got obsessed in sport – I am very OCD. When I’m doing something, I’m doing it. I guess that’s why I’ve made what I’m doing now successful because I can put blinkers on and I can work 20 hours a day. That is actually what’s needed to be done in the job that I’m doing at the moment. Sleep can be a luxury. But my obsessive-compulsiveness to sport, and that was participating, I’d really ruined my marriage. I had the foresight to be able to look back and think, “You’re bit of an idiot because you were never making a living from sport. You enjoyed it, you loved it and you’ve ruined a marriage because of it!” At the time my son was 12, he was old enough to understand what was going on and old enough to have some independence. But the impact on him and the impact on me was pretty bad. I missed home terribly… Plus, in 2008 also, I decided to run eight marathons in eight days, I don’t know if you remember?

Tom: When you’re under masses of pressure and stress, that sounds like a really good thing to do; not!

Ian: No. The thing was that the eight marathons in eight days was planned the year before and it was to coincide with me doing my last ironman, which I did in Klagenfurt and I think Martin was there for that. I think Martin raced Klagenfurt 2008? I did my last Ironman then I was going to run eight marathons in eight days and the plan was to run the Cotswold path all the way from the Gloucestershire to the Thames barrier. Then on the eighth day I ran on the marathon.

A little bit like Martin’s South West Coast path jaunt, my dad was going to support me and he was going to be in a mobile home. In the months, two to three months before this venture was going to start, my dad said, “I’ve got cancer”. I went through this whole process of “No, I’m going to cancel, I’m going to do this, I’m going to that” and he said, “No. You carry on. You do this for me”.

 

I remember distinctly, it’s quite a nice story in a way, it was the third day of the 8-marathons and I was finishing in Henley-on-Thames. That night was the night that my dad was going to hospital in Liverpool to have this major cancer operation. I finished my marathon, I had a car waiting for me. I drove up to my dad’s. I took him to hospital, waited during the night while he had the cancer operation, found out that the operation had gone well. I got back in the car, drove to Henley and then ran the marathon the next day. I remember running that marathon and not remembering it. I was an emotional wreck to be honest.

I had also a lot of things going through my mind about, “This is ridiculous. Your dad is potentially dying and you’re running in a marathon”. How could I justify that? So, there was all those things and to cut a long story short, you come out of the end of all this and you’re just not the same person. My marriage very quickly fell apart, my dad got a different form of cancer which eventually killed him about four or five months later, and I lost my job in October. I started 2009 basically with no home, no marriage, my dad had gone. I had a blank canvas and so I started with the priming coat and built what I am doing now from scratch.

Tom: It’s amazing. Huge! Wow… from that point to this point, it’s hugely inspirational because you did start from scratch.

Ian: Yes.

Tom: Because there’ll be people listening to this thinking, “I want to make changes. I want to do things. How do you do it?” We all look at people, we can look at your website, iancorless.com and see loads of success and inspirational content, whatever it is, but actually those first few steps are the most important by a million miles and people never really shout about those, share those. People aren’t aware of them so no one really knows where to start. Where did you start? Take me back to beginning of 2009.

Ian: For two years it was rubbish.

[laughter]

Ian: It really was because I had no money. My mom had spent her whole life with my father and then suddenly she was alone and vulnerable. I spent four months living with my mom because she needed the support. Then there came a point where I thought I had to say, “You know what mom, I’ve got to move out because this is not helping you” and also it wasn’t helping me. For four months, five months I was in a bit of a no man’s land. I was trying to get work as a photographer. I had clients, previous clients and I was getting some work but it was peaks and troughs. Sometimes you were busy, sometimes you weren’t. At the same time, sport was an escape. Of course, I got talking with you guys, with Marathon Talk, and I was helping provide you with some interviews in those early stages. I remember setting up an interview with Scott Jurek and what have you.

Tom: Yes, I remember this, I think it was Scott Jurek or it might have been Ryan Hall that you set up first. It was one of our early really good ones where you said to me, “Why don’t you interview such and such?” and I said, “Well we don’t know him?” and you said, “Have you asked?” and I went, “No. Of course not, I’ve not asked them, what a ridiculous suggestion”.

I think you asked them and they said yes! Again, it wasn’t that you were some huge well-known star, which you are now. It was actually just you were brave and bold enough to just ask people. Which a lot of it I was too scared to do. They won’t even reply to my email I thought… You had that ability to just to make things happen?

Ian: Yes, I guess so. I look back or I try and think back why did I think that would happen? I don’t know, maybe I understood the community. I don’t know?

Tom: People put barriers up there don’t they? And you didn’t seem to see those barriers. Even me I consider myself as a relatively barrier-free kind of guy but I even found just asking them to be ridiculous.

Ian: Yes. I asked them and they said yes and then eventually I said to you guys, “You know what? I think the time is now right for an ultra-running podcast, because there’s obviously demand for this!” Then I came up with this crazy concept of doing a show that’s ridiculously long and everybody told me it was a really bad idea, it would never work but actually it has been the ‘USP’ of the show. Thank God I didn’t try and do it every week, because otherwise I’d be at a mental home or an institution [laughs]. It’s bad enough trying to get a show out every two weeks because of the amount of content that I’m trying to put in it.

Tom: I don’t know how you do that?

Ian: My audience run long and so if they’ve got a show that’s three hours, four hours long they take it on their runs, and that was always my idea. I think, if I look back, that was definitely one of the really key things with the podcast, it was making it a long show because the other podcasts that existed were normally 45-minutes to an hour. You can listen to it those shows on the bus, listen to it on the train whereas I produce this show that was long, something to listen to while running long! I think that was one of the key factors of its success.

