Over the past few months, I’ve been training hard to prepare for Ultra Trail Australia’s 100km trail race. The race isn’t until mid-May this year but it’s a heck of a long way and to get through it happy and injury free, you gotta start early.

But running 100km is not for everyone and my running adventures has piqued interest in many friends, family and work colleagues. In fact, I’ve been answering just as many questions as I’m running kilometers about what it takes to get the job done.

So here it is, my top FAQs into what it takes to run 100km…..

What’s your weekly routine like?

It can vary week-to-week depending on work and family commitments and energy levels. But most of the time it looks like this:

  MORNING LUNCH EVENING
MONMobility & Stretch
Run (1hr)
Pilates
(45-min)
Foam roll and stretch
(20-mins)
TUESMobility & Stretch
Run (1hr)
  Foam roll and stretch
(20-mins)
WEDWalk & stretch
or sleep-in!
Pilates
(45-min)
Foam roll and stretch
(20-mins)
THUR Mobility & Stretch
Run (1hr)
  Foam roll and stretch
(20-mins)
FRIPilates (45-min)   Foam roll and stretch
(20-mins)
SATMobility & Stretch
Long Run (2+hrs)
   
SUN Sleep-in! Yeah!!
Mobility & Stretch
Recovery Run
(45-mins)
  Foam roll and stretch
(20-mins)

How often do you stretch?

Everyday. Small and often is my mantra. I have a pre and post run routine that I do and then I spend about 15-20mins at night rolling on the floor in front of the telly. I try not to overcomplicate it. I focus on what feels the tightest and where my weaknesses may be.

Pre-run mobility:

I prefer to run first thing in the morning. To sweep away the cobwebs and prepare the body for movement I spend 3-5mins on a little mobility/yoga routine. It usually involves:

  • Spinal mobility (Cat-cow stretch, thoracic rotations and side stretch)
  • Hip mobility (Hip flexors, quads and glutes)
  • Ankle mobility (Ankle rolls, calf rises and calf and Achilles stretch)

I’m really carefully not to overstretch; instead I flow through some movements to warm up the tissue. And I don’t muck about, 3-mins and I’m out the door.

Post-run stretch:

After the run, I spend a little longer on static stretches. This helps cool down the nervous system and restore the rest, digest and relax state in the body. It usually involves glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, calf muscles, feet and lower back. I’ll spend around 10-mins stretching, breathing and uploading to Strava and Training Peaks.

Is strength work important? What do you do?

The simple answer is yes. But it’s not as important as having stable joints. I’m prone to rolling my left ankle so I spend more time conditioning that joint than adding weight to the bar and squatting. I also focus on hips, core, pelvis and spine. 

I usually have 3 dedicated strength sessions built into the week, although this can slip to 2 if I’m tired and I need to rest. They’re about 45-mins each.

My strength routine of choice is reformer Pilates. It’s great for building core strength, that all-important stability through joints and toning key running muscles. Every now and then I’ll throw around some kettlebells, but Pilates is what I enjoy more. I don’t usually sweat a lot in these classes. All reps are slow and controlled, but enough intensity so that I feel the burn.

Key Pilates exercises I focus on:

Core strength:

  • Planks and all their variations
  • Four point kneeling exercises and all their variations, including bear crawls
  • Push-ups
  • Knee stretch

Legs (Glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves):

  • Glute bridges and all variations
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Hip abduction exercises (Skater and standing side splits)
  • Scooter
  • Heel rises and prances

Pelvic stability and hip mobility

  • Feet in straps

Upper body:

  • Kneeling hands in straps
  • Rowing
  • Chin ups
  • More pushups J

How many long runs do you do a week?

The run is undoubtedly the most important part of the training. Time on the legs will make sure they’re strong and can handle the endurance. It also conditions the mind and important organs like lungs, heart and kidneys.

But the long run is only a small part of the routine.

I aim to run 5-days/week. Four of those runs are usually 50min-1hr long and can be anything from intervals, hills, stairs, fartlek, short/long tempo. The other is a long run that I gradually extend out over the months of training. At the moment I’m running about 60-70km a week. One month before the race I should be getting in around 120km a week.

This approach of ‘shorter runs and high frequency’ builds great fitness, maximizes recovery, minimizes the chance of injury and better fits into the work-life-family schedule. If you only focus on completing long runs you’re on the fast track to burn out and injury.

The easiest way to plan your running is to find yourself a coach. I have an online coach who sets the program, keeps me accountable and manages my running and fatigue load.

Do you still allow yourself a glass (or 2) of wine?

Heck yes! I love good glass of red with a meal, but truth is it certainly doesn’t help my training; it makes me feel fatigued and sluggish, so I tend to save my few glasses of wine for Saturday nights.

…And what about the diet? How strict are you?

My guilty secret is that I am a fan of a sweet treat and I probably eat them more than I should. The key is to make sure all your main meals are healthy and balanced and the occasional Mango Weiss bar shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve learnt not to be too strict with yourself or you’ll begin to hate the training. Be flexible. Listen to your body and adapt when you need.

Don’t you get bored?

Yep. The schedule can sometimes feel monotonous. But as long as the scenery keeps changing and the session is different it keeps me going. Running with friends is also enjoyable. The truth is that to achieve big goals, you often need to make big sacrifices, and an exciting late night social life is one of them.

Aren’t you always tired?

Yep. In fact I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t tired. But I think all adults (especially new parents and busy workers) feel the same. I make sure I sleep a minimum of 8-hrs a night and I nap on both Saturdays and Sundays. If I’m falling asleep at work then I know I need to back off.

Do you listen to music on your runs?

Only on long runs to help pass the time. I have a few playlists that I cycle through depending on my mood. Sometimes it’s fast paced and uplifting to push me along and other times it’s classical piano music to keep me calm and consistent.

Where do you run?

Depending on the session my coach has planned, I’m either running on the local oval, around the neighbourhood or on trail in the national parks in Sydney, Jervis Bay and the Blue Mountains. I like to mix it up to keep it interesting.

Why?

This is the big question and probably the most frequently asked. “Why the heck would you put yourself through that torture”? Well, for me it isn’t torture. I love being out in nature, I love keeping healthy and fit and I love any adventure that builds character, strength and resilience. Yes, there are sacrifices to be made to get across the line, but such is life.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty”. Winston Churchill.