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the ultra has fallen: #BIGTURD

you'll not find a better stretch of land to run your first ultra

I remember it well… It was September 2000, my brother and I had been running a bit in the years previous. Only short distance, nothing more than a few miles. We set our sights on a local 10km road race to really push the boat out. For nothing more than testing what we could do distance-wise. I ran that race in a reasonable time (I was much lighter, younger, and faster than I am now). Afterwards I said to myself, 10km really is far enough.

Not too long after that race, I may have had the conversation with myself that I should try to run a marathon before I was 30. The rest is a story full of years neglecting the sport I love, followed by weight gain and laziness, followed by a slippery slope of one marathon isn’t enough. I’m now worried about times rather than distance!

an ultra, really?

I’m going to be very honest, the idea of running an ultra marathon had zero appeal to me, absolutely none whatsoever – until about two years ago. I went for a long run (16 miles) one day, on the then newly opened Waterford Greenway. The same route that I now do a lot of my distance experiments on. The Greenway stretches for about 46km from Waterford City to Dungarvan. It was my first time really experiencing a long stretch of the route and I was smitten by it. I don’t know why but getting back into the car that day, I thought to myself, “someday, I’m going to run the full length of that”.

About a year passed and I mentioned the idea to a few others. I then picked up a few injuries at times when I could have entertained the run. It was too informal and all kinda fizzled out. Then following the Dublin Marathon last year, I managed to convince a running buddy that this was a great idea. Plans to complete the run before the end of 2018 were scuppered due to an injury. However, it was quickly rescheduled for 30 March 2019.

we got it done

Running a 50km ultra without having trained specifically for it meant one thing only. This was a test of off-pace running. To see what it was like to cover that kind of distance and stay on our feet for that long. A fitness test with a sprinkling of, “hell yeah, we ran an ultra”.

We maintained a steady pace the whole way, never giving in to a quick mile nor slipping into anything too off-pace either. While this was a test of distance, speed mattered somewhat to the ego. Equally, we didn’t want to race the route either.

Good banter, good fun, great weather, and fabulous scenery. If you’re running your first ultra, there’s not much else you could ask for. Obligatory photos were taken at key points, including the magic 26.2 miles. Why did I never do this before? Seriously people, get out there and run an ultra off-pace in a scenic location. Get back in touch with what it’s like to run for pure pleasure. (photos below © @jayphelan)


I said that this wasn’t a race; not a time trial nor any kind of experiment other than finding out what it is like to run 50km. It was brilliant. Naturally there were a few surprises having never attempted anything like this before. The biggest surprise was just how little fuel I felt I needed. Running a good bit off-pace should not make much difference to your calorie burn. I ate my usual bowl of porridge early this morning. Other than that the entire run was fuelled on less than one Nature Valley bar.

the bigturd ultra marathon challenge, very steady miles and a happy heart rate
that’s a nice, flat pace graph, a good steady ultra and no heroics

Water also was a bit of a surprise. As usual, I took my 250ml bottle with electrolytes dissolved (2 bottles this time). There was one pit-stop around the halfway point for about 300ml more but no other water was taken onboard. I’m a little bit cramped at the moment so perhaps I ran a little to the edge on hydration. Then again I have just been on my feet for over 31 miles. Overall this was just a brilliant experience. Running for the joy of running and conquering something new. Feel free to check out our route and my splits (view Garmin data).

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