How do you train for something that involves 2 040 km of running spread over 6 ½ years? Whilst travelling to 204 countries as quickly and cheaply as possible?
I’ve no idea but I know I’ve got to train a lot. Not because I can’t get my body to the stage where a 10km run is manageable (although never easy in my case.) But because running nine 10ks in eight days in nine different countries – as I’ll be doing in November – is very, very hard for someone like me.
I’m not aware of any training programme that’s specifically designed for what I’m doing but it did occur to me that Mo Farah – Olympic and World Champion at 10000m – would be a good role model for anyone running 10ks. Surely, copy him and all will be fine?
I therefore started to research Mo’s training regime. The first thing I came across was Mo’s advice for anyone trying to do well at running : “train”. Which is a good start, as I can do that. However, as I dig deeper I find that it’s not going to be easy to replicate his programme.
Mo does a lot of running on a HydroWorx underwater treadmill, and on an AlterG anti- gravity treadmill – both to take the load off his joints. He also uses a Cyrosauna, which is like an advanced ice bath. It cools your skin and redirects its blood supply to your muscles to help them repair quicker (apparently). I don’t have any of this equipment – although if you can’t think of anything to get me for Christmas…
Mo spends two to three months a year in Iten, in Kenya’s Rift Valley. It’s 730m above sea level and is where a lot of the Kenyan elites live and train (it produced 81 of the fastest 100 marathon runners in 2011). He spends a lot of the rest of the year abroad away from his family. I couldn’t do that (much as Liz might like me to).
Finally, Mo has a coach – the legendary Alberto Salazar. Alberto – don’t be put off by my late conversion to running and a best time that’s almost twice as slow as Mo’s. I am worthy of your time and attention!
Ok, so I’m not going to be able to exactly copy Mo’s training regime but, despite that, I can blend a lot of his advice with my own experience. And so, on that basis, here are my top tips for anyone doing ridiculous international running challenges (and any other kind of vaguely serious running):
- No Rain? Then Train!
Grab any chance you can to get out there in good weather.
- Peak at the Right Time
You can’t be in top condition the whole time. Peak for the big trips that involve a lot of runs in a short period of time.
- Try to Duplicate the Challenge Ahead
If you’re going to do a lot of runs in succession then try to duplicate that in training. And accept that there parts of the challenge – like the extreme heat and humidity in some countries – that you can’t duplicate in the UK
- Hydrate – Your Wee Should Be Clear!
Mo advises plenty of upfront hydration – to the point that your wee should be clear. But don’t drink too much just before the run. You don’t want water sloshing around in your stomach (or your bladder..)
- Variety is the Spice of Training
Vary your training runs as much as possible. I travel to meetings all over London in my scruffy, low tech running gear and then run back from the meeting. Not great for my business credibility but running in different parts of London makes the training a lot more bearable. I also try to vary long runs and shorter faster runs ; flat runs and hilly ones.
- Eat Plenty – and Sensibly
Lots of 10ks means lots of fuel needs to be taken on board. But make sure it’s the right fuel. And I don’t just mean eating pasta, vegetables and chicken. When you’re abroad try to stay clear of anything that might make you ill. After the North African leg of Run the World, I had a stomach bug and spent three weeks feeling drained (literally) and weak as a kitten. Not much fun and played havoc with my training schedule.
Rest for at least half a week before trips and for a week after trips. It’s good for the body and the mind.
- Stretch, Stretch and Stretch Again
Stretch before your run ; stretch afterwards ; and ignore the stares and stretch in the airport when you’re hanging round waiting for that next flight.
Get in touch if you’ve got any other great tips. Especially if they’re about dealing with travel. Because, however hard I work at the running, nothing seems to prepare me for the travelling and the way flying to a new country every day – often after very little sleep – wears me down…