The podcast was like Marathon Talk. It was something that I was doing outside of everything else and I was still trying to make a living. But once you start contacting these people and interviewing them, you start to realize there is another world out here. As I said, I went to Transvulcania in 2012 at the invite of Skyrunning and I realized then when I was there because of my background as a photographer, because of what I was doing with the podcast – nobody else was doing this. It was that real brainwave moment! If I write, I podcast and I photograph this world, I am completely unique.

That was the moment that I then put everything together and went headfirst into creating what I’ve now created. It was hard and it was slow and it was steady. Once you’ve done one thing good then something else good then people start to ask more and invite more or request more.

I’ve always been very respectful of the runners. It’s really easy to be a fan. A classic example is Kilian. When you see him it would be so easy to go and run over to him and say, “Hi Kilian, how are you?” because he’s Kilian. I don’t do that. If he walks into a room, I’ll wave and I’ll let him come to me. I think that’s the way that I’ve always treated the runners. I just try and treat them as ordinary people.

I also have been very, very careful in what I write and what I say and how I interview them. You’ll know that you often hear things that are not repeatable because you’re having a private conversation. I’ve seen it happen where a private conversation has ended up in print or ended up in a blog or something. That is the moment that your career is over. Once you betray that trust that you’ve built up, then your career is over. So I’ve always respected that, I’ve always respected their private space and that in turn comes back a hundred fold.

I can be at a race and I’ll be having breakfast and for example, let’s say Sage Canaday walks past and he’ll say, “We’re going for a run, do you want to come?”

“Yes, okay.” That’s a really crazy thing to do because you only last about three minutes if you go for a run with Sage. But I think that’s the important thing, that although I’m a photographer and a journalist and I’m writing and communicating about the world that they are in, I’ve broken down a barrier in that yes I’m doing that but I’m also approachable, I’m friendly, and I’m somebody that they don’t mind having around, which isn’t always the case with journalists.

Tom: In that time period, fast forward now to the end of 2016 and you’re making a successful career out of something you love. First of all, that’s not always a good thing. To make your passion your career isn’t always as rosy as it sounds and sometimes people end up… and clearly that’s not the case with you but sometimes people end up no longer liking something they loved because it’s become a job and not fun. I’m interested in your thoughts on that and I’m also interested in your thoughts, without going into too many details and confidential stuff whatever it is, interested in as a business, how that is made up? Because I know having done Marathon Talk for a long time, at best, it’s made a tiny, tiny amount of money at worst it’s cost us a load and most of the time it just about breaks even in terms of costs. It’s not some golden ticket to living in Beverly Hills. You have to do it for passion. What is the business component of your business?

Ian: I learned very early on, once you’ve hit rock bottom you don’t go buy a car, you don’t go buy another house. You keep expenses at minimum and you have fingers in fires.

Tom: Fires or pies?

Ian: Fires or pies, whichever way.

[laughter]

Ian: Is it pies? Fingers in pies, okay?

Tom: Either way [laughs].

Ian: Either way, I’m sure the audience understand. So I’ve never relied on any one particular source of income. I’ve tried to make sure that I’m doing a couple of things to cover the bills if need be. I guess this is one of the reasons why I still edit Marathon Talk. Sometimes I think to myself, “I’ve got so much on and I’ve got to edit Marathon Talk” but then again I remember when I needed Marathon Talk and so I’m reluctant to give things up. Martin said to me recently, “Mate, you need to learn to say no” [laughs], but it’s very, very difficult to say no.

Tom: Slightly rich coming from Yelling!

Ian: Yes, exactly. But you’ll appreciate this and I think most people listening out there appreciate. If you go to the office at nine o’clock and leave at five o’clock and that’s your only obligation and you get your cheque at the end of the month that’s fine, but I don’t. I’m my own boss, bank holidays they don’t exist, weekends they don’t exist. It’s all time that you work and build and like you’ve said, that is one of the negatives. It’s very, very difficult for me to take time away, to take time off because I’m always thinking and when you have a website that is about the sport that happens and changes daily, it’s like having this animal that needs feeding and you have to feed it all the time. You can’t go missing for a week and not post or write something because news has happened.

One the advantages of the world that we live in is thank goodness for the internet, Wi-Fi and mobile phones – you can actually be anywhere in the world and do the job that I do. I don’t know whether I’m answering your question in the correct way but it’s about commitment, it’s about controlling to a certain extent how you start a day and end a day. That start and that end has to be really flexible with no fixed start and no fixed end and you need to fill the time.

Tom: And mixing up podcasting, coaching, speaking, training camps, publications, race coverage…

Ian: Yes, you have to have many different things. Talk Ultra is free for the audience just as Marathon Talk is. I don’t have any sponsors for Talk Ultra and I think it’s fair to say that directly from Talk Ultra, I don’t think I’ve earned anything. But Talk Ultra is a vehicle and we had this conversation years ago about the potential to make a living from a podcast, and I think it is possible but I’d have to devote myself 100% to the podcast and I’ve always had this philosophy with the podcast that I don’t want adverts and jingles. Because I think, from a listening point of view, what would I want to listen to? I wouldn’t want a jingle every 15 minutes, because it would be like turning the TV on and watching the film on ITV and then the commercials come on. I hate it. I don’t want that for the podcast, and although I’ve had conversations with sponsors in the past or potential sponsors, that would’ve been what would have had to have happen, so I didn’t do it. That maybe is a mistake, I don’t know but Talk Ultra has become a vehicle for what I do and it’s an outlet, and it keeps me in the environment that I need to be in not only with the runners, but with the community and the audience, and that’s invaluable. That connects me with everything else I do so when I go to a race, I can get content for the podcast at a race. I can provide a service to a race in the sense that I can give them exposure. That’s all into connecting with the business side of photography and writing.

