I recently gave a talk to a running community about how to prepare for the Race to the Stones Ultra, which is a 100km ultra marathon happening on 16/17th July. I thought I’d share some of the tips that I gave them here.

Running far is really about one word. Energy. When thinking about energy, I think it’s helpful to focus on physical and mental energy.

In contrast to shorter races, physical energy when running long distances is about conservation not expenditure. I like to break energy conservation down into four parts: Form, Comfort, Eating and Drinking and Pace.

Physical form when running long distances is very important. It doesn’t matter how well you prepare, if you’re form isn’t right, your body won’t be able to carry you to the finish line. This may not be for everyone (and please don’t change your form if you’re not comfortable!), but I tend to find that good form looks something like the following: forearms running parallel to the ground as if they are tied to two train tracks leading you into the distance (make sure if they do swing a bit from side to side that they don’t cross your sternum); head still; shoulders open, which really helps breathing; you should be breathing naturally and easily; lean forward slightly to benefit from gravity pulling you forward; and stay loose. Don’t tighten up.

Comfort is really important when running a long way. Make sure you wear clothing that you’re used to and that you’re comfortable in. Remember that when you run far, you’ll need to carry things with you – which will likely weigh something! So train with weight so you’re used to it. Blisters can be a problem, and if you suffer from them, keep changing up your socks until you find ones that don’t rub. Iodine is the best thing to put on blisters if they’ve popped. Remember Vaseline for those areas that might chaff and don’t forget to cut your toenails!

What you eat and drink is important for physical comfort during a long run. The night before a long run, eat what you normally eat, maybe a little bit more, but add a little more salt. You lose a lot of salt running a long way, which is why taking on board electrolytes is important. In the morning, things like porridge, muesli, nuts (walnuts and almonds), seeds, bananas and honey are all good things to go for. Don’t over eat and drink and avoid sugar - unless you hit the wall, in which case I find sugar can be helpful to give me an energy boost. Most importantly, listen to your body’s wisdom; check in regularly on how you’re doing and adjust accordingly.

Pace is something that is individual to everyone, and that really is the first tip: make sure you run at the pace that you naturally feel comfortable at. Try to avoid keeping up with your super fast friend or looking after someone less experienced. It uses energy to run at a pace away from what is naturally comfortable for you. You should be able to hold a conversation at your natural pace. I tend to walk up hills – the time gained is not worth the energy you’ll burn racing to the top.

I will discuss mental energy in my next post!