The Secret Sauce to Longevity in Ultra Trail Running


What is that secret sauce to all aspects of longevity in ultra trail running?

  • How can we have enjoyment day in and day out on the trails?
  • What can we do every day to grow stronger, more injury proof, and powerful?
  • What will improve our technique and running economy?
  • How do we get faster?

What is it that will allow us to continually run, explore, discover, share, learn and play on the trails?

To really find your own personal answers to these questions, get real with your thoughts, your ambitions and the reality of where you are today. Simply, leave your phone at the desk next time you go for a 15 minute break, just take your deep thoughts or leave behind the connectivity on your next run.

This is ‘you’ time. Disconnect from what you see everyone else doing or wanting to do and listen to your own heart and where it is asking you to go. Once you do this, you will soon have time to identify why it is you are really doing this sport and where you want it to take you.

There are no shortcuts worth taking, to a place worth going (Beverly Sills)

Then, be honest with where you are right now? You now know where you want to eventually go, but how can you get there unless you know where you’re starting from? Google maps, wouldn’t allow you to be so demanding, so how can you ask this of your body and mind?

Starting point – the journey in between – End point

Don’t skip the middle step, this is where the fun happens.

Stress your body and mind to ‘the edge’, then it is time to take a step back from that edge, so you do not fall over it.

Take a step back and recover, grow stronger and more capable, then stress your body and mind towards ‘the edge’ again. Your will see it has shifted. Specific to our sport, ‘the edge’ will have either become further away (time and/or distance), a faster movement (pace), heavier than before (weight) or it will be somewhere in your mind where you have never visited (mental strength).

Then step back, recover and repeat. Do this again and again and again…

Stressing your body and mind can be done in many ways, a runner’s common words for this includes: tempo runs, speed sessions, strength & conditioning, long runs, hill repeats, etc, etc, etc. Or more uncommonly referred to as; life stresses, working over time, moving house, planning a wedding, etc

And likewise with recovery, it is commonly referred to as rest, active movement, massage, chilling the ‘f out’ and eating and drinking well!

Taking stress and recovery, putting it into a structured training plan, allows an athlete to repeat the middle step, again and again and again, with enough stress, stimulus and recovery to adapt, grow and develop.

Having a long-term dedicated goal to the bigger picture, is where we benefit here.

In this sport, if you do too much, too soon, there is a high chance we will achieve the opposite of most things we set out to achieve but doing this sport, which is:

  • No day in day out enjoyment on the trails- due to injury
  • No ability to grow stronger or more powerful- due to mental burn out
  • Seeing no improvement in technique or running economy- due to no motivation for the small stuff
  • Not getting faster- due to not recovering properly from the previous 5 Ultras this 4 months

This will not apply to everyone, some people are extremely talented and gifted.

Or it may seem like some people are extremely talented and gifted but in actual fact they have been dedicated to this stress-recover-repeat-grow process and kept their short, medium and long-term goals in mind for years and years.

This sport is growing rapidly and events are growing in equal proportion, in terms of distance, difficulty and availability, BUT please do not ask your body and mind to keep up and force it to try to grow in equal proportion!

Do not do it. Because what this will do is suck you away from being able to commit to the #1 component to more training, growth, enjoyment and longevity in trail running and that is:

Your ability to be CONSISTENT

Be consistent, in your progress, be consistent with your attention to small details, be consistent with your rate of additional applied stress and be consistent with referring back to your personal goals.

Start where you are currently at, set challenging objectives, respect recovery and respect your abilities, stress-recovery-repeat-grow, but never fall over the edge.

Do not be influenced away from your goals.

Grow at your own personal rate and capacity. Be consistent.

An 800m race has been described as tougher than a 100mile race, so do not be influenced into thinking further is better. The same goes with vertical, a flat 5km compared to a mountain marathon, can be as equally brutal, because it comes back to you, your capabilities and how you push yourself. And most importantly the journey you must take towards your end goal.

It is likely that you will have a lot more fun training and running 10 x 100km races over a 10 year period then it would be training and running 10 x 100km races over a 1 year period, then never running again, due to factors such as burn out, fatigue, injury or losing the passion.

The key to successfully achieving the above is to be consistently honest with your situation, training and goals.

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Majell Backhausen
Majell (pronounced My-al) is an Australian International Ultra Distance Runner who wants to explore the world, meet great people and prove himself in the mountains.

You’ll either find him behind a BIG plate of veggies, running in the mountains, talking about a positive life or cycling around town.

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