nc500run – Why & How?

Embarking on a journey along the North Coast 500 (NC500) in Scotland is an invitation to embrace the extraordinary.

Many choose to drive this stunning loop in 5 days, some challenge themselves on road bicycles averaging 100 miles per day, this July, over 15 days, I intend to run it for Mental Health UK.

Why?

How?

I’m not sure!

Author: Nicky Forster

Last month I wrote about a challenge I am taking on in July, raising money for Mental Health UK.

The ‘nc500run’ will see me running around northern Scotland’s iconic NC500 road, a 516-mile circular loop starting and finishing at Inverness Castle.

I hope to do this in 15 days which equates to an average distance of 35 miles each day.

I have long said that anyone, unless they have a physical or medical condition that prevents them, can run a marathon, and that everyone, should run one.

No chance, you may be thinking . . . . but I have now coached over 25 people to run this distance, many of whom were non-runners, and not one has told me they regretted it.

Running a marathon can teach valuable life lessons about goal setting, discipline, perseverance, self-discovery, and embracing the journey. The challenges and the ultimate triumph experienced during marathon training and the race itself can provide individuals with valuable insights and skills that can be applied to various aspects of life.

Running this distance is one thing, but running multiple ultra-marathons, which is anything longer than a traditional marathon (26.2miles/42.2km), is a completely different challenge, and one that I’m daunted by.

One question I am being continually asked and one I’m asking myself is,

how am I going to prepare for this challenge?

15 ultramarathons in 15 days

The answer, I’ve discovered is that I can’t.

There is no way that I can prepare by running daily marathons, I don’t have either the time or the physical capacity, so I will embark on this challenge knowing that the mental side of it will be far tougher than the physical, in many ways that’s how it should be.

I find that exercising and taking myself into a physically dark place helps me to focus, reduce stress, build resilience, facilitate self-reflection, and promote better sleep, all of which contribute to improved mental health.

That said, there are some things that I am doing in preparation for this unique challenge.

Since the start of this year, I have run daily, progressively increasing distances over each 7-day period. This prepares the body and mind for unrelenting pressure of running every day. For 15 days I will not have the option to take a day off and chill out, this will be as tough mentally as it will physically, but I have already begun the process of looking at running every day as something I have to do, just like getting ready each day for a job, switch off, get my trainers on and let’s go!

I will run the David Goggins 4 x 4 x 48 early June to prepare myself further for running whilst physically fatigued and mentally tired.

This challenge set by former U.S. Marine Goggins, consists of running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours completing 48 miles in total over the challenge.

It will be a good test mentally because we all know the challenges sleep deprivation has on our ability to function.

Nutrition is a challenge in itself, not as you might think, each day’s calorie expenditure will be in the region of 7000 calories.

The real challenge here is eating when your fed up with eating.

Most of the time we eat when we want to eat, this when the hunger hormone, Ghrelin builds up to make us feel hungry. When we eat the levels of ghrelin drop and leptin takes its place making us feel satiated.

Forcing yourself to eat because you need calories for continued running when Ghrelin levels are low is extremely tough.

This again must be looked at as a need rather than a want.

I often say to myself “I don’t want to eat this” then remind myself,

“I don’t care what you want, this is what you need, so bloody eat it”

Possibly more importantly than nutrition is hydration.

We all know that importance of water.

Even a slight drop in hydration levels, as little as 2% can lead to a significant and meaningful negative impact in our ability to perform endurance activities. We will be able to perform less work for less time.

Levels of hydration affects so many of the bodies systems and controls performance, endurance, temperature regulation, electrolyte levels, joint lubrication, mental focus, and cognitive function.

As a general rule the Galpin Equation states that endurance runners should consume 150ml every 15 mins whist exercising, for me this equates to somewhere in the region of 7-8 litres of water per day.

Physically the running will, take care of itself, but injury from repetitively stressing the body is a real concern.

This is where a specific running strengthening programme in the gym is essential to prevent common running injuries like achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and hip flexor issues.

Squats, step ups, lunges and core exercises are vital as well as specific strengthening exercises for hip flexors, calves and the ITB (iliotibial band).

All of these remind me that there are many reasons not to do this challenge, but I am passionate about mental health, both in myself and others, and I am determined to push myself and discover where I can take myself physically but more importantly mentally, to see how the challenges faced on the road mirror the hurdles encountered in life, reminding us all of the indomitable strength and resilience residing within us.

For more information about this please follow here:

NC500 Run – 2023

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Let’s do it!

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