World 24hr Championships – The Aussie Insights

This weekend sees the annual running of the IAU 24hr Championships over in Europe, more specifically in the Dutch town of Steenbergen, Noord-Brabant. I have to admit that track racing such as this has never really been my cup of tea as we English like to put it. I’ve done a number of 12 and 6 hour events in the past and the focus required to maintain pace and the mental aspects of it have always found me wanting – maybe there’s a lesson in that for me. That’s not to say that I don’t have the up most respect for what these guys do and in light of Martin Fryer’s amazing performance a week or so ago it’s only fair to push this further into the limelight as one of the darker arts of ultra-running.

Back - John Pearson, Ewan Horsburgh, David Kennedy, Rick Cooke Middle - Malcolm Gamble, Sharon Scholz Front - Bernadette Benson, Allison Lilley.
Back – John Pearson, Ewan Horsburgh, David Kennedy, Rick Cooke
Middle – Malcolm Gamble, Sharon Scholz
Front – Bernadette Benson, Allison Lilley.

When compared to its trail counterparts, numbers for type of running are on the lower side. While trail events regularly attract hundreds, if not thousands of competitors, the long distance track events will see only a handful of runners ply their trade. Given the lower numbers participating, it’s any wonder that we’re able to put together a quality team. As such, the men and ladies who represent Australia must be applauded for the fine efforts they put in through their dedicated training to keep the Aussie team firmly in the upper echelons of this type of racing.

As we saw with the Martin Fryer interview earlier this week, there’s a point at which the physical nature of what these guys and gals do moves aside and the mental aspects of this type of racing takes over. If you’ve ever watched some of the top end runners do their thing, you’ll see the incredible nature of their focus as they go about their business.

For many of us, the notion of running around a 1km or 1 mile track for 24 hours fills us with dread. But as you embark on your running journey, there’s a totally different aspect to this type of event that these people embrace and something from which many of us could learn.

Ahead of the race this Saturday, midday central European time, we caught up with one of the stalwarts of this type of event to get his thoughts on how things will go and some general feelings about racing at this level – Take it away John Pearson.

My prep this time around has been solid, with a higher volume so no excuses to not go for a big result! When people ask about what appeals about this type of racing, for me the thought of circles and bitumen tracks does not really figure in my mind, it is more the challenge of how far I can go on an accurate measured course. These type of timed races provide the same challenge around the world with no real differentials due to the terrain surface etc…
As for the numbers in our sport, I think that the numbers in ultras will continue to grow across the board. They are now more accessible than ever, so this will create a cross over between trail and track I believe.

As for my race, I try to have a vague plan nutrition wise, knowing how many calories per hr and what liquids per hr I need to consume. I don’t plan what foods for which hour as I have found the body is good at deciding what it wants during the course of the event.

John Pearson in action for Australia!
John Pearson in action for Australia!

As for total distance I always have a race plan regards totals and I find that breaking the race into sections helps to keep the focus. As far as predictions go, I think all of the guys have their goals and often it will be an A B and C goal. I believe all are capable of running best ever distances this year and if we can nudge each other along we could get close to Australia’s biggest total. Personally I will be pacing to get beyond 230 k, so fingers crossed!

 Good luck to the men and ladies taking part this weekend. You can follow more of their updates on the Facebook page they have set-up which you can access here.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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