Tom: It’s amazing. We’ve had various partners on the show on Marathon Talk, and in various things I’ve done we’ve had various shows and sometimes you do think, “I’m not enjoying this component of what I do now because of x, y, or z”. Actually the more you can stay true to your principles the better… I would argue though that you will always struggle to commercialize a five-hour podcast.

Ian: [laughs]

Tom: But commercializing isn’t your primary goal. Your primary goal is to do something you really love, you really enjoy, that people you respect really love and really enjoy what you do, and then turn that into a career as opposed to the former.

Ian: I think about moments in the podcast and you said this to Martin some time ago, but I think it was a significant episode of yours. Maybe the 300th, or the 250th, or something. I remember you saying to Martin, “You know what? I’m really, really proud of what we’ve got because even if the show stopped tomorrow, we have documented an era of sport that is there for lifetime.”

I think about some of the things that I’ve got. I interviewed Kilian when he set the fastest known time to the summit of the Matterhorn – I interviewed him the day after. I think about that interview and I think, “That is gold.” That is a pure piece of gold that can be listened to at any point. I interviewed Scott Jurek and his wife, Jenny for over an hour after they set the record on the Appalachian Trail last year. I think to myself, an hour of getting into the mind of Scott, you can’t put a price on that type of thing and I think that’s why the show works. If an interview takes 90 minutes, it takes 90 minutes. Of course, I might edit it down but the point is you can go so deep and get so much information in that time that you can’t get that anywhere, and I think that’s one of the advantages of Talk Ultra, and I think that’s why the audience like it.

Tom: I’m absolutely sure you’re right. It’s so rare to get good quality, in-depth content about people. So much of what we do now is snippets, and 30 seconds here, and as much as I love BBC and so on, it’s very rare you get in-depth with one person, and maybe on multiple occasions. Some of my proudest moments, the things I can share is the interview with Chris Chataway, or Martin’s show with Sammy Wanjiru, people who aren’t with us anymore. In that form, that’s documented not only just for a lifetime but forever, that’s out there digitally as in-depth stuff. When you look at that whole journey you’ve been on in for the last six, seven years, what are some of the highlights? Tell me about a couple of the moments… When you look back, there must have been some moments where you just had to pinch yourself and say, “I can’t quite believe I’m stood here doing this.”

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Ian: To be honest, and this is going to sound quite corny but it happens almost every month and sometimes it happens every week. I never take what I do for granted and I look at the amount of time that I’ve spent on the road in one year, and the places that I’ve been. This is going to sound like name-dropping and I guess it is name-dropping but this year alone, I’ll have been to Costa Rica rainforest, the Sahara, Nepal, to Everest, South Africa, Australia, and I just think… you said at the beginning of the show that you’re living the dream, and yes. I’m sorry, but I do actually think that sometimes I am living the dream. But it’s not easy and there’s a big price to pay for that. I’m in a relationship and that makes a relationship very, very hard when you spend so much time on the road.

But key moments, I remember 2012, when all this started. There’s a mountain race in Italy called, Trofeo Kima, it’s one of the ultimate races. It takes place at high altitude, 3,000 meters, the course is ice, glaciers, rocks, via Ferrata. It’s just the most extreme race. I turned up at this race and I thought, “How on earth am I going to cover this race?” It’s 50 odd kilometers. Kilian can win the race in six and a half hours. How am I going to get around? They said, “Here’s a helicopter” and basically I just leapfrogged the course in a helicopter. The helicopter couldn’t land so we had to hover above the mountains and I had to climb out of this helicopter while it’s hovering, and then I’d have to run on the course, take photographs, run back, get on the helicopter, move to the next place. That was a real pinch moment. Marathon des Sables with Sir Ranulph Fiennes – daily going in to see him in the morning, seeing him at night, and chatting to the real James Bond. Ranulph Fiennes is the real James Bond. The guy is incredible. Here he is, one of the oldest competitors ever to complete Marathon des Sables, and of course Kilian. Kilian is an easy, a very, very easy name to drop but he is a legend. I’ve been at some of those key moments when he’s created a piece of history. He didn’t invite me to Everest though which was a bit disappointing.

Tom: Rude, I’d call it.

Ian: Rude.

Tom: Downright offensive.

Ian: [laughs] I don’t think I would have lasted very long at six, 7,000 meters with Kilian.

Tom: Yes, keep up with those cameras on your back.

Ian: Yes. It’s very difficult to pick races and people. There’s a race in South Africa called, the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun, and it takes place in one of these remote places on the Namibian border. The race actually crosses the Orange river, goes into Namibia. It’s one of the oldest places on the planet, the landscape is amazing. You spend a night in the middle of nowhere in a tent, looking up at the amazing South African skies and you think, “Wow. I’m actually here working.” It’s just moments like that. Like I said, I never take anything for granted. Tomorrow, I go to Italy and I’ll be on Lake Garda, and I’ll be working in the mountains behind Lake Garda, and that almost becomes just an ordinary weekend. But I still get on the mountain, and I look down, and I look at the lake and I think, “Look at this, this is my office. This is today’s office. This is amazing”.

