The Pace Factor
Covering 50 miles on foot in less than 15 hours is not easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be a challenge. Having said that, it can be achieved by anyone who puts their mind to it: for various reasons which won’t be dealt with here it is possibly easier than running a full marathon.
The average walking pace is 3 miles an hour, which means that to finish inside the time limit you will have to speed up a bit especially if water stops, toilet breaks and rest breaks are taken. If you can increase your pace to an average of 4 miles an hour the 50 miles will take a little over 12 hours which leaves nearly three hours for breaks.
So, 4 miles an hour is a 15-minute mile pace. This should be achievable for most people, especially if a little gentle jogging is interspersed with the walking. In reality, using the walking / jogging method will make 12 minute miles, ie 5 mph – a comfortable, maintainable pace for many.
Covering long distances obviously demands a reasonable level of general fitness but more than anything, it requires the right mental attitude. Your body will only do what your mind tells it: not the other way round. This being said, the fitter you are, the less difficult the task is likely to be.
Theory into Practice
Measure a mile and see how long it takes you to walk it and then see how long it takes using the walk / jog system, which is often called fartlek by experienced runners, who use it as a training method. The Parachute Regiment call it tabbing and the Marines yomping. Make sure your training distances are accurately measured. It’s very easy to guess at distances and get them completely wrong, so when you think you’ve done 5 miles in fact you have only done 4!!
The optimum training method for an event like this is to get miles and time in’ on the road ‘. As long as you work to a sensible pace, comfortable for you, and one which will get you to the finish line in under 15 hours, you will have few surprises on the day. Familiarise yourself with your pace. With a little practice, you will soon know if you’re going at a 12 or 15-minute mile pace etc. and this will allow you to speed up or slow down as your body or the clock dictates. Remember, this isn’t a race. The objective is for you to finish within the time limit and hopefully in reasonable condition. Whether you take 5 hours, the current record for the distance, or 15 hours, you will have achieved your objective.
If training from scratch, begin with some brisk 45 minute walks and then build up to 70, 80 or 90 minutes. Then try interspersing jogging with walking. You’ll be surprised how this picks up the pace. Although it’s important to know the distance you’re covering, time on the move is a more important factor. You have to get used to staying on the move for reasonably long periods. By the first weeks of May you should be doing at least one or two long sessions a week (3 – 4 hours). The longest session should be the Sunday before the Challenge when you should try to stay on the move for up to six hours. If you can do this, there is a good chance of you’re completing the Challenge successfully. Don’t try and cover the whole distance in training – it’s a waste of effort and the day itself will be an anti- climax. It’s a good idea not to train for the 4 days preceding the event so that you will be fully ‘charged up’ and raring to go on the day.
Clothing and Diet
Wear clothing that is worn-in but not worn-out. It may pay to invest in footwear designed to protect your joints and feet during training. A reputable outlet should be able to advise you. Never wear new equipment on the day. Always make sure that you take plenty of fluids when you are training. Water is best with perhaps an isotonic drink to replace lost minerals at the end of your training session. Sugary or fizzy drinks (orange squash, coke etc) can increase thirst. Carbohydrates are important in your diet as these provide the fuel to keep you going but an overall balanced diet is the most sensible regime to aim for. The most common sources of carbohydrate are potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. Pasta is considered most suitable as for the majority it is easily digestible and passes through the system quickly. As a general rule when training carbohydrate should make up about 60% of your calorific intake.
Last but not least. The only person who can get you there is you, and although a good level of fitness is an enormous advantage, ultimately, it will be your mental attitude that will carry you through.