Lessons learnt from the Marathon de Ben Nevis

Since the race last Saturday I’ve had a couple of easy runs. On Tuesday I ran 6.12 miles after work and on Thursday 5.28 miles before work. Both times I ran very easily keeping my heart rate below 130.  I’m pleased to report there are no niggles or any muscle soreness at all. I think my body is well used to this ultra running!

I always like to record a few lessons that I’ve learnt from each of the ultras I run. I do feel that most things went to plan in this race. I was fairly relaxed about it and happy to go with the flow of the race. I did have a target in mind but having not done the race before I wasn’t too sure whether it was cautious, realistic or ambitious. In the end my sub 7:30 goal was probably cautious.

Anyway here are some lessons I learnt from the race ….

# Preparation

There were 8 weeks between the Lakeland 100 and this race which I felt was enough time to let me recover, have a few weeks of decent training and then taper. I felt in good shape for the race but maybe slightly under cooked. I certainly didn’t feel in tip top shape but trusting that the training I’ve been doing all year would be enough.

I ran a 10k a couple of weeks before in 39:03 so that gave me some confidence that I must be going okay. I was really relaxed and looking forward to running the race on a route I’ve not done before.

# Kit

I have tried and trusted kit now so I don’t have to make too many decisions on what to wear or carry. I decided to wear my long sleeved top as even though the weather forecast was for a warm day we started in the semi dark at 6.30am when it was still quite chilly.

My shoe sock combination of Skechers Ultra 2 and Drymax socks worked really well. It had a good test crossing the river where the water was ankle deep for 20 paces or so and my feet were fine. I also put on some 2nd skin plasters over my big and little toes as that tends to be the places were I’m prone to blisters. It really helps and I had no issues at all.

# Nutrition

I decided for this race I would basically feed myself using Tailwind sachets and Matrix Energy Boost. I alternated between the two and it worked well. I also ate a 3 small ‘Eat Natural’ almond & apricot bars with a yoghurt coating which taste great and go down well.

I took a few slices of orange and the odd flapjack from the check points.  I was pleased that I never felt I ran out of energy and kept going to the end.

# Pacing

One of the things I’m really enjoying about running ultras these days is my planning and decision to run by HR which means I’m trying to keep a constant effort throughout the race. It means that I start further down the field but work my way past other runners as the race goes on.


The spikes are where I stopped briefly at the check points. I’m really pleased I was able to maintain my effort right through to the end of the race.

So for this race I was working on a HR of 140.  I was below that for the for the first half and then able to increase it as the race went on.

BN splits

The last three sections were a net downhill which helps but my average pace for the final 14.55 miles was 9:35 mins per mile which I’m very happy with!

I thought it would be fun to compare my average pace with friends Richie who finished 4th and Donald who finished 23rd.

BN pace comparison

We all show a similar shape but my pace gets faster over the final 15 miles whereas Donald and Richie’s level out. So according to this if the race went on I would have caught Richie!!!!

You can see where the big hill was by our pace was slower.

# Mentally

One thing I found harder in this race was the final 5 miles. Basically I had no idea how far there was to go. At the final checkpoint I was told there was only 5k (3miles) to go but I knew it should be more than that. Then I didn’t know the route. I thought we were going to stay on a path and then just drop down to the finish at the Distillery but we dropped down to the main road into Fort William. From there I had no idea how far it was going to be.

This meant that I found it quite hard not knowing how hard to push. The thing that helped me was to concentrate on my average pace. I had rough splits for the checkpoints so decided to keep my watch displaying split time and average pace for the split. That way I had something to concentrate on and hopefully the finish would come when it was ready!

I can honestly say I didn’t have any low points in this race. I ran with various folk but mostly Lachlan for the first 25 miles and the time just flew by. I was on my own for the final 15 miles but by then I was moving really well and enjoying the sense of pushing hard in an ultra going for a decent time. Plus I had a couple of people ahead who I was catching and keen not to lose any places from behind!

My next ultra is the White Rose Ultra on Sunday 1st November. There are 3 races 30 miles, 60 miles and 100 miles. I’ve entered the 60 miles which is two laps of 30 miles. I’m really looking forward to seeing what that is like. My initial plan is to try and run the 2nd loop faster than the 1st as I reckon the vast majority will run the 1st lap significantly faster than the 2nd. But we’ll see!

WR ultra

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