Tom: A really interesting thought about hobbies. He says picking himself up… but an interesting observation of mine from running is that we separate the rest of running from ultra-running, the ultra-running seems to have done, in my opinion a really, really great job. A bit like cycling, of positioning itself as an aspiration or the aspiration is to see beautiful places, meet wonderful people, build friendships, be outside and it’s seen as enjoyable for its own sake, for the fact of doing it whereas the rest of running has got so fixated on times and have you done a marathon? And what’s your PB? It forgot, in my opinion, the rest of running forgot about the nicer things. Running is almost unique, I would say, in that you ask most runners if they enjoy running, most of them will say, “No” and they’ll come out with, “Well, I can eat cake at the weekend” or something, whatever it is. They don’t really enjoy it, whereas ultra-runners, it seems to me, have got it right and they are actually in the moment. For example, we’re talking about what are your best experiences are and they are amazing, bucket list experiences that actually anybody can do. Most of these races anybody can endure, anybody can take part and anybody can have the same experience.

Ian: You are exactly right. The sport is changing slightly, you know the FKT, fastest known time is becoming more and more popular, but it’s still taking place in the stunning location in an amazing environment. An FKT is about a runner setting something against a clock in a place and it’s the place that actually is really significant. Just this last weekend, a runner called Jim Walmsley set a new record in the Grand Canyon, running the rim-to -rim but also doing the rim-to-rim-to-rim, which is out and back. The Grand Canyon as a location is a stunning place and the speed that he ran is just absolutely phenomenal, but it was him in his environment testing himself and the point is that with an FKT, an FKT is personal. You can have your own FKT, your own fastest known time and that is great! As somebody who was competitive in terms of competitive with myself, not necessarily competitive within the sense of being elite but I always tried to do my best and a few years ago I started to get chronic knee problems and that has seriously impacted on what I can do. So FKT’s and personal journeys are great. I get asked all the time, “Ian, do you miss racing?” and I say, “No.” because I’m in the domain, I’m with the runners, I’m at races, and yes all right I’m not racing myself, but I’m still getting a fix. I can still be on the mountain, within the landscape – I just do things now at my pace, at my distance because the two are connected.

If I get a day free before a race or a day free after the race I can go out on the race course and experience what the runners are going to experience in the race, but in my own time and then I can come back and talk to them and say, “I went up today and I did the vertical kilometer and came back down.” And they don’t ask, “Oh, what time did you do?”, they’ll just go, “Oh, cool, so you managed to find some time to get up there, yes the mountain’s stunning, isn’t it brilliant?” That’s the type of scenario that that we’re in. I think it started to get clouded a little bit with some prize money that’s coming in, and of course UTMB last year, we had the first EPO case which has raised alarm bells and then we’ve got the craziness of people like Rob Young. Underneath it all, Rob is a person and why did he think he was going to get away with it? You actually have to think, what was the reason he made that really bad decision? With the amount of scrutiny he was going to get… he wasn’t even a good liar. Why would you try and run a sub-three marathon when you’re running three thousand miles?

Tom: Unfortunately, I think a lot of these things slide, they start out with the best intentions, they get carried away and then they just bend things a little bit because actually it’s a good outcome… Raising money for charity or whatever it is and actually the mind’s very clever in saying, “Well, that’s all right, you’re doing that for the right reasons” and then once you’re on that slope you just get tangled up and it runs away with you, doesn’t it?

Ian: It’s like Lance.

Tom: Exactly.

Ian: Lance, still to this day didn’t do anything wrong. That’s his viewpoint. He didn’t do anything wrong, because everybody else was doing it. And he still believes that.

Tom: And I understand that, I don’t agree with it, but I understand that and I think I think sometimes we don’t understand how people’s minds work, how things change over time, how motivations can blur things up and it’s crazy…

Tom: A bit of a cheesy question but I think a really interesting question. If you were, let’s take you back 30 years or 20 years and you’re 20 or 30 years old and you’re in the absolute shape of your life, fighting fit, but you know what you know now, so you know all the races you’ve been to, you’ve seen them firsthand, if you could be in the form of your life just once and go to one race and absolutely smash it to pieces, where would you go?

Ian: That’s a really tough one. Can I give you two answers?

Tom: You can give me two answers.

Ian: Okay. From an ultra-running perspective there would be an obvious choice because you would go where you would have the biggest audience so that would be something like UTMB, because that’s the big showcase. If you won UTMB then you’d get all the plaudits and the slap on the back and equally something like Western States. It’s a much smaller race, but it’s completely respected in the community.

Tom: Comrades if we’re going on the road?

Ian: Comrades if you’re on the road equally. Mountain UTMB, trail Western States, road Comrades. If you could have your day and be up there and fighting with a chance for the podium one of those three races would be incredible. But if I could just go to a race and just have an absolutely fantastic time and feel brilliant, I’d probably choose a multi-stage race, like marathon Des Sables or Everest Trail Race because what I love about those races from a working point of view and from a running point of view is that they are journeys. I love to be in this place where they have a start point and a finish point and the way that you move through that landscape is by foot. Most of the time all the modern gizmos are gone because you’re self-sufficient, so your phone won’t work and it’s pointless carrying it, because it’s just weight, you’re eating around campfires, there’s no TV, there’s no music, there’s nothing and it’s primal.

When I work on those races you come out of those races and you think, “That was just a transformative process”. I often interview runners who’ve gone through that for the first time and it’s changed their lives, they are not the same people who went in the race when they come out. They’re different, and it often changes what they do and for a lot of people it can be that point where it was for me in 2008, they come out of the desert or the mountains and they say, “You know what? I’m going to change my job and I’m going to find a way to give myself either more time or more money or whatever it is, but allow myself the freedom to do more of this, more adventures, more exploration”.

