First ultra challenge

Last year I walked the Isle of Wight challenge (107k).  I felt fine but my feet were absolutely devastated, they were bloody pulp by the end.

This year I've decided to walk the climbs and run the rest of the course, but I could really do with some advice as I was woefully underprepared last time.

Aside from some proper trail shoes, what do people do for foot care?  I was planning on putting some moleskin plaster on my soles and wearing a couple of pairs of socks - stopping to check my feet and reapply plasters at each water station (every 15k).

I ate a lot on the walk, a 2k breakfast and meals/snacks at every stop.  That was fine for walking (other than desperately needing the toilet at the worst times), but I've never been great running with much food in my stomach.  Do folks normally eat little and often, and perhaps have a reasonable breakfast a couple of hours before the start?

I'd really appreciate some advice from those with experience.


  • Lots of important factors here:

    1) Training - 107k is a long way, obviously. Not sure on your running experience, but make sure you get plenty of training before the race. Time on feet is crucial when starting out with ultras to prepare the feet and joints for being on the go for many hours. Make sure you also fit in plenty of speed work (1 or 2 sessions a week). I've found these help improve dynamic range of movement. The better this is, the longer you will last before the ultra shuffle takes hold.

    2) Shoes - the conditions and terrain will determine if you need trail shoes (plenty of summer trail ultras don't), but something with plenty of cushion works best for most people. The key factor is fit. Make sure there is plenty of room for your feet to expand; if they are snug at the start of the race, they will be too tight all too soon. I aim to have at least a thumbs width between my big toe and the end of the shoe (this also helps avoid toe bang on descents). Depending on foot shape, you also need to factor in room in the toe box and elsewhere in the shoe. Make sure you've tested any shoes for long runs before race day.

    3) Blisters - 2 pairs of socks can certainly help avoid blisters as will a properly fitted shoe for the distance (see above) and preemptive taping of likely hotspots. Don't go crazy though as excess tape will cause more problems than it solves.

    4) Food is a massively complex issue and, as with most things, is very individual to the person. What is true for pretty much everyone is that during prolonged physical activity, the body diverts blood away from the digestive system to the muscles. This makes consuming and digesting food more difficult and can lead to vomiting and toilet issues for many. The only real solution is to test what works for you before the race. Try not to consume anything on race day you haven't eaten during training runs.

    Personally, I fuel almost exclusively using Tailwind and the odd nut butter sachet as I've found that any significant amount of solids leads to stomach issues for me. This essentially means 'eating' little and often as I sip TW as I go. Again, I must stress that this won't work for everyone and you must test what is best for you!

    Hope that helps a bit! Feel free to ask any questions!
  • Hi and thank you for your detailed reply.

    I'll take that all on board, especially not going mad and trying to cram a load of food in advance.  Also not covering my feet in tape.

    I ran a marathon with some friends a couple of years ago but that's the furthest I've done.  I'm going to be realistic and probably plan to hike the hills and run the flats/downs.

    I've been upping the distance and have dropped a session of the gym to get an extra day in.  Originally I was following a plan that peaked at a 60k run but I've dropped that in favour of running for a set amount of hours as I'm too slow for the distance.  At the moment that's three hours and two the next day.

    If I can do it in under 20 hours I'll be satisfied, which seems quite achievable after hiking it last year.

    Thank you again for your advice. :)
  • Fueling yourself for the first ultra-challenge is what is can recommend to you. Many ultra-runners prefer to increase carbohydrate in the day or days prior to an event, then keep their race-day breakfast to something light and quickly digested. If running pace is likely to be lower for longer distances, a bigger breakfast may be tolerated. I recommend the following food types for you;
    1. High carbs; low fiber, fat and protein for the Night Before
    2. Mostly carbs; a little protein OK for the Morning (2 Hours Before)
    3. Easily digested carbs and sugars; a little fat and protein OK on longer runs during Run
    4. Foods high in carbs and some protein; hydrate with water After Run
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