do you walk in an ultra

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27/08/2012 at 10:18

I am planning on entering the highland fling in April next year and was wondering if I can get advice.  How much walking do you do in an ultra if any?

Can you do a walk run ratio of running then walking as that is how I started running.  I couldnt run anymore than 5 mins when I started but with my run/walk technique I can get to 20-30miles with ease now. I am not one for doing splits as I just run when I can recover and then run again.


Any advice much appreciated

PSC    pirate
27/08/2012 at 10:30

I think that for many its the distance that is important in ultra running, not the speed.  If walking helps you get the end of the event, then walk.  Unless your name is Spartacus in which case manup and keep running!

27/08/2012 at 10:36

Unless you are elite, you will almost certainly be walking a significant part of the Highland Fling. 

The best strategy would be to run the flats and downhills, and walk the uphills, but you must adapt your strategy to the circumstances. 

27/08/2012 at 10:53

Craig, on NDW50 I was walking the uphills (and the steep downhill steps) and running the rest. There was one guy I saw who was walking I think one minute in 10 to rest his knees; we played leapfrog for a long time. Set times wouldn't work for me except maybe on a fairly flat route (first time I reached a "walk now" on a nice bit for running a hilly course, I'd ditch the plan), but each to their own.

27/08/2012 at 12:22
Running throughout is an idealist approach, you need to take it as it comes and it is about finishing. As DB says many people walk the uphills then run the downs and flats, I do this and take the opportunity to eat as I walk on advice from others I have run with.
I would resist the temptation to do your 20-30 at normal pace, do it deliberately slower to last longer, walk breaks will help you.
27/08/2012 at 12:41

A friend of mine who has recently dipped her toes in ultras is following a 5min run 1 min walk plan to see how she gets on initially and once she's used to the distance she'll start expanding this upwards like Debra indicates.

27/08/2012 at 15:06

I am with Ben, run the flat and downhills and wak the uphills for as long as you can, if its a really long race then you may need to 'start making deals with yourself' towards the end to get through even the flat 'if I run to there I can walk for x mins etc'

27/08/2012 at 16:51
I agree, towards the end you will do anything to get through, you will make deals, and limp,hallucinate, shake etc..... Great fun
27/08/2012 at 17:54

I know of a few people who do walk/run ratios in ultras. Usually something like run 9/walk 1 or run 13/walk 2. That sort of thing. I imagine that strategy works best on a flattish course where the terrain is fairly similar the whole way round though. If you tried it on the Fling you could find yourself walking downhill then running uphill, or walking on a smooth path then attempting to run over a section of tree roots and boulders, which wouldn't be much use. For offroad hilly ultras, the most common advice I've heard is to walk the uphills and use that time to eat and drink. Then jog/run as much of the downhills and flats as you can.

If you google a bit, you'll find a whole pile of Fling write-ups on blogs kept by Scottish ultra runners. Might help give you an idea of what sort of terrain to expect and how to tackle it...

27/08/2012 at 18:39

Craig - there is an infamous section on the Highland Fling where only the mountain goats amongst us will attempt any running - look up 'Inversnaid' - it is part of the more remote section along Loch Lomond .

27/08/2012 at 20:40

thanks very much for all the info guys I'm going to do a recce run/walk before the race. information always appreciated.

17/09/2012 at 13:54

I second Tigerspaw, the section after Inversnaid is "tough" running terrain - especially with tired legs

20/09/2012 at 13:25

Spot-on advice here. In summary, run or jog whenever it's convenient and you are able, walk the rest. A walk break reinvigorates you for a bit of running again in the later stages as you begin to tire.

I wrote a couple of accounts with links to pictures of the route (2009 and 2011) in the blog (look in May 2009 and May 2011 blog archive).

20/09/2012 at 13:57

I'm pretty strict on run/walk in training up to 50 km but haven't actually run an ultra race yet due to flu . For long runs I've enjoyed using a Gym Boss timer set in a 10:1 ratio for run/walk. This pretty much coincides with a mile. The minute gives me time to have a decent slurp of water and every third set I have a gel. Plus if it's an undulating course I walk little uphills or anything that might take me much above 72% max HR (target average).

So far I've managed a couple of training 50 kms/2000 ft climbing in about 5:40 with this strategy when my marathon race time would have been about 3:50.


24/09/2012 at 09:13

It's my first ultra in a couple of weeks (Vanguard Way) and I'm not only planning on walking anything that looks even slightly like a hill, I'm also planning several sitting down and eating chocolate breaks.

(And I'm terrified!)

24/09/2012 at 09:30

Peronel: I thought about doing Vanguard Way but it's not going to be practical. Personally I wouldn't go for the sitting down bit - I'm told it can be hard to get up again. Having said that, if you've trained okay you should be fine! Good luck, and enjoy it!

24/09/2012 at 13:31

Peronel - you may find that chocolate isn't the best thing - giving you a sugar rush, then dropping you back down again. I have to say, on my last ultra I had a sit down for about 15 mins, and had no problem getting going again, but the time before I struggled after only sitting for a couple of minutes.

Don't be terrified - you've chosen to take part in this, so go out, enjoy yourself, look at the scenery, meet some nice people, have a great day, and keep putting one foot in front of the other - as long as you do that you'll make it to the finish line

24/09/2012 at 14:12

I've found that sitting breaks can be a life saver on the longer ultras. I use them to sort out kit, e.g. change head torch batteries, swop wet gloves for dry ones etc, and to take on fuel, have a hot drink, look at the map to see where you are going next, get your head in the right place, then off you go again. Give yourself a time limit, say 10mins, then you know after that 'allowance' you have to get moving.

24/09/2012 at 15:46

Some of the longer ultras (especially those arranged by the ldwa) have one or more check points where you can sit in a warm building and have a hot drinks, snacks and if event is likely to be 24 hours or more a hot meal and as Tigersapaw says a limited break is of great use in sorting yourself out and changing any clothing if necessary.

The getting up is more of a problem if you have to sit on the ground - especially if you cool down too much.  (Bear once took a comfort break under cover of darkness on a cold frosty night and when tried to stand up to pull up tights was unable to straighten legs and pitched forwards into brambles leaving a very bare behind pointing heavenwards.)

24/09/2012 at 16:42

 This is why, although I have been known to 'go' outdoors when there is no choice, I will always avail myself of an indoor toilet if there is one at the checkpoint .

In fact indoor checkpoints are like a little piece of heaven on a cold and wet night, and are often staffed by angels (otherwise known as the W.I.) with cakes .


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