I’m on a journey to become a fitter, faster endurance runner and have more energy for the important stuff in life – something I’ve dubbed ‘Super Fit at 50’. The real measure of success will be whether I can run the South Downs Way 100 in under 24 hours.
Along the way, I’ve set some progress milestones, including the recent Centurion SDW50.
What went well
Three weeks on and it’s time to reflect on how that race went. I finished in 11hr52, enjoying almost perfect weather conditions and fantastic organisation (as always) from the Centurion team. The South Downs Way is a real favourite of mine, and I loved every minute.
What didn’t go so well
I finished slower than my 10hr30 target time, but I’m not disappointed. I felt good throughout, only slowing down during the final 10 miles – probably from not eating enough.
Testing some theories
I usually don’t eat gels; they make me feel bloated and uncomfortable. Back in January, I decided to challenge that by trying Gu gels during my weekly long runs, and got on with them well. I was keen to see how they’d work during a 50-mile event – would they keep me fuelled?
So, I aimed to run the SDW50 fuelled purely by Gu gels, knowing they wouldn’t provide quite enough energy, but to see just what effect they had. As it happens, they worked well and I only started to feel hungry at the Southease checkpoint (mile 34) when I saw some hard-boiled eggs. I couldn’t resist and devoured an egg and a handful of cheese chunks. Other than that, I stuck to a Gu ‘Chocolate Outrage’ every hour.
Lessons from training
I’ve been travelling quite a lot for work this year, so my training has relied heavily on a 22-mile run on a Saturday morning, followed by a four-miler on Sundays carrying 23kg. The weight comes from a 10kg Adidas weight vest, plug 13kg in a rucksack, made up of bags of sugar wrapped in gaffer tape. The bags of sugar stack nicely, the gaffer tape stops any leaks, and the weight vest is actually quite comfortable, cushioning my back against the additional weight in the rucksack.
An average week also includes two shorter runs, clocking up 10 more miles. Ideally, I’d be doing a longer 8-10 mile run mid-week, but travelling doesn’t make this easy, and you have to work with what you have.
As a yardstick for completing a sub-24hr SDW100 in June, my performance at the SDW50 was below where I need to be, but the gap is ‘doable’ and I now know I need to work a bit harder to pack longer mid-week runs into my schedule.
Nutritionally, I feel confident. Malt loaf cheese sandwiches with a bit of jam are lovely and I’ll add those in to my long Sunday runs, to supplement the Gu gels.
Running with weight is paying dividends, making me stronger. Climbing the hills on the SDW50 was not as brutal as it has been in the past.
So, my mid-term report would say good baseline but needs to try a bit harder!
I’d love to hear from anyone taking on endurance goals in their 50s and beyond – do you have any tips? What keeps you going when the going gets tough? Let me know in the comments on drop me a line at email@example.com.
2 thoughts on “Super Fit at 50: a ‘mid-term report’ after the SDW50”
My name is Mark Wallace, I’m 46 and did my first Ultra (Lulworth Cove)
Last month two weeks after doing my first marathon (Cambridge Boundary)
I only started running 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and thought getting fit might help me manage my condition.
After spending 18 months just going for a run when I could be bothered I decided to join a running club even though I can only run trails as my condition means I have to go to the toilet quite often sometimes and I was really embarrassed about telling people about it.
I need not have worried as I soon found out no one talks about going to the toilet more than runner’s and I was soon christened as the bloke with arse disease which I loved as the banter soon made me feel part of the team.
I’ve got Dukeries 40, Shires and Spires and Wendover 30 booked this year in preparation for the Druids challenge along the Ridgeway in November.
My long term goal is to do the Cape Wrath Ultra in 2022 as a 50th birthday presant to myself .
I found your blog inspiring as it assures me that my ambitions are achievable.
Thanks for being so open and for sharing your story Mark. It’s brilliant that us runners have so much in common 😉
Very best wishes to you and success on your journey; truly inspiring 👊