What a difference a bit of sunshine makes, when it’s time to get back to some proper training and boy, was it timely this weekend. I’d already vowed to get started before 1 March, but a bit of warmth on the skin was enough to spur me on to do an initial training run yesterday, around the dunes of Camber Sands.
Guess what; yes, I’m hurting today! My calves are screaming for mercy, my thighs feel leaden and my lungs have definitely been given a good clear out, so it’s time to dig out my training diary before it’s too late.
Planning really is key and as long as you stick to a schedule as best you can, you will have every chance of getting to the end of the walk. Of course injury en route or ferociously bad weather could still hinder, but if you’ve put in the effort beforehand you will doubtless drag yourself over the finish line just out of sheer determination not to have wasted all that preparation!
First off, think creatively about whether or not you can build your training in to your daily routine. If you commute, is there any way of changing your current mode of transport to combine some walks? This time last year I was getting a mainline train (the station is just 3 minutes’ walk from my house) to my central London office and back every day. By getting up 30 minutes earlier I factored in a 2mile speed walk to the tube station on my way in and hopped on the jubilee line instead.
In the evenings I did either a 2.5 mile walk from Pall Mall to London Bridge and took a train thereafter or, when it was dry and warm, a 12 mile walk from office to home. A long walk took about 2.5 hours, as opposed to a 40 minute train ride, door to door, so I did need to make some sacrifices in terms of time, but I saved money on train fares and as I fitted in about 3 such walks a week, soon built my fitness up.
I learnt a lot from my evening walks about comfort, style and pace, all of which I will cover off at a later date, but please don’t rely on this walking as your sole form of training. The 100k is all-terrain. One minute you are zipping through sluggish shoppers in Kingston town centre and the next you are climbing hills and jumping stiles in rural Surrey.
If you simply pound pavements your muscles won’t thank you at the end and whilst my other exercise was hill running, it really is horses for courses. I can thoroughly recommend combining walks with swimming, cycling and even pilates, just as long as you are varying the routine.
Of course I didn’t go from nothing to 12 mile walks in one fell swoop and I built my long route up gradually. I chunked the route down in to manageable quarters and did a stage at a time until I felt confident doing the whole thing. I also carried on training after the event, winding down the distances covered in much the same way as I’d built them up.
I learnt to do this after a marathon, when I took too long off after the event and injured my left knee trying to pick up where I left off 2 months down the line; had I eased off rather than stopping altogether, my legs would have sprung back into action and not buckled.
At this stage I’d say your main priority is scheduling your training in. Think out how, plan when and get it down in black and white in a diary. Even those of us with masses of willpower will benefit from having a timetable of sorts, because it is so easy to see 9 June as ages away then wake up one morning at the end of April in a cold sweat thinking it’s now too late…and no, you can’t ‘wing’ it.
My partner last year was convinced she could and had to throw in the towel at 50k. She wasn’t unfit and she had all the kit, all the intentions and a deep desire to do it but…she hadn’t broken in her boots. The blisters got so bad that she couldn’t face the second half and I was obliged to find 2 strangers (albeit very nice strangers!) to agree to carry on and walk at my pace.
I saw a lot of people brought to their knees by blisters and cramps along the way as their feet and their muscles just weren’t ready for the strain. I’ve set myself a target of 3 walks and 2 runs per week. I never totally stopped (still doing a daily 2 mile walk to the tube plus longer at weekends) so that’s quite manageable as it factors in 2 rest days.
If you work up gradually start with one day on, one day off exercise and keep the distances short, gradually increasing them as your confidence grows. Remember the 100k isn’t a sprint but an endurance race and you don’t need to do very long walks until nearer the time. However, if by end March you have done a lengthy walk (say 20-30k) and your body has held up well, you are definitely on track, so make that your goal and work to it.