Thursday, 6 August 2015

How to keep on running for 12 hours: Top tips for those preparing for the St Albans Stampede

The inaugural St Albans Stampede - a 12 hour enduro race - will take place next month and if you haven’t entered yet, there’s still time to do so via the Active Training World website 

Completing such a long-distance event will be fun, rewarding... and a very tough challenge.
Careful preparation is needed if you are going to perform at your best, so with that in mind, here co-race director Nick Bradley gives his top tips on how to succeed in a 12 hour ultra…

1. Train specifically for the challenge

The Stampede is a trail ultra marathon so you need to prepare your body for running off-road. I’d suggest heading to Heartwood Forest and trying the route out in advance of the race - you’ll get a feel for the terrain, there may be the chance to practice running in mud (yes, mud!), and you’ll also test your fitness on the undulating hills.

The other key thing to think about is the distance. It’s likely that the winning solo participant will cover more than 60 miles during the course of the day, so you need to think about how far you want to go! This doesn’t necessarily mean doing lots of 30-50 mile training runs, but you need to get used to being on your feet for a couple of hours at a stretch.

Another crucial thing is to remember to practice walking because you could end up doing a lot of it - and that is absolutely fine - walking isn’t cheating when it comes to ultra marathons!

2. Invest in the right gear to get you through

Shoes: Get fitted properly and invest in a pair that works well for you and your running style. Remember to size correctly to take into account the time you will be on your feet and how your feet may swell. I’d also suggest considering a pair of comfortable trail shoes to protect your feet and provide extra grip on certain sections of the course.

Clothing: This should be as comfortable as possible, lightweight, and moisture wicking. Also consider multiple layers to accommodate for changeable weather. As the event is on a circular route, you can always leave spare gear waiting for you at the race HQ… and trust me, you want spare gear! A change of socks half way though can be a life-saver, as can a waterproof jacket if it starts to rain.

Hydration: Water will be available at the race HQ so you can stock up each lap. But I’d certainly recommend carrying water, even if that is simply a hand-held bottle. Some people go for hydration packs from brands like Salomon or Ultimate Direction which have the dual benefit of helping carry other items like a phone, camera or iPod (to help cure the potential boredom from running for 12 hours!), or food. The choice is really yours and what you feel comfortable with. I tend to favour a hydration vest which carries multiple gear and bottles.

Food: Again, some nutrition and supplies will be available each lap at the race HQ. But it’s always best to bring some of your own gear, focusing on the stuff that works for you. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Some people like gels, others need real food. I always recommend having some electrolytes in tablet or drink format. The key thing is that your body will burn a lot of energy and you have to replace this energy, little and often, approximately every 20-30 minutes. Don’t forget to eat!

Other essentials: It’s often the little things that make a big difference. Don’t forget an anti-chaffing product such as Body Glide to rub on feet, nipples etc to prevent blisters and sores. A hat is useful to protect from the conditions - whether that’s shielding your face from the sun, wind or rain. And I carry always toilet paper in a backpack… just in case.

If you need to buy anything visit, They are our event partners for the Stampede and will be giving all entrants a 15% discount code for purchases up until the event.
3. Plan your race strategy in advance

Ultra marathons are as much about getting your head in the right place as your body. I find the best way to feel confident going in to an event is to plan as much as I can in advance. What pace will I try and run at? Will I start off slow and build up, or go hell for leather from the beginning? Will I take breaks at the race HQ during the day? How often will I eat? What will I do if that niggling calf injury flares up?!

It’s impossible to predict everything and you simply won’t know how you’re going to feel on the day. But one thing usually happens to everyone in all ultras – there will be a point where you want to quit and you’ll question why you’re doing it in the first place. Strange as it may seem, the fun comes from taking yourself beyond this point and exceeding what you thought were your limits. If this is your first time tackling an ultra, have a think about that feeling in advance and it will certainly help on the day.

4. Don’t try anything new on race day

This one is a classic, and it still astounds me how many people ignore such sage advice… especially when considering an ultra marathon. If you’re running a 10k, you may get lucky throwing on those brand new running shoes and avoid suffering from blisters and sore feet. But new shoes worn for 12 hours is a completely different story. Your feet swell the more time you spend in them, the chance of getting blisters is greater, why take the risk? The same applies for clothing, nutrition etc – stick to what you know works for you.

The golden rule is – try everything during training first, not on race day.

5. 12 hours simply too much? Take on the Stampede as a team!

The Stampede is designed to be a challenging but fun event. If 12 hours solo running is not your thing, get a team of 4, 6 or 8 together and make a day of it. Some people dress up, others have a mini picnic set up with music, it’s common for supporters and family members to come along throughout the day to be part of the atmosphere.

Need some more tips? Here’s what Striders who have run ultra races before recommend…
  • Break the race up into small achievable chunks and focus on finishing that rather than the whole 12 hours, in the case of this event it’s easy to do so by breaking it up into laps.
  • If you're in a team make sure you're all on the same page regarding goals – is the aim to have fun or to win?
  • Teams should prepare an area in which to relax between runs as you might be hanging around a while. Take camping chairs, picnic blankets and warm waterproof clothing in case the weather turns bad.
  • Power walk up hills and run effortlessly down hill to save energy.
  • Scheduled walking breaks. Walking early and often can be hard when you feel good at the start of a race, but will likely increase the chances of a strong finish.
  • Ask friends and family to come and support you by cheering you on, shouting motivational slogans and ensuring you’re eating enough.
  • Don't stay too long at the food station. Grab what you need, put it in a sandwich bag and carry on going. Walk if necessary.
  • Take on food early and often. Start with savoury foods and move onto sugary ones - boiled potatoes, peanut butter sandwiches, ham sandwiches, biscuits and dark chocolate make good on-the-move snacks. 
  • Bring as much spare kit as possible including shoes. Change your socks often… but don't look too closely at your feet!
  • For a sugar hit, take a bottle of coke but de-gas it in the week of the event so it’s not fizzy. 
  • Pack paracetamol in the event of needing a painkiller. Do NOT take anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen as these can cause potentially fatal kidney problems when taken during endurance events.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to fellow competitors – ultra runs can get boring so having chat can help pass the time.
  • After the event, don't sit down for too long. Keep moving to prevent yourself from stiffening up.
  • You may not enjoy every minute but enjoy as much as possible!
This is our first year running the event, and on behalf of the Striders, we hope that runners and spectators have a brilliant time so it can become part of the annual running calendar - providing a challenge to those taking part and inspiration to those watching.

If you have any questions, please get in touch via or visit See you on Saturday September 5!

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