Sunday, July 31, 2011

Running And The Damage Done. (The dark side of ultrarunning).

"Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil; and good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have one. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane." - General Corman, Apocalypse Now

General Corman - Apocalypse Now

Three days in, the pain is taking hold. Not a normal everyday day DOMs pain, but deep down pain, and that old nagging injury is back screaming at you. Your body wants you to stop, you take the pill. The pain is still there, but now it's manageable, a background noise that you can live with. And you keep on taking the pills until you finish. Then you stop and your body kicks into inflammation overdrive, everything swells up. That old nagging injury, now its permanent damage.

Somewhere, you crossed the line from exercise as health and fitness and enjoyment to obsession and finishing at all costs. I've covered some aspects of the courage aspects of this in previous blog posts, here, here and here. However, there is a flip side to this, when you ignore constant pain signals from your body and mask them with drugs it can only go one way eventually. If that's the price your willing to pay then that's fine. But sometimes in the heat of the moment our judgment is clouded.

'I caught you knocking at my cellar door'

To be clear I'm not talking about illegal or performance enhancing drugs, this is no professional cyclists EPO commentary or class A drugs to mask pain in professional sports scenario. Ultra running as they say is the last true sport, about as pure as it's going to get. No prize money, no sponsorship, no recognition. One day this will probably change, but for the moment not.

This is about pain killers and anti-inflammatories and to a certain extent nutrition.  If you can buy something over the counter, this doesn't mean it's safe or doesn't have side effects, especially if taken in large quantities over a long period of time.

The use of pain killers in ultra running is well known, and it happens at all levels. Once I was running along next to a woman who was leading the womens section of the race, she said something along the lines of 'time to take some more paracetamol' and popped a couple of pills as we ran along. A story told to me by a competitor in one of the multi day desert races; at night when the medical tent was closed two plastic carrier bags of pills were left outside of the tent, with a note saying 'if you're in pain take these' and 'if you're really in pain take these' above each bag. Another story told to me about one of the top mountain marathoners, when asked what he ate for two days he replied 'Ibuprofen'. Yes, use of the old marine candy is rife, and of course, I've done it myself.

Moonlight Mile - Why it may not be a good idea

When you exercise and there is significant DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) there is an inflammation response. This response is part of the healing process, substances like prostaglandins and histamines are being produced, helping to repair the area and remove damaged parts of you. In the case of actual injury, the pain is telling you something more, it's telling you that you are injured and you should stop doing what you are doing or you are going to damage yourself even more.

This is beyond the pain that all endurance athletes are familiar with, the pain of pushing to the limit, this is the pain of injury and possible permanent damage.

Anti-inflamatories and pain killers are interfering with the healing process. Tucker & Dugas (2009:238) list the following problems with non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like Ibuprofen and Aspirin

  1. Ulcers - long term use of NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers to develop
  2. Kidney damage
  3. Joint cartilage damage. Long term use of some NSAIDs can cause joint cartilage degeneration
  4. Slower muscle protein synthesis after exercise. Both Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol) have been shown to slow the process
  5. Impaired healing process
So not only are you taking part in an event that may be damaging your cartilage and reducing muscle protein synthesis anyway, the pain killers you are taking are probably making it worse!

The British National Formulary. (BNF click here) lists every medication in use, what it's used for and what its known side effects are. Here are a few of the most common anti-inflammatories and pain killers and their side effects as listed in the BNF.

NSAIDs ( Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Diclofenac) side effects listed include:

"Gastro-intestinal disturbances including discomfort, nausea, diarrhoea, and occasionally bleeding and ulceration occur. Other side-effects include hypersensitivity reactions (particularly rashes, angioedema, and bronchospasm), headache, dizziness, nervousness, depression, drowsiness, insomnia, vertigo, hearing disturbances such as tinnitus, photosensitivity, and haematuria. Blood disorders have also occurred. Fluid retention may occur (rarely precipitating congestive heart failure); blood pressure may be raised. Renal failure may be provoked by NSAIDs, especially in patients with pre-existing renal impairment. Hepatic damage, alveolitis, pulmonary eosinophilia, pancreatitis, visual disturbances, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and toxic epidermal necrolysis are other rare side-effects. Induction of or exacerbation of colitis or Crohn’s disease has been reported"


"Side-effects rare, but rashes, blood disorders (including thrombocytopenia, leucopenia, neutropenia) reported; hypotension, flushing, and tachycardia also reported on infusion; important: liver damage (and less frequently renal damage) following overdosage."


