One of the things that is important in ultrarunning is spending time on your feet. Not only do you have to be used to running long periods, you also have to be prepared for just being out there for long periods, moving towards a finish line or a time limit, making the ‘relentless forward progress’, as Bryan Powell puts it in the title of his handbook for the sport, towards the finish line.
Most any ultrarunner has heard the invocation to get in plenty of ‘time on their feet’ in preparing for a race. Don’t believe me? Here’s a taste:
- Last summer, when my left knee started flaring up again as I was preparing for the JFK 50 Mile Run, I started incorporating long walks into my training, again thinking of that time as time on feet…”
- Marathoners typically aim to achieve specific distances each week, but a key focus of ultra-marathon training is not so much mileage as it is “time on feet.”
- By the time I came to run that first UTMB I was used to long days on my feet – mountaineering, hiking as well as running – and for a long mountain ultra like the UTMB ‘time on feet‘ is good preparation…
- The objective is simply to spend a lot of time on your feet..
I am already spending a lot of hours out running miles each week. Indeed, since starting the first training block of the year after Christmas a ‘light week’ has been about 8 hours of running, an average week around 10 or 11 hours, and I’ve pushed above 15 hours of running in a week twice. In terms of ‘time on feet’ and running, I’m doing pretty well.
But in addition to the running time I have also been making efforts to spend additional ‘time on feet’ each day walking. I think this will help me in the longer ultras and, frankly, I am not slouching when I take my walks as I keep up a nice 8 to 9 minutes per kilometer pace. All in all I can usually squeeze in about 50 to 60 minutes of walking each weekday, usually at lunchtime, in addition to my running each week, so this means I am getting another 4 to 5 hours of ‘time on feet’ in each week.
Lunchtime walk in Lyon
Afternoon walk in Paris
Evening walk in Geneva
I’m convinced this is good for the running, for recovery, and for stretching out muscles that otherwise would be sore from the morning’s effort and then have nothing much to do but sit folded up under my desk until it came time to return home. Thus, in addition to the extra time on feet I am getting, I think there is a good case to be made for daily walking aiding in keeping me injury free and adequately recovered for the run I’ll do the next day.
Hence, as far as I am concerned, walking – deliberate, at pace, and regular – can be a great aid for ultrarunning. I know I’m not the first to recognise this (see here, here, or especially here where integrating walking into an ultrarunning training program is discussed) but I am glad I came around to doing so.