This month I was lucky enough to chat with ultra-runner Lucy Bartholemew. She shared some great insights as to what kind of mindset and preparation you need to run ultra distances (50km +)
How long have you been involved with ultra-running and how did you get started?
Running began for me as something I did to keep fit for other team sports, I didn't love it and I wasn't very good at the short, fast races but I realised pretty early I wasn't winning these races but I was finishing feeling like I could do it all again and again. I then saw my Dad taking on some big challenges in running and traveling to amazing places plus getting to eat so much food... I was interested! Now I love it; the places, the people and the opportunity to push my limits and inspire others keeps me going. It’s now been 6 years since I started this sport and I wouldn’t change a step I have taken.
You routinely compete at distances in excess of 50km and even up to 100km. As well as this is I assume you spend countless hours on training runs. Do you ever get bored when you’re out on the trails? What do you do to stay focussed and entertained?
I am lucky that I get to run in some amazing places and when I am there racing or training I am so occupied looking around that I don’t even notice the hours slipping by. In a race, there is also the need to look for course markers, make sure you are fuelling and drinking and then appreciating the supporters out on the track. When I am home I don’t live near mountains or trails and sometimes I find the need for a distraction so I turn to music and have my own party on the roads. I think I have a pretty simple mind and because I enjoy it I just want to do it!
Has there been a time in a race when you thought you wouldn’t be able to finish? How did you get through it?
Pretty much every ultra I have done!! It’s common in these long runs to suddenly realise that what you are doing is tough and it is an option to stop if you want to. I am a pretty stubborn person and I feel like when it gets hard and you push through you get the most satisfaction- even if that doesn’t mean a win but just taking that step more then you thought you could. When I have these moments I just break it down; Instead on saying “you have 40km to go” I will say “just get to the next checkpoint, or next tree” making them small and achievable steps helps the mind focus.
What would your advice be to someone who was considering ultra-running as a hobby? Where should they begin and how long would it take to go from couch to 100km runs?
I think building up to 100km takes a lot of time. I can see my Dad rolling his eyes as I write this because from the very beginning I wanted to run 100km and then 100miles before I’d even run my first half marathon. Having experienced this journey I understand the effects that this sort of thing has on your body. I would say you need to tick off the other milestone first; 5k, 10k, 21k, 42k, 50k… running 100km it becomes less about the body and more about the mind; we are built to run but these days we are so use to being comfortable that we don’t want to hurt or feel ‘pain’ and discomfort.
Running must take up a lot of your time. Do you have time for any other hobbies?
I love this question. My family comes together at the end of most days and Dad will ask what we have been up to; my brother will have worked, gone to university, and done a lot of interesting things and then it comes to me and I say “well I trained…and I made a big lunch and….” There is always a long pause haha! I train 2-3 times most days with running sessions, cross training, strength training and stretching so it’s not as much time left as you think! I love to cook and this is a big passion of mine; I am a plant based runner and I love to take time to prepare meals for me and my family and then share (the good ones) with my social media following. I also just finished studying online my personal training certificate so I can coach some athletes!