"Side-effects: nausea and vomiting (particularly in initial stages), constipation, dry mouth, and biliary spasm; larger doses produce respiratory depression, hypotension, and muscle rigidity; other side-effects include abdominal pain, anorexia, bradycardia, tachycardia, palpitation, oedema, postural hypotension, seizures, malaise, hypothermia; hallucinations, vertigo, euphoria, dysphoria, mood changes, dependence, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, sleep disturbances, headache; sexual dysfunction, difficulty with micturition, urinary retention, ureteric spasm, muscle fasciculation; blood disorders (including thrombocytopenia, leucopenia, neutropenia), miosis, visual disturbances, flushing, sweating, rashes, urticaria and pruritus; pancreatitis also reported; important: liver damage (and less frequently renal damage) following overdosage with paracetamol."


"Produces analgesia by two mechanisms: an opioid effect and an enhancement of serotonergic and adrenergic pathways. It has fewer of the typical opioid side-effects (notably, less respiratory depression, less constipation and less addiction potential); psychiatric reactions have been reported.diarrhoea; fatigue; less commonly retching, gastritis, and flatulence; rarely anorexia, syncope, hypertension, bronchospasm, dyspnoea, wheezing, seizures, paraesthesia, and muscle weakness; blood disorders also reported."

Okay it's probably not that bad

Yeah, I don't know what half those side effects are either, but they don't sound good. Granted, many of these side effects are rare and happen with long term use, and it wont happen to your right? Except, you'll be taking them in a state of exhaustion and dehydration and after days of eating mostly crap. If you take them for a couple of days, fair enough. But, what if you use them to get through your training runs, and you enter a couple of events a year. Before you know it, you're taking a whole lotta pills, and your pursuit of health and fitness went out the window.

Supernoodles and Superfood

The other key point when running multi day ultras is the food you eat. By its very nature it has to be calorific, portable and non perishable. You are not going to be running along with your five a day fruit and veg in your backpack unless you want to end the day eating mush.

With single day events this may not be an issue, as you can have fresh food on you or at aid stations. However on  multi days its going to be dehydrated foods and powders unless you're bush tucker man foraging for food('little did they know, there was food all around them').

On an extreme event the body is in extreme oxidation, free radicals are running around your body like freight trains. As we know these free radicals cause damage and inflammation,and it could be inflammation of the systemic kind, the type that leads to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. We now know that the relationship between free radicals and anti-oxidants is more complicated than first thought. However, there is a good chance on an ultra run you aren't really eating any anti-oxidants, and all those beneficial phytochemicals found in fruit and vegetables, you aren't eating those either.

I've seen some European runners with vacuumed pack 'real' food, no dehydrated camping food for them. I've also seen a French guy live on nothing but powder for 6 days, powdered meal replacements and energy drinks for 6 days; and he was a doctor! I can only hope the French paradox of heart disease will help him when he gets back to the standard French diet of cheese, bread and wine. I didn't ask him if eating no fibre for 6 days had an effect!

I have used supernoodles a fair amount. As you can see from the nutrition profile here, one pack contains over 500 kcals,  and it only weights 85grams, and some of the supermarket own brands are even better, with 600kcals in a packet! Now, a pack of supernoodles in themselves aren't inherently bad, the first ingredient is noodles, and depending on the brand they may also contain MSG, several types of flavouring and maltodextrin (why buy expensive sports supplements when these have the same stuff in!). On a side note, two people have told me that supernoodles are on the weight watchers list for foods that are okay to eat, presumably because they are low fat. Obviously, no one at weight watchers thought to look at the calorie content, the irony, ultra runners are eating them because of the calories and weight watchers are telling people to eat them on a weight loss plan. They do however, contain nothing really apart from starch, sugar and fat. The more expensive expedition meals aren't really any better. And to be fair, they aren't designed to be, they're designed to give you energy.

Ultra runners best friend and the reason people on weight watchers don't lose weight

However, we know that diets high in starch, sugars, saturated fats and trans fats increase systemic inflammation (Tucker & Dugas 2009). Whereas diets consisting of mainly fruits, vegetables and omega 3 fats with moderate amounts of alcohol and caffeine reduce inflammation. Don't forget when you're running to the extreme, DOMs and injury have caused inflammation, free radicals are attacking you at every corner, and at the same time you may be eating foods that are pro inflammatory, lacking in anti-oxidants and natural anti inflammatory substances, while at the same time you could be taking pain medication.

