Being on gardening leave for 6 weeks has its perks, one of which is being able to spend a day in the Brecon Beacons learning all about trail running navigation and mountain running skills in general. And what a day it was, quite honestly I don’t think it’s possible to have better winter weather conditions for spending a day running around this stunning landscape. Just look at this view.
As you know I love trail running, 99% of my running is off road and while it isn’t all in such exciting places as the Brecon Beacons it is possible to find remote and interesting places to run even in Wiltshire where I live. Most of the running I do at home I know broadly where I’m going and where I am without needing to read a map, plus most of the races I do currently are on marked courses so navigation really isn’t a concern. But I want to get a bit more adventurous with my running (more of that later) and challenge myself more and one logical way to do that is to go somewhere like the Brecon Beacons to run.
Trail running navigation course
However while I’m reasonably comfortable looking at an OS map and following footpaths etc I’m not experienced enough to really read the detail of contours, or follow an unmarked route in these wilder areas. That’s where JT Expeditions come in, I found them via Twitter and duly got booked in for a day with Jake one on one to learn some trail running navigation skills and get some good advice about planning days in the hills. There really is no substitute for practical, hands on training when it comes to learning these type of skills and as it quickly became apparent Jakes huge depth of knowledge as a Mountain Leader and also mountain marathon competitor was exactly what I needed to learn.
I’ve used the Hanson method for the first time to train for the Broadway marathon this weekend, clearly I need to wait and see what the result is in the race but from a training perspective it has felt awesome and really clicked for me. But it is a plan aimed at road marathons given how the pacing’s work for the various sessions so I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I’ve adapted the plan for a trail marathon.
What is the Hanson method?
If you haven’t come across the Hanson method before I do recommend buying the book on Amazon and having a read. At the very least it’ll get you thinking about your approach to training even if you don’t follow one of their plans. In essence their approach is all about building fatigue in your legs so that when it comes to your long run you are tired. The longest run you do is 16 miles but it should feel like the final 16 miles of the marathon given the running you’ve done in the days before it. There is also a big emphasis on different paces with easy runs truly being easy and then strength and tempo work done around marathon pace.
3 years ago today I did my first ‘proper’ endurance challenge, the Scotland Coast to Coast, which feels like a lifetime ago. But good to remind myself that I really haven’t been doing this running thing for very long, before that race I’d run 3 half marathons, a couple of 10k’s, a little dabble in adventure racing and that was pretty much it. But I loved the idea of taking on a challenge and where better to do it than the Scottish Highlands? I roped my little brother into joining me and that was the beginning of both of our journeys into the wonderful world of endurance sport. Since then I’ve run 9 marathons (with no. 10 in November), 2 ultra marathons and 2 half ironman’s. Plus of course multiple shorter races and lots of training adventures.
I ran over 500km in the first 2 months of this year as I trained for the quadzilla, then after a short break picked it up again training for the Milton Keynes marathon. Significantly higher than last year and an awful lot of running to fit in around work and family. Plus marathon training can all get a little bit intense can’t it? You focus on every run and how it contributes towards achieving that big time goal, so right now I’m trying to have a little fun.
I’m triathlon training, something which I think I’m going to try and do every year at some point having enjoyed it so much last year. I’m doing another half ironman which I know is a little crazy seeing as my objective is to have some fun but I genuinely enjoy the longer races. I like the challenge of endurance and actually the longer you race the more relaxed the event gets in my experience.
Any race with a name like THE QUADZILLA (said in the style of the xfactor announcer) is clearly not going to be a walk in the park, although technically it is in a park, and in this case it involves 4 marathons in 4 days. If you say that quickly it doesn’t sound too bad, at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. I’ve been trying to not to think about running a marathon with the DOMS from 3 marathons in my legs. I remember after my first marathon being able to barely walk down the stairs the next day let alone think about going out and running another one.
But what I love about running is that these challenges exist, that if you so desire you don’t have to ‘just’ run a marathon. You can do one off road, on an island, in the jungle, in the desert, multiple in one day, multiple days in a row the list goes on. At the moment I can’t see myself settling down and doing the same time of races each year, I need the variety to keep me mentally challenged as much as anything. I also like to get out of my comfort zone, the same reason I did a triathlon last year, challenge myself in a different way.