Rob Forbes on his way to winning Race to the Stones 2016
Rob Forbes, a 34-year-old father of three from Cirencester, won the Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones, the UK’s most popular ultramarathon, setting a new course record in 2016. He is currently weighing up defending his record in 2017 or running Heineken Race to the Tower, a new ultra through the Cotswolds.
Here are his top tips to running an ultra…
- Book a race
Anyone can run an ultra. Training simply makes you faster and reduces the pain. The best way to get motivated is to book a race – just don’t do it the week before – then build up the mileage slowly, mixing up terrain and footwear to minimise risk of injury. Never look for excuses to get out of a run – you never regret going.
- Be bold
The longer you run, the easier shorter distances are psychologically, so it’s a good idea to try something long and don’t look back. Before you know it, marathon distance will seem like a park walk.
- Be ready
The beauty of running is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. Always have your trainers to hand and seek out opportunities that don’t impact on family and work. Lunch at the in-laws, a delayed flight or cancelled meeting or dropping your car at the garage are all great opportunities to get out your shoes and go. If you’ve got a young family, running buggies are invaluable – you can even double up and do the nursery run.
- Don’t over eat
The best ultrarunners don’t eat much because their bodies are so efficient at burning their on-board supplies. In training, practice running without much and manage intake carefully on the day. If the stomach starts playing up don’t keep forcing down solids but hit simple energy drinks or coke until you feel up to something more substantial.
- Embrace the experience
Ultras give you a sense of exhaustion and satisfaction that can’t be achieved over shorter distances. Not only do they take you to your mental and physical limits, but you share the experience with all the other runners because the camaraderie is second to none. The highs and lows are unforgettable and the scenery is generally stunning.
- If it’s your first ultra, keep it simple
Stay local so the terrain is familiar and relatively straightforward to train for. Look for races that challenge and excite you and try to team up with mates so you can share the experience.
- Avoid the pub, curries and Christmas parties the night before
Been there, done that with mixed results. Make sure you’re confident in the race details and your kit requirements. Take the stress out of it by being well organised so you can relax in the build up. If only I could follow my own advice!
- Treat yourself
During the run, have a few treats to look forward to and milestone targets along the way. I normally hold off on the caffeine until the latter parts of the race, which gives me a massive lift. Getting out the iPod and putting on some tunes on is also psychologically energising.
- Wear well-worn, comfortable kit
Don’t spend hours agonising over what to carry; just take the bare essentials. Almost every ultrarunner carries way too much food. Depending on the event, the aid stations are generally really well-stocked and frequent enough that you only need a few favourites in-between.
- Train on an empty stomach
My top tip will get your body hardened to having to burn your on-board fat supplies. I tend to run in the morning before I’ve had breakfast and never carry food or drink on longer training runs. As a result I’ve become pretty efficient at using on-board stores and don’t hit the so-called ‘wall’ in the same way when my glycogen stores run out.