If it's a one off event for you and you only intend eating like this for a few days, then the damage will probably be negligible. But, if you are training at high intensity and mainly taking sports drinks containing maltodextrin and various sugars and are always loading up on junk carbs to get you through to the end of the run then this may be affecting your long term health. Not to mention, most endurance athletes have diets low in protein.

What can be done

During the event you can take some supplements that may help. For example, omega 3 fish oil capsules can help with the inflammation, plus the omega 3 essential fatty acids are needed by your body for a whole host of functions. Tumeric (see here) contains curcumin which is a natural anit-inflammatory, as well as an anit-oxidant, it's as safe as it gets supplement wise. You can get it in tablet or capsule form, make sure you get the standardised extract of curcumin not just  tumeric powder. (I just noticed tumeric is on the ingredient list for supernoodles, probably not enough to negate the noodles). Vitamin C supplementation of at least 1g per day when competing in events is probably a good idea as well.

When running, try to get some protein in, some good quality whey for example, and try to use foods that are as natural as possible. I like the bars from , good quality ingredients, and unlike many natural energy and protein bars they don't taste like shoe polish. I managed to eat these for 6 days no problem.

It may seem obvious, but when you're not racing eat natural whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, oily fish, carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and quinoa and try not to rely on supplements and sugar.

With regards to injury, injury proof yourself with appropriate training, including strength training, interval training, mobility drills and soft tissue work. And field test all your equipment.

And lastly, know how far to push yourself and when to stop. This blog post is not meant to be judgemental, as I've done everything mentioned above, I've taken the painkillers to keep going, I've eaten the crap, I've run through the injury.  But sometimes you have to take a step back and think what this is doing for your long term health. There may be a better way, or even a few tweaks you can employ which will not only mean you ingest less toxins but improve your performance and health as well. The ultimate aim is to enjoy the activity, to immerse yourself in the run and not become sidetracked into destructive behaviours.

If none of this works then listen to the words of Percy Cercutty, Australian running coach (quoted in Tucker & Dugas, 2009;42)

"Pain is the purifier. Love pain. Embrace pain."
 Last word to Johnny Cash. The ultrarunning anthem. 'I hurt myself today, I focus on the pain, the only thing that's real'


Tucker R & Dugas D (2009) The Runner's Body. Rodale. New York

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Unilateral Limb Peripheral Heart Action Circuit With One Dumbbell Or A Kettlebell. (Or i could just write fat loss circuit and more people will read it)

This is a circuit I came up with about 4 years ago (maybe longer). I was trying to get women to use the free weights but they wouldn't venture into the testosterone fuelled free weight area. Also they didn't want to keep changing weights or keep going back and forth between machines in a busy gym. They wanted to do their exercises hidden in the corner somewhere, especially during peak times. I also knew most women were notoriously bad at resting between sets, as many were used to high repetitions in classes and they also wanted to feel they had 'worked out', which in their parlance means they were out of breath and didn't want to feel pumped. Lastly, it was a way of covering the whole body quickly, for the time crunched person. This circuit was the answer. Oh, and its not just for women, anyone can benefit from this type of training.

This circuit was the solution, you only need one dumbbell or one kettlebell and you can do it with our without a bench. And, even though I initially designed it for female clients, it works just as well for men. And before you write to me and say you invented it, i'm not saying I invented the exercises or have exclusive rights to the sequence.

The first video below is the dumbbell version with a bench.

The sequence of exercises is as follows:
  1. One Arm Standing DB Shoulder Press
  2. Bulgarian Squat/ Rear Foot Elevated 
  3. One Arm Dumbbell Row - bench supported
  4. One Leg Romanian Deadlift - weight in same side hand as leg that is moving
  5. One Arm Chest Press
  6. One Leg Glute Thrust - bench supported
The order of the exercises alternates between upper and lower body, and gradually you make your way from standing to supine (laying on your back). This gives a smooth transition between positions and feels like a logical sequence. You do one limb then the other. So it would be
  • left arm, 
  • right arm, 
  • left leg, 
  • right leg
  • back to left arm etc. 
In the video Nathan only demonstrates 5 reps, but when I gave it to female clients they aimed for 12-15 reps, and 2-3 circuits, with as little rest as possible. The exercises chosen are not carved in stone, but some things are not possible with a dumbbell, for example, vertical pulling. In reality a person would be stronger pulling than pushing, so a different weight could be used, but remember I gave this to females who were  relatively new to weights, so this would be sufficient.

