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Five tips on long-distance running from an ultra-marathon runner

Fancy yourself as a long distance runner? We thought we’d ask ultra-marathon runner, and City Sports Massage client Jon McGowan for a few pointers. He has just completed the 40 mile Coventry ACW run, and is currently in training for the 56 mile Comrades ultra-marathon.

JG: Jon, you’re in training for the 56 mile Comrades ultra-marathon, set in the searing heat of the South African plains. Can you tell us a little of your running background?

JM: Running has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, growing up I lived next to the beach and used to find myself running through the dunes for hours on end. At school I played rugby, and being out on the wing, and then later playing at fullback, I found I had to combine speed, agility and stamina to survive. Once out in the big, bad world, I needed a sport that I could pick up and take with me anywhere, and running perfectly fits that bill!

JG: What led you to enter such a challenging race?

JM: Good question, and one I ask myself before every run!

I subscribe to a podcast Marathon Talk, where they interviewed the famous South African runner Bruce Fordyce. I find Bruce really inspiring, he has won the 56 mile race 9 times, with 8 of them being consecutive wins! I was planning to run a race for the charity ARC, and my wife Lis and I thought that Comrades was a big enough challenge, and one that people would engage with and support.

JG: You have a full-time job – How have you managed to fit training and nutrition into your life?

JM: Taking the training first, running should be a part of your everyday routine and needs to be scheduled in where possible. Longer runs are on Saturday and Sunday, this involves early starts and a lot of bartering / chore trading with the missus! However, when you run along the canal on a sunny morning and watch the world wake up it is a wonderful feeling, even after 20 miles! On nutrition for longer runs over 13 miles your body will tell you when it needs fuel, and it is best to eat often and sparingly. I take a sports drink make up from powder `High 5’, `9bar’ snacks and bananas. Everyone is different so the best advice is to just to find what you like and stick with it.

JG: You’ve been a long-term client of City Sports Massage in London, and I know you’ve approached training methodically, carefully even. Do you think that has been part of your success so far?

JM: Definitely, long distance training needs to be carefully planned with routes, mileage and times all prepared and monitored. There are plenty of plans out there for half, marathon and ultra-distances; find one and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to exceed, or beat the plan, it’s far better to build gradually and progressively. For Comrades I have used a remote coach Ian Corless of www.runwildrunfree.co.uk.

JG: What would be your ‘Top five tips’ for would-be, long-distance runners?

1. Find, stick to and monitor progress against your plan.
2. Try and buddy up with someone to run with every so often, it helps improve pace and the time flies by.
3. Factor in time for rest and recuperation, its ok to have an off day.
4. Incorporate regular massage sessions into your training, a massage therapist can really help flush the muscles out, making them feel lighter and faster. It also heals and prevents injury and helps prepare you for the next challenge.
5. Celebrate the success of finishing, and live to fight another day!

JG: Thank you for your time Jon, we know our readers will be happy to be privy to your experience and advice. We look forward to catching up with you when you get back from South Africa, and you can tell us what it’s like to experience 56 miles of the Comrades ultra-marathon! Good luck from all of us at City Sports Massage!

Jon McGowan is running for the charity ARC. Find out more about his story here.

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