The ultra running season is upon us and many of us are emerging from winter training blocks, embracing longer runs and dialling in the focus for a summer of racing. In celebration of spring, we wanted to do something special on the ground with you, the SunGod community.
So, together with Team SunGod Athlete and British no.1 ultra runner, Tom Evans, we devised a plan...
Back in January, we challenged the SunGod Strava Club members to run 100km before the middle of February. The prize? A day of running and mentorship with UTMB bronze medallist, Tom Evans. With only 10 spots available, the response was huge, and our Strava community was on fire. Finally, we had our winners, and on April 1st 2023, these 10 lucky individuals along with 5 SunGod Ambassadors, all kitted out in their favourite running sunglasses, descended on Tom’s local trails in the Peak District.
The day began with a stunning 15k trail run, with Tom coaching on technique and form throughout. After this, we returned for lunch and a group discussion, led by Tom who shared his nutrition tips, UTMB experience, injury prevention advice and more.
In Tom's words, “I just wanted everyone to walk away with something that will click for them, to take their running to the next level.” And it worked - when we asked the attendees to share their favourite learnings from the day, the list was long!
Here, we share the top 5 lessons with you...
1. The small habits have the biggest impact
“It’s all too easy to skip a run, ‘just this once’” says Tom. “But one skipped session quickly gives way to another and it's a slippery slope from there... Being consistent is all in the art of building good habits. The more times you repeat an action, like getting up and running in the morning, the easier it becomes to stick at and keep the routine. If you’re finding excuses not to train regularly and struggling to stick to your routine, ask yourself why. Perhaps you’re trying to do too much too soon, you’re not fuelling properly, or you're not getting enough sleep. Whatever it is, get to the root of the issue and get back on track, taking a granular approach with small, actionable changes. With a bit of patience and perseverance, you’ll soon see a big difference."
2. Perfect the art of the uphill
“There's more to running uphill than you think, and this means there are big gains to be made here. If you’re running, watch your form - it’s a natural reaction to lean into the hill and while some lean is natural, bending too far forward at the waist can inhibit the hip flexors and reduce the amount of room you have to drive up the knees. There’s a lot to be said for adopting an efficient run-walk strategy on the hills too, particularly when it gets steep or exposed. Watch the position of your hands on your thighs, too high and it can be harder to breathe. I like to keep my hands low on my thighs to save my leg muscles and open up the lungs. Just remember you’re running an ultra, not on a walking holiday, so make sure you’re taking long strides and using your arms to power you forward.”
3. Carb consumption: more than you might think
“Running an ultra isn’t about being the fastest, it’s about staying strong throughout and not exploding before the finish. Nutrition has a huge part to play in this and the mistake most people make is underestimating how much fuel your body needs. Typically, during an ultra, I’m aiming for approximately 105g of carbs an hour to keep my body feeling strong. This is made up of a combination of gels, bars and other food - just remember this is what works for me and this formula may well not work for you! When it comes to nutrition and indeed all aspects of ultra running, it is important to acknowledge what you know and most importantly, what you don't. In this instance, consult a nutritionist if you’re not sure - you won’t regret it. Nutrition is a nuanced topic, so get it right and your body will be singing. Get it wrong... well, all I’ll say is you’d better make sure you pack your toilet roll…”
4. Know your equipment inside out
“From packs to poles, make sure you’ve got equipment that works and you fully understand how to use it to optimise your race. The last thing you want to do is waste valuable time faffing. Eyewear is a piece of equipment that often gets overlooked but the simple fact is, when SunGods are involved, the lenses are better than the naked eye. Using a tinted lens provides enhanced contrast, better depth perception and eliminates eye fatigue, all essential when you’re running for over 20 hours over rough and uneven terrain. Not only this, the width of the lens on the Ultras™ in particular means that I have maximum peripheral vision both vertically and horizontally, and the gains from this are surprising but simple. After all, your head is the heaviest part of your body so the less you need to move it around to watch the trail, the less energy you will expend and the less neck ache you will have”.
5. And the secret to balancing, work and life with training?
“One thing to remember is that I am a professional athlete and am blessed to have the entire day to fill with training, physio and conditioning. I appreciate that most aren’t in this position and it can be challenging to balance training with life's other commitments. My wife Sophie is a professional triathlete, so our training routines can be vastly different at times so we have to get creative in order to spend time together. A trick we’ve learned is for me to drive to a chosen point, park up and wait for Sophie to cycle to me. When she arrives, we’ll store the bike and either enjoy the afternoon together or go for a run if that’s what is on the agenda. My point is, you don’t need to sacrifice the longer runs for family time or vice versa. Point-to-point runs are really effective for this: get your family to meet you at the end of your run, or drop you halfway home from a family event so you can run the rest of the way. Turn your training into an opportunity to get everyone outdoors!”
"Training doesn't have to mean sacrificing family time - if you're smart about it, you can combine the two."
From the importance of sleep, to the secret behind a swift descent - the list of learnings continues, with so much to take away from the day. Thank you to Tom for speaking with such passion and wisdom, and sharing these insights, and thank you to these 15 members of the SunGod community, for being curious, asking questions and getting stuck in.
At SunGod, we love nothing more than connecting with our community and coming together to enjoy our collective passion for the outdoors. We've got big plans ahead, so make sure you're signed up to the SunGod Strava Club to be the first to hear about more opportunities like this in the future.