I nearly always get beginners to do the Bulgarian Squats and one leg RDLs bodyweight only. I also prefer doing the RDLs with the dumbbell in the opposite hand to the stationary leg (e.g. left leg on the ground, dumbbell is in the right hand), this puts the hips in a better position, keeps the pelvis squarer, gets the core working and helps to focus on the glutes and hamstrings of the stationary leg.

(Note: In the video, it is the first time Nathan had done this circuit, even though he is a trainer he never normally does one leg RDLs with one dumbbell and has never done the glute thrust before. You can see in the RDL he needs to bring his leg back more, pull it back so it is more of a hinge, and you can hear me cuing him to do that as well. I used this version of the video, so you can see what clients will actually do and also to show how quickly it is possible to grasp the exercises. See the kettlebell video below, filmed only a few minutes later, and Nathans technique on the RDL is already much better. Yeah, I know he's a young athletic trainer and not a deconditioned client, but you get the point).

Anyway, here is a video of Neghar Fonooni doing a one legged RDL with kettlebells, notice how her leg goes back as she hinges, Yeah, I know she is using 2 kettlebells, but she's better looking than me or Nathan (sorry mate!)

If someone can't do a Bulgarian Squat, then a Reverse Lunge or Forward Lunge could be done (see the kettlebell video below) or step up if equipment is available. With the RDL, if a client has trouble with balance they can start by reaching down to the bench only with their hand or set up a step with some risers, put their foot under the steps and again reach down to the step lid.

Now I'm assuming you've screened your client in some way before getting them to do this, FMS (functional movement screen) or whatever system you use. It may be a simple matter of seeing if someone can do a decent bodyweight squat or stand on one leg. If they can't then you may have to regress to simpler exercises like a step up using a low riser or half kneeling positions.

Sequence by movement and alternatives:
  1. Vertical Pushing - could do push press.
  2. Quad dominant leg - could be lunge, step up, one legged pistol squat (good luck showing that to beginners!)
  3. Horizontal Pulling - any type of row, see kettlebell video for unsupported version.
  4. Hip dominant leg - can go bodyweight or progress to more challenging version.
  5. Horizontal Pushing - chest press, flye, floor press (see kettlebell video), one arm press up!
  6. Glute dominant movement - originally I did the one legged glute bridge (aka Cook Hip Lift) as in the kettlebell video below. Then I saw the glute thrust as done by Brett Contreras. Even though I think the glute thrust activates the glutes better, for most people I still do the glute bridge on the floor, as they find it more comfortable on the middle back and head and stops them using the back too much.
Kettlebell circuit
    In the kettlebell video below, the only equipment needed is one kettlebell. In the video Nathan only demonstrates a few reps on one side, but in reality you would do one arm 12-15 reps, then the other arm 12-15 reps, then the leg 12-15 reps. This circuit is also a way of getting clients to start using kettlebells without having to do technical moves like snatches & cleans, which may be intimidating at first.

    1. KB shoulder press.
    2. Front Lunge & Back Lunge - KB can be in the suitcase or rack position. Note the KB is on the same side as the leg that is moving. Nathan racks the KB slightly differently to me, he has the elbow up, whereas I would have the elbow down. Use the position that works best for you.
    3. Bent over row with twist.
    4. RDL - KB handle is easier to reach than a dumbbell.
    5. Floor Press.
    6. One leg glute bridge - pull leg as close as possible to chest
    The same caveat applies to kettlebells as to dumbbells. Screen your client first. I always start clients with the kettlebell goblet squat and  kettlebell deadlift (2 legs on the ground) before progressing onto other moves.

      Peripheral Heart Action Training

      This is a fancy way of saying you keep the blood moving around the body. It moves from upper body to lower body.

      (Fleck & Kraemer, 1997, Designing Resistance Training Programs, p121, explain it slightly differently, as a sequence of exercises, but don't worry too much about that, it now generally means alternating between upper and lower body. And yes, I have the 1997 version of this book, that's how long i've been doing this stuff).

      • As the blood keeps moving from upper to lower body, then your body has to work harder to keep pumping it around. Therefore, theoretically more energy is used, and more calories burned.
      • There is a conditioning effect, as the body has to keep moving blood to different parts of the body, the heart has to work harder, improving cardiac function.
      • Plus, as one part of the body is working another part is resting, therefore you need minimal rest.
      • And finally, there is less pump in the muscle, as you are not doing back to back exercises for that muscle, which is good as women don't always like the pumped feeling and it means you should be getting some strength training effect, as the muscle has plenty of rest and isn't full of metabolic waste when you get round to it again on the second circuit.
      Bilateral deficit

      This is the phenomenon where the strength of one limb is more than both limbs combined. For example, you might be able to shoulder press a 20kg dumbbell when using one arm, but when you use both arms together you can only press 17.5kg in each hand. Therefore, you can overload more and lift more weight when using only one limb at a time. See this study.