Tom: You’re talking about life changing and so on, some of your guests have changed my life. You interviewed Barry Murray in a really fascinating interview and we ended up getting Barry on our show and then Barry ended up working with me for a year, helping me with my nutrition and lifestyle stuff. There’s actually, selfishly, there’s things that come out of the stuff we do that actually helps us. Have there been examples, cases with the people you’ve met and interviewed who they’ve really moved your life into another direction as well?

Ian: Yes, I think there’s people that have inspired me in racing and the top-end runners inspire me all the time, but it’s really the mid-packers and the back of the packers that are the true inspiration because you know, Scott Jurek or Karl Meltzer or Emily Forsberg or whoever it is, they’ve got that natural innate ability that makes them a supreme being and then what they do with that talent is they nurture it and they train it and they become better but the natural ability is there. What I’m always amazed at is when I go to a race and I see the back of the packer and I look at them and I think, “Why are you doing this race?” Because even if it’s a good race for them, they are going to suffer but they actually embrace the journey, they embrace the process and I always tell a story about Marathon des Sables to provide perspective. There’s a British guy called Tobias Mews who I think you know, Tom? He was the highest placed Britain until I think James Cracknell beat him…

Tom: 12th place or almost there I think.

Ian: Yes, I think up until that point Tobias had been around about 18th or 19th. I went to a talk where Tobias was speaking with his best friend. They were both in the army or should I say they were both ex-military and they’d both worked in the same regiment. Tobias stood up and he said, “I just want to tell you a story about the perspective of the Marathon des Sables.” He said, “I finished the whole race in around about 22 hours for the whole race. Whereas my friend here did just the long day in 36 hours.”

Just the long day in 36-hours and his finishing time was something like 60 hours, almost three times longer than Tobias!

It’s that perspective that I see every single time I go to a race. The front people are the front people, they’re fast, they’re gifted, they’re talented, they’ll have the highs and the lows but it’s all the ones at the back who are putting one foot in front of the other. I think if you can take that motto into whatever you do daily… There’s always going to be somebody better than you but you have to keep going forward, you have to keep pushing, you have to keep putting the commitment in and if you don’t put the commitment in then it’s a DNF and you don’t finish. That’s the same whether it’s work, family, relationships, whatever. So I don’t think there’s any one significant person, although there are many interviews that have really changed me but I think as a global thing, it’s the experience of what people go through to achieve their own personal goals – I think that’s the most inspirational thing.

Tom: Finally, of course, I can’t let you go without asking you a question. You’ve edited and listened to this show every week for the last four years or something like that, so you know it intimately. Let’s cut straight to the chase – six months, perfect training on the track, one mile… how fast?

Ian: Can I have somebody else’s knees?

Tom: Somebody else’s knees, yes.

Ian: I knew this question was coming and I didn’t think about the answer.

Tom: Have you done any timed run in the last year?

Ian: No.

Tom: No? Okay. Nothing to go off?

Ian: My last marathon was Paris three years ago and I ran 2:53. So that’s what?

Tom: 6min 30s pace?

Ian: Yes, it’s about that… I’d say I’d probably be lucky to get a 5:30!

Tom: That would put you with Rich Castro, Frank Shorter, Kirk Parsley, Simon Weir etc. I think that sounds about right, you happy with that 5:30?

Ian: Yes, I think so. It does hurt me a little bit because I know that you hit five minutes. I’m tempted to say 4:59 [laughs]. I think I’d be pushing the boat out for a 4:59.

Tom: Well, I haven’t got your knees, my knees work. It’s the difference.

Ian: I should try with Kilian’s knees shouldn’t I?

Tom: Absolutely! Look, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking, thank you for sharing your amazing story or inspirational story. Apologies that it’s taken so long but it was worth the wait and I can’t wait to get my copy of the book, Running Beyond.

Ian: Yes, I’m sure there’s some non-signed copies out there as well if you want one. 😉

******

Many thanks to Tom Williams and Marathon Talk Podcast for allowing me to transcribe the interview for my website. RUNNING BEYOND book is available worldwide HERE

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“Ian has been there to witness the stories. He knows the sport, he practices it and he has been involved in many different aspects, all of which provides him with a great overview. He has the strength and character to work many hours, even practicing his own ultra with cameras in order to capture the emotions and the passion from inside the sport. Ian has immense enthusiasm, and his commitment to following a race knows no bounds.”

 

“Ian’s photographs convey the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerses you in the aura of each race. We are able to feel what the runners have felt, and it is the closest you will get without being there yourself. It is a great journey, and one that you are able to follow yourself in Running Beyond.” – Kilian Jornet

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As a final note, I need to give a huge thanks to my soul mate Niandi Carmont who has been a rock since 2009 and supported me on my journey in the world of trail, mountain and the ultra world – without her support and continued support this journey would not be possible. Thanks!

Niandi running above the clouds in what feels like our second home, La Palma.

Niandi running above the clouds in what feels like our second home, La Palma.

Jason Schlarb to run The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017

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Jason Schlarb shot to notoriety after winning Run Rabbit Run 100-mile race in 2013. What has followed is a rise through the ultra ranks. A 4th place at UTMB placed Jason as one of the most successful Americans ever to perform at the big dance in Chamonix – a race that has proven elusive for Americans to crack until recently. The true sign of a true champion is when they go back to a race and win again… Jason did this at Run Rabbit Run winning again in 2015. However, all previous results pale into insignificance after Jason crossed the line hand-in-hand with Kilian Jornet at the 2016 Hardrock 100.

Hardrock, a low-key event in comparison to some of the big ‘hundos’ is for many the epitome of the mountain ultra world – with 100 miles to cover and relentless vertical gain at altitude, it is the grandad event that all other races look up to. For Jason to win it alongside arguably the greatest mountain runner in the world is a huge accolade.

