Training for an ultra marathon while travelling can be a challenge, but my time in Bahrain did prepare me well for the humidity I find myself in. I am currently near the rainforest of Sinharaja in southern Sri Lanka. The temperature is around 30C and with the almost-daily rain, the humidity is high. By 9 o’clock in the morning, it is too hot to run, and by noon it is almost too hot to walk. To combat these conditions, I have been rising as early as possible to try and get the day’s training in before it becomes impossible.
In April I will run the Hoka Highland Fling, and in June, the West Highland Way Race (WHW). These are 53 and 95 miles respectively, and this means I really need to concentrate on getting the running in, even when I don’t want to. In December I took part in Marcothon, a month-long period of running at least 5K or for 25 minutes every day. I ran around Amwaj, some days once around the loop, and some days twice. This has stood me in excellent stead for the next stage, as winter base-building and discipline of running every day naturally leads on to a higher quality of training.
While some running magazines or so-called experts will tell you to run every day, for as long as you can, this isn’t always the best way to go about preparing for a race. This method can lead to fatigue or even injury. This goes for all runners, whether you are training for your first 5K or your 10th marathon.
The best training includes some distance work, some speed work, and some sort of cross-training. While some people like to swim or cycle, I am finding that strength training is working wonders for me. At the moment I am volunteering at an eco-resort, and lugging rocks and bags of compost about all day is a fantastic alternative to a gym!
The resort is at the top of a very steep hill, which was no fun to walk up carrying all my bags a few days ago. However, I have been making use of the terrain to do some hill running. This sort of workout can be added in to any running training, as it is a way to use different muscles for a stronger body. Training on hills for a flat race will always result in a faster time.
The Fling and the WHW are run on the same long-distance walking route, starting at Glasgow and finishing at Fort William. Trotting down the slope as quickly as possible, watching where I put my feet in order not to slip, is a great way to get used to the similar conditions on the route of the two races. Turning around at the bottom and steeling myself to blast up the hill as fast as I can is a lesson in willpower, as by the second attempt, never mind the third, I want to cry. At the moment I cannot get all the way up in one go, but I hope that by the time I leave this place I will have mastered the ascent.
This is one aspect of running in Bahrain that I missed. When we were scoping out the route of the Marathon Relay in November, my running partner commented that some of the legs were harder than others due to the hills. I nodded in agreement even though I couldn’t see any hills for myself, thinking that perhaps when I was actually running they would become clear. They didn’t. As flat as it is, Bahrain is good for distance work and getting used to the heat, but I’m glad I didn’t need to find a hill to practise on while I was there.