On 1st July, I set out to walk 100km from Bath to Cheltenham in the Cotswold Way Challenge. I was there to raise money for Alzheimer's UK, in memory of my mum who passed away in November. (https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Sue-Cunningham-100km)
In my prep, I thought it's definitely endurance, so there must be lessons I can take from the horses...
But first the stats:
100.3km, around 2,250m of climb, that's about 130,000 steps in 16hrs 56mins.
Burned an estimated 4,200 calories (1lb fat is equivalent to 3500 calories, but they reckon you actually need a 7000 calorie deficit to lose a pound - exercise doesn't make you thin!)
About 1000 starters, 200 of whom were runners, the rest walking
75% completion rate
So, what have I learned?
Choose your grandparents!
No matter how hard you train, there are limits that you just can't change, thanks to your genes. Our Casper is a typical Arab, relatively leggy, gets fit at the drop of a hat (literally, a hat dropping would have him cantering round the field for half an hour!) Not a bad doer, but he never gets fat, and hobbies include running, and well, that's it really. Gem on the other hand is 7/8 Arab going on 100% pony. She's not inclined to exercise unless she must and her hobbies include eating and occasionally putting Casper in his place. She puts on weight just looking at grass, takes a lot more work to get fit than Casper, and she'll never go as fast. Guess which one I'm like (clue, it's not Casper). So might as well accept I've got my work cut out for me!
Good eater to fussy eater
No matter how well you eat at home, it's different at an event. Once you start exercising, blood gets diverted from your stomach to your muscles and your digestive system slows down. You don't feel like eating as much, and food takes longer to digest - and the longer you're exercising the worse it gets. So the long suffering crew (Rummy) need to provide a canteen of different stuff that you might pick at. (Chocolate milk, Nutrigrain bars, bananas, and salt and vinegar crisps worked for me)
You can lead a walker to water, but you don't need to make them drink.
There's a lot of myths about how much you need to drink. In fact there is a really good scientific way of knowing - if you're thirsty drink, if you're not, don't.
No hoof, no horse
Some people will say blisters and black toes are just par for the course. I think if you get blisters, your shoes probably don't fit. It took a while to find the right pair (I've never owned so many shoes before!), but I've finally got the right combination of shoes (Montrail Rogue), insoles (by Sole) and socks (Injinii). One thing to bear in mind, stuff that seems fine up to 30km, may not be OK for 80km. Still ended up with bruised big toe nails though, but no other blisters, and I think it is the blisters that probably got to a lot of the 25% of people who dropped out.
It's all in your head
Endurance isn't just physical, it's as much a state of mind. With horses some are happy to go on their own all day, some just aren't. It's the same walking. If you're always thinking about how much further you've got to go, rather than how far you've already done, you're setting yourself up to fail.
Never change anything on the day
The most important rule. If you haven't worn it, carried it, eaten it or drunk it on a training run/walk don't do it on the day!
Well, not literally, but setting out too fast seemed to be a problem for a lot of people. And a steady walk can be faster than a run over the long haul if you can keep it up (and the runners run out of steam) My fastest 25km was the first 25km at about 6.5kph, but my overall speed was 6kph, so I managed a fairly consistent pace all the way round, and was the 15th fastest woman, and 54th overall. There were 200 runners... (BTW times for finishers ranged from about 12hrs to 37hrs - smug,me? Oh yes!)
Don't spend too long getting crewed!
The other reason I had a consistent speed was I didn't stop. Got overtaken by the same groups of runners 3 times in the last 50km - they stopped to rest at the checkpoints, I didn't (well, I did stop for about 15mins at 78km).
Everyone needs a day off
And finally - endurance takes a lot out of you. If you want to be able to go out and do it again you need to rest and recover!