      Unilateral training

      Training one limb at a time means the stronger side can't take over, as it might do during a barbell movement. Also you can get more core muscle activation in exercises like the standing DB shoulder press because the core muscles on the opposite side of the body have to contract to keep the spine stable.

      Also I had the idea that the unilateral limb training may add to the PHA effect. Your body has to shuttle the blood from one arm to the other and then to the leg on the opposite side of the body and so on.

      The limbs will get longer rest time as well. For example, it will take longer to get back to the left arm shoulder press if each limb is done individually than if you did both limbs at the same time. This should allow you to lift more weight and again minimise the pump. You could use much lower reps in this circuit, for example, 5 or 6, and use it as more of a strength circuit.

      Make it harder

      I guess you could make it hard by doing more complex moves like

      1. One arm Snatch - I prefer the DB to the KB for this
      2. One arm swing
      3. One arm clean into push press
      4. Pistols or Lunge with KB in overhead position
      5. Renegade Row
      That would be tough. But don't be fooled by the simplicity of the original circuit. Give it a go and see how the fatigue starts to set in after a couple of circuits. Do this circuit once a week as part of an overall program.

      Sunday, July 3, 2011

      How Fast Should I Run? A guide for multi-day ultra runs.

      If you've ever completed any type of ultra run, generally people will ask you the same questions on your return. The questions are normally along the lines of 'What position did you finish?', 'How fast did you run it?', 'How fast did the winner run it?'. The correct answers to these questions are:

      'I completed it'
      'As fast as I could'
      'Faster than me'

      Then there are questions like 'Was it hard, was it tough, did you have to train for it?'

      The correct answer to this is 'As you can see I'm wearing flip-flops, not out of choice, but because my feet are swollen and due to some other injuries I can't wear shoes of any description; at one point I think I went into hypothermic shock after running at night in the forest and had to get into my sleeping bag fully clothed; so yes, I would say it was tough. Yes, I thought training would be a good idea on this occasion, as doing a couple of 5k fun runs didn't seem enough, though from my conditioning currently you may doubt my assertion that I did indeed train for this event.'

      When you tell people the average speed you're running at, they always look somewhat disappointed. Even more so if they are a runner of any description, because they may have an idea of how fast they can run a 10k or a marathon.Then you explain that the MDS (Marathon De Sables) was won this year with an average speed of 11.99kph, and that if you ran an average of 10kph you would be pretty much in the top 10, and even if your average speed was just under 9kph, you would still be top 30 in the MDS (click here to see the results for 2011).

      Another inevitable question is 'Did you run it all, or did you walk?', the answer is 'well, I tried to run as much as I could, but some hills are so steep that there is no point running them, and because of fatigue and the terrain and the heat, you will be running as fast as you can, and then you will look down at your GPS, and it says you are only running at something like 7.9kph, and you think, how can that be, I'm going as fast as I can?!'

      (I'm aware that some events are so long and the terrain so hard that they are almost impossible to run. In this case, calling it an ultra run is a misnomer, it should be called an 'ultra walk' or 'ultra stroll'. Of course, these don't sound as cool as ultra running, so it wont happen.)

      I should also say I have no experience of 24 hour events, where your don't have to carry any food or water, as there are aid stations, so I couldn't tell you how fast you can expect to run. And if you are in one of those events where you run a circuit over and over again for 24 hours, I would say boredom and insanity are your biggest barriers.

      Your marathon time is irrelevant.

      How fast you can run a flat city marathon like London or Berlin in ideal conditions carrying no weight has very little bearing on an event where the terrain is all trail, your are carrying a rucksack, its hot and you're four days in. For example, on the Trans Aq, day 5 is approximately 28k, and you can expect to run this in the same time you normally do a marathon in. That's right, you will run 28k in the same time you normally run 42k in. Whats more the terrain on this day is not particularly difficult, there isn't much sand, but having just run a night stage, and with 4 days of accumulated fatigue, lack of sleep etc this is what you can expect. This doesn't take into account injury, you can then expect to run slower.

      There is no comparison between road running standard distances like 10k and 42k and the multi day events. Yes, if you are general fast at these, you should be fast at longer distances but not always ( see the advice at the bottom of this post about running slow). It's like comparing playing darts in the pub and traditional archery in Bhutan, and then when your mate returns from Bhutan, asking him how many double tops he got. (Yes, this is a rubbish analogy, but I can't think of anything better at the moment). Apples and oranges my friend.

