- Running40 kilometers is hard for anyone, especially a 35-year-old working dad who’s used to running a few times a week.
- In late August, I’ll be running a 40K trail run through the Swiss and French Alps with over 7,500 feet of elevation gain.
- I need to get in mountain marathon shape while balancing work, raising two kids, and about a thousand other things.
- Here’s how I’m going to do it.
I’ve always been athletic, from grade school soccer to high school wrestling to summer hikes, but I never got into a consistent adult fitness regimen until shortly before my 27th birthday.
I began running two to three miles four or five times a week, as well as paying more attention to what I ate. Within a couple months, I was trimming down, the exercise became easier, and I was feeling better about myself in general. I considered myself pretty fit for a 35-year-old dad with two kids who works full time and does lots of household work.
But then a sportswear brand offered to sponsor my participation in a 40-kilometer UTMB Mount-Blanc footrace through the Swiss and French Alps at the end of this summer. Agreeing to the race will be the only easy part of the process, because I am nowhere near mountain-marathon fitness.
The race route leads from Martigny-Combe in Switzerland to Chamonix in France, and it’s going to be gorgeous and treacherous in equal measure. In an attempt to cover the 24.8 miles and 7,500 feet of vertical gain, I need to be in the best shape of my life – and more.
After speaking with a bunch of professional trail runners and doing a lot of reading, here’s how I’m preparing for a 40K mountain footrace.
1. Putting in the miles
By the middle of the summer, I need to consistently run 40 to 50 miles per week. Not in one session, mind you – that would be madness. But over the course of each week, I want to log at least 40 miles, with my goal set at 50. That means my current daily run, which is just under three miles round-trip, will need to triple in length.
2. Dropping extra weight
I don’t have a lot of visible extra weight to lose, but I could drop 10 pounds and all of it would be fat. Ten fewer pounds to carry up and down miles of mountain trails sounds good to me.
I’ll be burning more calories than usual through the training, so I will likely have to consume more, not less, for optimal development. So for the first time in my life, I’ll actually have to calculate my calorie intake and burn off for a while this summer.
3. Building specific muscles
Running on mostly flat suburban streets is great for cardio health, but for the ups and downs of the Alps, I need to develop my quads and core to a much greater degree. There aren’t many appreciable hills near where I live, so I’ll need to use weights and workouts instead of terrain.
4. Using the right gear
You don’t use the same shoes on the trail as the road, nor do you wear or bring along the same gear. Thus I am rotating through several pairs of trail running shoes (to break in the footwear and get my body used to it) and running in various types of apparel, including rain gear, windbreakers, thermals, and extra lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes.
The day of the race may be hot, chilly, rainy, windy, sunny, or a bit of each. Since trail runners are required to carry gear appropriate for all those conditions, I’m training with the stuff either on my body or in my pack.
5. Prioritising things in my life
In the past, my daily run was always the first thing to be sacrificed. If my wife needed extra help with the kids, if there was an errand to be run, or if I simply felt like taking the time to make a fancy dinner or start a household project, I’d skip the jog.
Now, with three months to go before this race, I can’t do that anymore. But I also can’t check out when it comes to parenting, being a husband, or working.
So instead, I move things around. I run at different times, I put off inessential tasks (mowing the lawn can always wait a day or two), and I treat my running not as a hobby, but as a responsibility.
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