12 February 2019

Mental Preparations and training tips for first time Mountain Marathon Runners

It’s a tougher challenge, more exciting, more beautiful views, and so much more of an adventure than a classic street marathon has to offer.

I did my first race (KIA Fjällmarathon, 43 km, 2100 in vertical) in the end of 2017, and after that I was totally hooked. At that moment I was able to feel true happiness, and the feeling inside me that I could do anything I want – started to GROW.

Before that I’ve tried everything from fitness, cycling, swimming, cross country skiing, to classic running etc. And eventually, I found my passion in “Fjällmaraton”, which quite quickly led to Skyrunning.

I’m definitely not a pro in this area, but I do have some experiences and tips to share with new Mountain Marathon runners, as I have done most of the mistakes that I could do myself.

My background is that I have been an entrepreneur in IT for many years and I do know how to set up a strategy and a game plan in order to achieving higher goals. Although, running is something new.

From my perspective it is not all about training programs and eating habits. It’s about attitude, a new way of thinking, and a new way of looking at things.

Let’s get started…

What is it that you really want?

A Mountain Marathon is not a walk in the park, and it’s not comparable with other classic flat street races. So, if you want to do it, you certainly have to prepare yourself to spend a lot of time and energy on this.

Therefore, I like you to ask yourself one simple question.

What is it right now that I mostly want to do?

Having a great career in my “office work”, spending more time with my friends, making more money, being a great Skyrunner etc. All of us wants different things in life, and only you can decide for yourself and what is good for you.

One advice from me as an entrepreneur that usually wants to do everything, and also have tried many different paths in life. You have to choose, and you can’t have it all. Otherwise you will risk getting burned out.

If you decide to go all in for Mountain Marathons or a super hard Ultra-trail, you might have to lower your number of hours on your “office work”, or wherever you spend time today.

Set a goal and book your race

Once you decided that Mountain Marathons is what you really want to do, the next step is to set a goal. And the absolutely best way to do it is to sign up for a race and pay the fee. If you want to be even more effective in goalsetting you should make your goal public. Put it on Facebook and tell everyone what your goal is. That will work as an extra motivation and will prevent you from not giving up.

Analyse your current situation, your body and your running step

If you have any small defects, imbalances or weakness in your body, you will definitely notice it after a race of eight hours of running.

I’ve had extremely much trouble with everything from hips, glutes, ankles, shoulder blades, groin, and then primarily to the right side of the body. I have visited several naprapathys in recent years, and no one has found the exact cause of the problem, and none of them has been ably to solve it by an easy quick fix.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion, that the one that knows the most about my body and my problems is me, and I’m the one that needed to take responible for it.

Step by step I have gained more deeper knowledge about my problems, and I’ve been working a lot on these, becoming stronger each year.

So, if you haven’t done it yet. Learn more about you, your body and about training, and take some help from many different professionals in each area. Find your weaknesses in mobility, strength and running step, and try to work on thoese as a part of your training plan.

Create a game plan for success

Your training plan will off course be quite individual depending on where you are today, what you need to work on, your goals and your level of ambition. But here are some general tips.

Start up your training at least 10 months before the race…

Gym prep, prehab, strength and mobility

This is your quality training and it’s very important that you get it right. If you don’t know exactly what you need to work on and how to perform the exercises, take help by a personal trainer specialised in running.

I do twice a week of gym prep plus once a week yoga (one hour each session).

Add an extra sport of season

Of season it could be a good idea to add an extra sport. Sometimes it is good for your body to get some variation and not just do running. Me, I’m playing some ice hockey with my kids, and I also play once a week in the ladies team.

Run in its proper environment if possible

In order to be good at mountain running, of course it’s the best to practice a lot of mountain running. But one common problem with this is that we might not live in the mountains.