      This doesn't mean running 10k isn't hard, as Scott Jurek as alluded to, running 10k as fast as you can is very hard, the fatigue and mindset is just different from running much longer distances.

      The map is not the ground.

      I can't begin to tell you how hard running on sand is. I practiced running on sand once, I don't know if it helps or not, definitely practice running on trails, but running constantly on sand may make your achilles more prone to injury possibly.

      However, if you intend doing all your training on the road without a rucksack and you live in a temperate climate you might want to re-think your strategy. If this works for you then good luck and well done. If however, the event you're entering is trail/ sand based and involves carrying some weight for several days, don't say I didn't warn you when your achilles starts screaming in a way you never thought possible.

      Getting to the point.

      All of the above was really a long winded introduction to this section. The advice below is taken directly from the Trans Aq website ( ), and I take no credit for it. It explains the effects of terrain, fatigue, heat and backpack on your average speed much better than I could. I can also say from experience that it is accurate as well. I have re-formatted and re-worded some parts so it makes more sense in English and highlighted important parts:


      For those who have never taken part in the Trans Aq’ or run in Africa, it’s important for you to understand what awaits you… Backpack + more or less sandy tracks + relief + heat = -20% to -30% of moving speed. Yes, if you usually run a marathon in 4 hours, then it will take you 6 hours or even more to run a stage of 42 km

      This theory has been verified even for the best runners, because the Trans Aq’ is won at a speed of 10 to 11km/h (depending on the year) by runners capable of running these distances at 14 to 15km/h without a backpack, no sand, etc… 

      Training advice

      1. Quality – run quickly. This is why it’s important to include quality (speed-work) in your training sessions, to increase your speed and average speed, so you’ll not be forced to walk 90% of the Trans Aq’.

      E.g. if you run a marathon in 4h10m, your speed is an average 10km/h. With a backpack weighing 5kg (day 1), you lose about 2km/h at the same level of effort[note: there's a good chance your backpack will weight more than this, don't forget you'll be carrying water as well]

      With temperatures at 27°C to 30°C you’ll lose at least another km/h in comparison to 20°C still at the same level of effort. And the average state of the ground on the Trans Aq’ will make you lose another 1 to 2km/h. So, the first day, if it’s hot, in order to not overdo it, you’ll have to run at 7km/h in the morning (when it’s cool) then 6km/h if the heat remains until the end of the stage, always at the same level of effort for a 4h10m marathon… This is only an average. 

      To resume, if the backpack is heavier, if the weather is hotter and in sandy passages, you’ll be at a maximum 5km/h, if you don’t want to put yourselves into the “red zone”. It’s essential to understand this if you want your Trans Aq’ to be a success. A 4h10m marathon runner will, therefore, walk often. At each sandy passage, at each uphill passage. A 3h marathon runner, if he knows how to manage his effort, will probably never have to walk because his average speed will be between 9 to 10km/h. So, this is why it’s useful to do some quality training sessions, otherwise you’ll be forced to walk often. 

      2. Specific – slow running. On the contrary, I know many runners where the Trans Aq’ has “completely passed them by” because they didn’t take the time to learn how to run slowly. 

      When you’re used to training at 11 to 13km/h, it’s very difficult muscularly to run at 8 or 9km/h. But it will very often be necessary so as not to “explode” and have to finish a stage by walking. It is, therefore, necessary during training sessions to run for at least 2 hours using these specific speeds. Thigh muscles will become accustomed to work under compression and you’ll avoid pain and injury when you’ll be forced to run at these speeds over many hours (the long stage). The same goes for the slower runners; they’ll have to walk often (as shown above) and so it’s useful to train yourself to walk because the tendons and muscles don’t work in the same way. 

      Blisters: Many runners suffer from blisters when usually they never have them… If it’s not owing to shoe size or even new shoes, it’s often because you’ll provoke unusual rubbing/friction. By walking, you may suffer from blisters on the heels if you usually don’t walk, whereas when running you never get blisters, except on the toes. 

      To sum up, teach yourself to run slowly, or do speed training, running at your marathon speed is unnecessary for preparing for the Trans Aq’. This is only my opinion, it’s not advice carved in stone."

      Don't under-estimate the sleep deprivation effect of three guys sharing a two man tent and listening to snoring all night! Buy some ear-plugs and an inflatable pillow and everything should be fine.