However, before Jason ran the Hardrock 100 event, in winter of the same year, he covered the Hardrock 100 route on skis – a first! It was quite the event and experience and what followed was an immersion into the heat of the Sahara.

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Jason raced the 2016 Marathon des Sables and found it a real challenge, I wondered, what was it about multi-day racing that appeals to him, after all, he has a reputation of being a single stage racer.

“One of the aspects of stage racing I appreciate the most, is being able to spend quality time with other athletes over multiple days. There are great opportunities to make life long friends at stage races. I really look forward to reuniting with my Norwegian Altra teammate Sondre Amdahl at TCC. Sondre and I have raced together on a number of occasions and we both raced at Marathon des Sables, he placed 8th and I was 12th. I wouldn’t mind setting things right and beating Sondre at the Costal Challenge in February :)”

But I wondered, is racing for multiple days harder than racing for one day?

“Stage racing creates prolonged drama, excitement and amazing entertainment for both spectators and athletes alike, what is there to not like about that? Stage racing, to me, is far more difficult. One must perform well day-after-day and juggle an extended game of being patient and balancing effort.”

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At Marathon des Sables I had noticed that a lack of rest and a lack of calories made the Sharan challenge difficult for Jason, although TCC is not a completely self-sufficient race, I asked Jason what are the challenges he thinks he may encounter during The Coastal Challenge?

“For me, the Coastal Challenge presents a unique obstacle of performing well in a hot and humid climate while living and training in a snowy and cold climate. I will also need to focus on speed training this winter to be ready for faster, lower altitude running verse my usual high altitude, mountain running. Staying blister and generally injury free over multiple days of racing is also a big task at the Coastal Challenge.”

Snow and cold temperatures are not ideal preparation for the heat, humidity, rainforests, long stretches of beaches and technical trail of Costa Rica – is this going to be perfect running terrain or a real challenge?

“Traveling through wild lands is always a thing of perfection in my mind, but that perfection always presents challenge – that’s why we do it! I love Costa Rica. My family lived there for 2 years while I was at University, so, I always look forward to going back.”

©iancorless.com_MDS2016-1834You have already mentioned that you will have snow and cold temperatures to deal with in the build up to TCC. You have also said that you will need some speed but will you do any specific training for Costa Rica and what are the race plans for later in 2017?

“TCC is my only winter race this year, so most all of my training this winter will be geared towards performing well at TCC. Transvulcania in May will be my next focus race followed by a return to Hardrock 100 in July and hopefully Grand Raid/Diagonal des Fous in October.”

Have you thought about equipment, shoe choices and other details for the race?

“I have not figured out my race kit for TCC yet. While I almost always race in Altra Paradigms, I am pretty confident I will be racing in a different, higher traction shoe called the Altra King MT (coming out next year). I’ll use a Ultimate Direction racing vest, but besides that, I have some work to do selecting equipment.”

TCC and Costa Rica has a reputation for being a relaxed and enjoyable race – do you think holidays that combine a race are a good idea?

“Absolutely. I’ve paired holiday travel both alone and with my family my whole trail running career. Europe, New Zealand, Iceland, you name it! Importantly though, holiday and racing can be two in the same for me, but it isn’t easy to do. I have failed before at properly managing the balance (UTMB this last summer, for example) between traveling, holiday, fun, training and racing abroad. Balancing things with clear boundaries, a plan and discipline is essential. As far as enjoying myself before and after each stage, that just depends on the day, my mood, physical condition, performance etc…”

As one season comes to an end and Jason prepares for 2017, I ask what he is most looking forward to?

“I look forward to escaping winter for a fantastic world class event in Costa Rica. I am very excited to both prepare for and experience the Costal Challenge.”

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-3084
The Coastal Challenge is a multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-0563

Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

ENTRIES ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR THE 2017 EDITION
Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

More information:

Read the full 2016 race story HERE

View and purchase images for the 2016 race HERE

Follow #TCC2017

 

Tom Owens to race The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017

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Tom Owens is without doubt one of the most inspiring runners from the UK who performs consistently on the world stage. Fell runner, ultra runner and Skyrunner, Tom has pushed the world best.

Back in the day, Tom forged a reputation for himself with Andy Symonds at the Transalpine run where the duo were a formidable force. In recent years, Tom has mixed fell running and Skyrunning. In 2012, Tom placed 2nd behind Kilian Jornet at the iconic Trofeo Kima, he looked set to dominate the Skyrunning circuit but injury hit. Time away and keeping fit doing cyclocross, it was 2014 when the Glasgow based runner finally re-emerged at Transvulcania.

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Transvulcania was a surprise return… renowned for running shorter races, Tom stepped up to 70+km – an unknown commodity. Class shone through and he placed 6th. A 3rd at Ice Trail Tarentaise and then 4th at Trofeo Kima and we all knew – Tom was back.

2015 started really well with a win overseas at the Buffalo Stampede in Australia, 6th at Matterhorn Ultraks and arguably his best result came with 4th in the IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy.

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Roll on to 2016 and Tom focused on the Skyrunning Extreme Series that combined all the elements that make Tom, the great runner that he is. Technical trails, altitude, distance and an ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Victory at Tromso SkyRace and 5th at Trofeo Kima set Tom up for a potential overall title.

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Going into the Glencoe Skyline, a head-to-head being Tom and Jon Albon whet everyones appetites. On the day, Albon excelled and it was 2nd for the Scot.

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As 2016 comes to a close, Tom is looking ahead to 2017. Not known for his ability to handle heat and humidity, I wondered why Costa Rica?