When you train for a classic marathon a common training plan is that you plan to run X km a week. This is also good, but your focus should be more on achieving as many vertical meters as possible. Find the highest slope that you possible can and practice both uphill and downhill running. Usually you don’t run uphill in the race, instead you power hike. Downhill it’s possible to run quite fast if you are good at it.

If you are not used to run in trails and in the mountains, you can easily spring your ankles. So, it’s better to practice as much trail and rough environment as possible, instead of running in the streets.

I run about 3 times a week of season and 4 times a week on season. Last year I was only practising in my own neighbourhoods around Stockholm, and unfortunately, we don’t have any alps. This year I will go to some real training camps in order to get the proper mountain training.

Take action and just do it

Planning is one thing, doing it is another. In order to be good at something you need to take massive action every day, and not procrastinate your training when you don’t feel like doing it.

Some people talk, others do.

You have to get out there and just do it!

Mastering your first race

It’s going to be tough, you might get cramp, you might get some pain, you might run out of energy. You might get some bad thoughts and are thinking about giving up. The trick here is “BRAIN POWER” and a mindset of never ever giving up. 

And I can ensure you that it’s so much worth it when you finally make it. Mastering a Mountain Marathon is not just a about mastering a race. You have actually been mastering yourself as a person and this will help you to achieve other higher goals in life too.

On top of that it is about this magical feeling. The feeling of happiness running downhill with full speed and control in these beautiful mountains, can’t be described with words.

Except for the mental part I also have some hands-on tips that could be useful for you during the race.

My 10 best race tips:

  1. Take it easy with training one week before the race.
  2. Eat something unhealthy the day before (like Pizza).
  3. Bring the security equipment that is recommended (it is nice to have a rain jacket if it starts to rain etc.)
  4. Do a small warm up before the race and activate glutes etc, so that your body will work in an effective way during the race.
  5. Take it easy uphill and power hike.
  6. Let it go downhill and try to run without using so much of energy.
  7. Try to eat as much as you can during the race, before you ran out of energy. I brought a small plastic bag and I took with me extra energy from each food station eating while power hiking. Make sure that you always have extra energy to take if you need it (like candy or something like that).
  8. If you get cramp, have a visit at the massage or medical station. I got cramp on my last race and the massage took it away.
  9. You might hit the wall after like 35 km. If you do that just take some extra energy, keep going and ride it through. Hopefully you will get your energy back as you are approaching the finish line.
  10. And the most important of all. Enjoy the journey and take a break to look at the beautiful views.

What happens after your first Mountain Marathon race?

If this is your first Mountain Marathon it can take some time recovering from the race.

After my first race I suffered from extreme pain and muscle soreness for 14 days. This symptom is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and the pain is at the most about 48 hours after the race. This symptom is not dangerous in any way, but you won’t be ready for any extra running adventures these days. I also felt tired mentally after the race, and it took me totally 30 days to recover before I was back in track again in my regular training program.

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience. Just the feeling of coping with such a big challenge, climbing the mountains and being involved in such an adventure was something totally new to me.

So, I taught to myself. I have to do this again.

A week later I was signed up for the 2018 race. This time I knew what it was all about, and I was so much more prepared. I did one hour better than the first race, and now I’m planning for my 3:rd season of Mountain Marathons. And this year I want to be good at it!

You can do it if you want it enough!

With this blog and all the challenges, I’m facing, I want to proof to myself and others that almost anything is possible. I like to Inspire people to get what they want, reach their dreams, and run faster.

Coaching and guidance

We all need help some times, in order to get to our next level of running. Arduua Coaching is specifically focused in Skyrunning, Trail and Ultra-trail. We build strong, fast, and enduring runners and help them to prepare for race day. By building personal relationships with our runners, we create the individual training you need to ensure that you are 100% ready on the day of the competition. For more info please check out Arduua Online Coaching >>.

For more questions about our training please contact Katinka Nyberg at katinka.nyberg@arduua.com.

Have a great training day!

/Katinka, Arduua Founder

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