Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Friday, 7 September 2012

11 Weeks to 40m Ultra-marathon

11 Weeks to 40m Ultra-marathon

I was pleased with my first week’s training – I really started to feel natural running with the huskies over longer distances. I am getting strict with them too – they are always maintained as being “on task” rather than diverting their focus. I’m training them to stay focused throughout the entire runs on the task at hand. They’re doing brilliantly, especially at their young age.

Running an ultra-marathon is not like running a marathon. The whole approach needs to be different. Efficiency is a key element so I’ve been really working on my running style. As a minimalist runner preferring the ‘barefoot style’ I’ve been working on my technique, looking for a gentle ‘tap-tap-tap’ with my footfall, landing on the midsole-forefoot, my foot beneath my knee and not in front of it, leaning slightly forward, arms in front of my body, and having a soft hip, knee and ankle to allow my legs to ‘roll’. This has created some style changes of running with the dogs in harness. I’ve increased my cadence (footfall rate) especially on the downhill sections. In fact, I am now even faster than before on a downhill than previously – considerably so, despite taking more steps. When your heel hits the ground it acts as a brake (and sends a shock through your body) and I now know that before I was over-striding and heel striking.

If you want to learn more about running efficiently then please stick ‘POSE running’ into Google.

My hands are now maintained as quite low, and my style looks like a loose and adapted ‘military shuffle’ of running with a pack. This is an efficient way of running for an ultra-marathon, where I need to travel distance without undue effort. I’m also running with a pack to get used to the load I will have to carry on the ultra. Currently it’s just with 2 litres of water inside, yet starting next week I will add a 0.5kg weight each week to get me used to an increased load. This is also in preparation for the potential run with the Marines – they do their 30mile Dartmoor run with weighted packs. I don’t want to let them down, and want to show them respect!

I do all my runs early in the morning where currently it is cool enough to work my huskies, and I do them on just a cup of coffee, and no breakfast. I also am not taking on any water during the runs, or any snacks along the way. I have a good reason for doing this in preparation for the ultra – I’ll be delving into nutrition and hydration in future blogs. For now the water makes a good starting weight in the pack, and just stays in the hydration bladder.

This is my second week’s mileage, week commencing Sunday 2nd September:
Sunday:                14 miles
Monday:              7 miles
Tuesday:              6 miles
Wednesday:      10.5 miles
Thursday:            3.5 miles
Friday:                  Rest
Saturday:             Rest
Weekly Total = 41 miles

This is the weekly mileage I am aiming for each week. I’m now on target. The long run will start to get longer, as will the long run the day that follows it. In future weeks I will be aiming to get to the  40mile target as early in the week as possible, a day earlier all the time. As before, anything more will then just be the icing on the cake.

On the Wednesday I took on a ‘journey’ – I did a route that took me ‘somewhere’ albeit a circular route. It felt really, really good to be travelling somewhere. Psychologically it rocked! I actually felt like adding the final miles on to get the 40mile target completed that day – yet thought better of it! I am cautious of just doing too much too soon – I need to allow adaptation to take place to prevent injuries!

One issue I am having on longer runs is the annoyance of off lead dogs interfering with mine when they are working. Other dogs trying to play with them when they are working is a distraction and also good training to keep mine “on task”. Yet I have to let the frustration go from my own mind!

Next week the first weight will be added to my pack and the long runs increased in distance slightly. I wonder whether the light weight will make a difference? And just when will I reach the limits of my body’s hydration and energy? And will I continue to enjoy this journey more and more with every step? I’m posting this on a Friday…and looking forward to Sunday’s long run already… J


  1. Hey Gary,

    Being able to travel somewhere under my own power was a real discovery and delight to me as well. The feeling of accomplishment and freedom is incredible.

    I don't know why it's so liberating but it really is like an invisible anchor that I didn't even know I had had been let go and and my running got quicker and easier as a result.

    Looking forward to hearing about your weight experience as I've been toying with the idea of that myself.


  2. Cool - I've just put the first 1kg of additional weight in my rucksack ready for the morning long run :) I'll be letting you know how it goes!