“It looks beautiful, exciting and warm! I always like to escape the Scottish Winter for a week big volume warm weather running in January or February –  it seems to set me up well for the rest of the year.”

And what about the heat and humidity?

“The heat and humidity will be massively challenging. I’ve not worked out how to run well in these conditions. It will be my first big block of running in 2017 and so interesting to see how the body holds up. I also find running in sand really tough…”

Costa Rica may well prove to be much more of a test of running. We all know Tom can handle the rough and technical stuff – the river and bouldering sections will put the fell/ Skyrunner in the terrain that he loves. But Costa Rica will have sand too, albeit not soft sand. It may well be a whole new learning curve.

“It’s going to be  real challenge for sure but that is what makes it interesting! I will be at a disadvantage against pure multi-day runners but I will embrace it. Running day-after day is not really a problem, I love the technical stuff but it’s the heat and humidity that will really test me as I have already mentioned. I have really suffered in such races with cramps (I’m a big sweater) such as at Transvulcania, Buffalo Stampede and the recent World Trail Champs.”

Scotland and the UK is not going to be the ideal place train for a Costa Rican race in February, I wondered if Tom had any specific training plans to be prepared?

“I’m looking forward to trying some different strategies to cope with the heat – I hope the TCC will help me with the some of the other objectives that will take place in remainder of the year. In regard to training, I will aim to get back into regular running mid/late December or early January and build up some endurance. Beyond Coastal Challenge I have no 2017 plans yet. I only ended the 2016 season a couple of days ago – it was a really long (from Feb till end October) and fun season but now i’m enjoying a break and not doing any planning at the moment.” 

Competition in the men’s race will be fierce, the recent announcement of Sondre Amdahl’s participation will no doubt focus the mind of Tom and the other male competitors. But a physical and mental rest is required before thinking about 2017. One thing is for sure, Tom always races to win and he will be prepared come February.

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About the race:

The Coastal Challenge is a multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience.

Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-2993

Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

The Coastal Challenge which will take place Feb 10th – 19th, 2017.

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

ENTRIES ARE STILL AVAILABLE FOR THE 2017 EDITION

Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

More information:

Read the full 2016 race story HERE

View and purchase images for the 2016 race HERE

Follow #TCC2017

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-1567

10 Top Tips for Multistage and Multi-Day Racing

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Running is running yes? Anyone can do it! Well I guess the answer is yes. However, variables come in to play. Running is broken down into many different distances, from 100m to 100-miles and beyond. The longer we run, the more the challenges and requirements on a runner change. Running for multiple days or running a multistage race on mixed terrain throws up many different scenarios. Over the years I have spoken with many champions who have raced in the sands of the Sahara, the forests of Costa Rica and the mountainous paths of Nepal. They all provide me with similar hints ’n’ tips to a successful multistage race.

Here is a top 10.

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1 – RUNNING IN THE SAND

Desert races are very popular. Marathon des Sables for example is the father of multistage racing and over the years, many races have followed in the MDS format. A desert race is never all dunes but some races have more soft sand than others, so, be prepared. To avoid getting tired it’s important to read the terrain. Carve your own path running on fresh sand and when possible, run along the ridges. In smaller dunes (dunettes) it can be beneficial to run in tracks left by others, at all times, run light as though running on ice – you don’t want to sink in the sand!

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2 – HYDRATION

Dehydration is a real risk in any race, particularly a self-sufficient race where water is rationed. The risks of dehydration increase when the mercury rises and a lack of cover comes. A desert for example will be open, have intense heat but humidity will be low. By contrast, a jungle such as those found in Costa Rica may well have plenty of tree cover and streams to cool off in but the humidity will be through the roof. In both scenarios it’s important to drink regularly. Take small and regular sips of water and supplement lost salt with salt tablets. Races like Marathon des Sables provide salt tablets at aid stations and they recommend dosage. Other races you will need to think of this and plan accordingly. Also think about food choices on the trail and when in camp – food rich in minerals and salts will also help you. Importantly, multistage racing is about management from day-to-day and this is what can trip people up. Think about the event as a whole and make sure you recover after each day – rehydrating is as important post a run as when running.

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3 – BLISTERS

Many a multistage race is ruined by bad personal management of feet. Think about this well in advance of the race by choosing socks and shoes that work for you. Also choose shoes appropriate for the terrain you will be racing on. A shoe for MDS will be very different to a shoe for the Himalayas for example. By all means take advice on shoes from previous competitors BUT you are unique and your needs are unique. Do you pronate? Do you supinate? Do you need a low or high drop? Do you prefer a cushioned shoe or a more minimalist shoe? What about grip, do you need any? Do you need to fit gaiters? The questions can go on and on and only you can make a choice. If all this is new to you. Go to a running store that understand runners and can provide expert and impartial advice. They will assess you and your run style and provide advice. One consideration for multistage racing is that your foot ‘can’ possibly swell due to variables such as heat, running day-after-day and so on. Your foot will not go longer, but it may go wider. So, think about shoes that have some room in the toe box. Don’t purchase shoes that are 1 or 2 sizes larger – this is poor advice. Larger shoes will only allow your foot to move… a moving foot causes friction, friction increases the risk of soreness and soreness will lead to a blister. Also think about walking. Many people choose a shoe because they are good to run in… But how do they feel when you walk? Remember, a multistage race can involve a great deal of walking!

Do you have sensitive feet? If so, you can prepare your feet in the run-up to an event by hardening them with special products. Also make sure your nails are trimmed back. While racing, if you have blisters, stop and get them treated as soon as possible. Take responsibility and learn basic footsore before an event. You need to make sure you can make any necessary treatments. Finally, many races have a medical team that are provided to look after you and your feet. Don’t hesitate to use them, but remember, there may be a big line waiting. Self-care is an excellent way to make sure that you are ready to run in your own timeline.

