Posted by: Jon Alexander | April 23, 2010

Strength endurance

I think one of the most interesting things about this event so far is the fact that the training is as much about strength as endurance – which actually feels like it brings it back a bit more to my comfort zone, as an ex-rower!

The thing with running on the flat is – as far as I can make out – you just need to get your heart and lungs as big as you can, and keep them pumping.

But if you’re going to run up a mountain, what I’m getting from Rob’s training programme is that it’s much more about leg strength.  This of course makes perfect sense, but living in London, it’s hard not to get fixated by the distance (78km being a reasonably long way regardless of altitude), and think that it’s all about getting miles in.  

The need to do weights and hill sessions is also meaning I’m getting slightly different things out of my running than I did before.  Long, steady runs have always been a semi-meditative space for me, a time to process the world a bit; running up and down the same hill in Richmond Park 30 times until I feel (or sometimes am) sick doesn’t have quite the same Zen quality to it!

There is a different satisfaction though.  Long runs tend to build up a gradual base of weariness and satisfaction, a process of slow extraction from day-to-day concerns.  Hill sprints on the other hand jerk me out of my petty obsessions, remind my brutally that I’m an animal before I’m human, and a Londoner, and that however busy my day was, all I need is oxygen and stubbornness, and I can get up this damn thing just once more…  and there’s something in that which really matters to me.



  1. That’s the thing with ultra… you need to be strong, fast and slow. A bit of everything. But also mentally you need to be ready for some of the happiest moments of your life, and some of the darkest too!
    Personally I get so much out of my long slow runs that I often neglect the fast ones. A bit too much. but when I force myself to stick the shoes on and head out the door, after 20 minutes I’m realising how important they are, mentally too.

  2. Interesting observations guys. I love the long runs but never look forward to feeling a bit weary afterwards. Let’s face it: you must be quite crazy to run longer than 2 hours. I guess the finest run is 1 hour with progressive speed. Some trainers call it the Kenyan style. In general, runners from Ethiopia start fast and end fast. Kenyans start slow and end with an amazing speed. In my own very humble way, I like the Kenyan style, ending the last kilometer in full sprint. Alternatively, I sometimes end my last kilometer running backwards. A great excercise and if you master the technique you can go pretty fast and still overtake slower joggers. Did you know that Lornah Kiplagat, one of the world’s best female runners, sleeps 16 hours per day and often dreams of running backwards? For the Dutch fans; here’s the column I wrote about this phenomenon:

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