As summer approaches we will see more and more people putting on their running shoes and pounding the pavement in preparation for the multiple charity races that take place over the summer months, starting with the London Marathon this Sunday.
It’s not only UK based races that have gained interest. The popularity of races such as The Marathon Des Sables has increased year on year with the 2014 event taking place this month. Considered one of toughest races on earth, competitors will tackle 251km in six days across the Sahara desert, where temperatures exceed 50C. If that wasn’t hard enough, they have to carry all of their equipment, including water, on their back for the whole of the run.
Preparing yourself both mentally and physically for such a gruelling challenge is essential. If you are taking part in one of these mammoth challenges, or considering signing yourself up next year, here are some top tips that might help you make it to the end:
Be prepared to run….lots!
Runners planning to take on challenges like the Marathon Des Sables need to be able to comfortably complete 50+ miles per week. This usually means running at least 5 times a week, which can be challenging to find time to do.
Train with the gear.
If you are expected to carry kit during your run, it is important to practise running with the backpack on to get used to the weight and to ensure it is comfortable and doesn’t rub. Some runners even train with a weighed vest heavier than the actual backpack to specifically strengthen these muscles.
Train on unstable ground.
Wherever possible, it is important to practise running on terrain which is similar to the one for your race. You will rarely find that a race will take place on an even surface, so include variety in your training by running up hill or through muddy fields where the ground is likely to be slightly uneven.
Back to back long run days.
Lengthy runs will be a challenge on anyone’s body, so it is important that you train yourself to be comfortable running on tired legs. Completing runs that are 20+ miles on consecutive days is a good way to build up your strength.
Get used to the heat.
With many of the races taking place over the summer months or even abroad in conditions much hotter than England, booking in some warm weather training is a good way of getting the body used to the heat you will experience. The final few weeks are crucial for helping the body acclimatise. Spending 30-60 minutes in a sauna leading up to the race is good preparation.
Having the correct footwear is vital for any race. It is important to invest in comfortable and supportive trainers. If you are completing a race like the Marathon Des Sables, you should purchase a pair of trainers a size too big as your feet will expand in the hot weather and the tight shoes will lead to blisters.