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4 – BALANCED PACK

Not all multistage races are the same. The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, for example, is not self-sufficient so a runner only needs to carry liquid, snack food and any ‘mandatory’ kit. By contrast, a self-sufficient multistage race requires you to carry everything. A simple rule is keep everything as light as possible and keep your pack balanced. Luxuries really are luxuries in a race over multiple days so really ask yourself, do I need to take that? You will need mandatory kit as specified by the race and in addition you will need (as a guide):

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping matt
  • Warm layer
  • Spare socks
  • Food (minimum calories are specified per day)

Clothes, shoes, hat, sunglasses –  but you will be wearing these so they don’t go in the pack.

That’s it. Keep it simple and if at all possible, get your pack with its contents as close the minimum weight as specified by the race.

By general consensus, a luxury item is considered a music player (or 2) such as an iPod shuffle.

Also remember that minimum pack weight will be without water, so, if your pack weighs 6.5kg, you will have to add 1.5kg on the start line on day 1. This is where a front pack or a pack where bottles sit on the front works really well. Bottles on the front help balance the front and the back and provide a greater running experience. Also, think about items your need whilst running… it’s not a good idea having them in the back, they need to be at the front so you can access them ‘on-the-go!’

Many packs are available to choose from and you will see two or three are very popular – WAA, Ultimate Direction and Raidlight. Choosing a pack is light choosing shoes; we are all personal. However, keep a pack simple, make sure it’s comfortable and make sure it has little or no bounce when running/ walking.

Consider joining a multistage/ multi-day training camp in Lanzarote with Elisabet Barnes – winner of the 2015 Marathon des Sables, Oman Desert Marathon and 2016 Big Red Run and podium places at the 2016 The Coastal Challenge, Richtersveld Wildrun and Grand to Grand. Information and dates on our next raining camp HERE

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5 – PROTECT FROM THE SUN

The sun can be a killer in any race, single stage or multistage – use sun protection and apply it daily. Also use products like arm coolers, a hat and a buff. At aid stations or whilst racing, you can keep these wet which will help cool you. Particularly the buff. If you overheat, slow down and apply cold/ water to the back of the neck. Use UV protective clothing and the jury is out on if clothing should be tight or loose. This often comes down to personal preference.

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6 – EAT WELL

Any multistage race is quickly broken down into three phases – running, eating and sleeping. Food is a really important part of any race as it has to perform many functions. Most importantly, it has to sustain you so you will need carbohydrate, protein and fat. Individual requirements will vary but carbs will restore energy, protein will repair and fat is essential as this is one of the primary fuel sources for a multistage race. Remember though, our bodies have an unlimited reserve of fat. It’s important to understand that your diet whilst training may well be very different to when racing. In training you may well have eaten less carbs to teach your body to use fat, but when racing, you need to recover and be ready to run/race again the next day. Have variety in your food as your palette will change with fatigue, dehydration and heat. Real foods are good but dehydrated food also has a place. You also need to decide if you will require a stove for heating water? Don’t think twice about stepping up a little on the organization’s requisite minimum daily dose of 2,000 calories a day, remember though, it’s all weight!

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7 – REST

Rest is crucial and how much you get will depend on how fast you run. Front runners have no shortage of rest time, however, those at the back of the race get minimal rest. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag that is warm enough for you and is as light and packs small as possible. You can save weight by not carrying a sleeping matt – general consensus says that carrying one is worthwhile as sitting and sleeping is much more comfortable. Matts come in two types: inflatable or sold foam. Inflatable matts work really well, pack small but you run the risk of a puncture without diligence. Foam matts won’t puncture but they can be bulky.

Make sure you have a warm layer for comfort, temperatures drop with darkness. A jacket (usually down) will also allow you to add warmth while sleeping if required. A lightweight sleeping bag and down jacket is preferable (by general consensus) over a combination sleeping bag that turns into a jacket. A jacket and bag offers flexibility, weighs less and packs smaller but will be considerably more expensive.

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8 – PACE

Remember that you have entered a race that lasts multiple days. Spread your effort and have the big picture in mind – pace yourself. Don’t set off too quickly and consider race profiles, distances and cut-off times. YOU take responsibility of when you need to be at checkpoints. A day with a great deal of climbing, soft sand or technical train will take longer, allow for this and be prepared. Most multistage races have a long day and it’s fair to say it is the most feared day – keep some energy back for that day. Remember, the long day often has a generous time allowance so don’t be worried by taking a sleep break midway through.

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9 – KEEP ON TRACK

Most races will have markers for you to follow but be sensible and self-aware of the challenge. If a race requires you to carry a map and compass, then please understand how to use them. Carry a Spot Tracker for safety and if you use a GPS such as Suunto or Garmin, remember that these watches plot a route that you can use to backtrack. In a race like MDS it is difficult to go off course due to the volume of people, remember though that dunes are not way-marked and you will be given a bearing to run off. If you are alone or in the dark, an understanding of how this works is a positive.

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10 – ENJOY IT

A multistage journey often offers so much more than any single-day race. It’s an experience like no other and friends made in the desert, jungle or mountains will stay with you forever. Also remember that this journey is a hark back to a more primitive and simple time – embrace that. Leave your phone at home, leave gadgets at home and live a simple life for a week – I guarantee it will change you!

contributions from

Elisabet Barnes, Danny Kendall, Jo Meek, Nikki Kimball and Laurence Klein

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