Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Training for the WHWR, Trail vs Gym

As soon as the entries opened I put in an application to run West Highland Way Race (WHWR) on the 21st June 2014 and current await to see if I have got place.  While I'm currently taking the month of November as rest before physical training begins I am already thinking about how it might be best to go about training for this great event.  95 miles is the furthest I've ever run by 42 miles so quite a step up, this also means my training will also need to take a step up.

A great resource for guidance on how to prepare for the big day is on the http://westhighlandwayrace.org website, one of the videos links on the images page that I watched was John Kynaston interviewing Rosie Bell.  Rosie won the women's race in 2013 and 2013 so is very accomplished ultra runner and is able to do this on just running twice a week, doing lots of cross training to build strength.  Should I be looking at doing lots of cross training in the Gym too?

Since I'm taking it easy this month I am choosing just to go out when it's sunny and simply running for pure pleasure.  My last three runs were just stunning, along familiar routes but with bright mid day sunshine and frost on the trails and trees gave these runs a magical feel.  Pictures do far better at conveying this than words so here's a few from these three runs.

First run, Bracklin Falls Bridge in new Autumn colours

First run, above the scout pool looking north, Ben Ledi to the east, Stuc A'Chroin and Ben Vortlich to the north.

Second run, Heading out through Callander and out to Ben Ledi, first snows of winter evident.

Second run, On the east flank of Ben Ledi looking north towards Loch Lubnaig

Third run, local 6.5 miles loop, including Cohalian wood in the frost, mid day sun barely above horizon

Attempt at close up of the frost.

Contemplating the question of whether to train more in the Gym or not these runs cast no shadow of doubt : I can't fathom wanting to actually spend time inside when deep in my heart I'm a runner.  I run because I love running out on the trails, enjoying the splendours that only nature can share with us.  

I don't train to keep fit, I run because of the freedom of movement, the joy of motion, the awe of nature - getting fit is just a nice little side benefit.  Training for the WHWR will provide an extra purpose to my runs - the better prepared I am the more I'll be able to enjoy the day.  This training will require more mileage out on the trails, but with it more doing what I love.

I am still curious about strength training though... can I fit some in out on the trails? 


  1. I suspect that running in the hlls will provide most of the strength training that a 'youngster' like yourself needs for the WHWR.

  2. I concur, hill training is likely to be crucial in my preparation for ultras next year.

    I'm very lucky to live somewhere with plenty of hills within running distance. Hills will be my main tool for building strength and resilience. Normal hill sprint training won't cut it though, I will need to do regular training runs with lots of big ascents and descents.

    During the second half of this year I limited myself to 15 miler with around 1500ft of ascent/descent as my long runs and don't feel it was quite enough to build the resilience I needed for my ~40 mile ultras. My quads held up fine, but getting cramp in my calves in all three of my autumn ultras suggest that I didn't build resilience in my lower legs. Perhaps doing more steep ascents might help here.