My Ultra Running Journey – Getting Started

Two questions had to be addressed before I could really start marathon training…how do I stay injury free? And how do I build my mileage? Like anything, getting started is hard but before I can explain where I am now and answer those questions you need to know a little about me.

I’m a 30 year old (just!) running enthusiast with no previous evidence of natural ability nor genetic hand me downs. I used to joke about striving for mediocrity. Running began for me about 4 years ago with a charity 10K, an event I entered every year since.

I then grew fond of hiking in 2016. This took me around numerous mountains in the Lake District, Yorkshire and Scotland, I was hooked on the landscape and soon obsessed with the popular term peak bagging.

It was between these hikes that my 10K record dropped by almost 4 minutes down to 48:52. Training once a week got me thinking…what could I actually achieve with real effort…how far and how fast can I actually go?

My longest run tops out at half marathon and a slow time at that (around 2hrs 10 minutes.) But I have my eye on the long hauls in 2018 and want to start with my first trail marathon in 2017. I am drawn to the mountains and hills, but have struggled with injury at every incline.

From knee problems to a torn outer quad and IT Band issues, I felt limited to flat terrain, every time I ran the hills something went wrong. So, why do I keep getting injured while running? And how can I hike the hills without issue? The answer of course was poor, naive training.

Sooo, I made the conscious commitment to get help and fell fortunate living in Malton (a small market town near York.) Through a friend I met Jayson Cavill, a brilliant runner and excellent coach. If this guy could stay injury free while winning mountain Ultra’s why can’t I? So I made the call and started on my new, guided path.

The Meeting

The first meeting with Jayson stripped me bare and required an open mind. He answered question two, “how do I build my mileage” by showing how poorly I’d trained so far. I was told to hold back, stop running 8:20 min/miles once a week and start running three times a week, averaging no faster than 9:30 min/miles initially. The biggest change of all? Strength and conditioning, something I’d never considered, I now had four sessions a week.

Jayson spoke of establishing a base, a solid foundation we could build from. To do this I had to maintain consistent training without injury, I had to understand my perceived rate of exertion and spend an uncomfortable amount of time running ‘easy’. The S&C would build my strength, a weakness that led to previous injuries, the running itself would build my endurance and eventually, in later sessions speed.

Building A Foundation

With Jayson’s guidance, some reading and a lot of patience I pushed on. The first month was tough, niggles pissed me off and I constantly felt on edge. Frustrating seen as I’d reeled in the pace but the plan eventually settled. Its strange, I was running similar weekly mileage but felt a new level of fitness (due to training three time a week rather than once or twice.)

I will share a full training report shortly, taking you from October to January but for now I’m left with more questions than when we started.

How will I fair running extended distance on tough terrain? And how fast can I actually go? Its been four months since I went flat out for even a short distance. I don’t know what my new potential may be or even if I’ll stay injury free, but I can’t wait to find out.

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Darren Smith

Training with purpose since October 2016 Darren has gone from trailing the pack to winning local races and the times keep on falling. A true believer in hard work over natural talent he writes to help others realise their true potential. Darren's race schedule for 2018 includes the Hardmoors Wainstones marathon (1st place), Keswick Mountain Festival (10th place), Scafell Skyrace and Salomon Ring Of Steall (World Championship race.)

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