Peter Kennedy's Decision to Run

Back in September I wasn't seeing any improvements in my 5 km/10 km times even though after three years in the Philippines I was fully acclimatised and my mileage was up at the 70 km level per week. I knew I was leaving the Philippines in March and when I heard about the BDM 102 I thought that it would make a suitable climax to my running in the Philippines.

Race Preparation - Endurance and Speed
I wanted to do my best I could in the race, even though it was my first ever and possibly only ultra-marathon. So I looked round for both a running coach and a nutrition coach. I needed coaches who knew how to train someone for top-class ultra-marathon running and in Ige Lopez I found someone who is both an experienced ultra-marathon runner and coach. He put me on a training schedule in three parts – 7 week buildup towards 100 km/week, 10 weeks of endurance/speed training which peaked at 160 km/week (including warm-up runs), and then one month tapering before the race. The training was very varied - long slow runs at weekends reaching back-to-back 75/25 km runs, moderate-paced runs up to 21 km, sometimes with hill sessions or fast intervals, aerobic-paced runs on alternate weekdays and one rest day a week.     

I was fortunate to avoid any injuries in training. However if I had experienced the BDM course before the race, I would have realised that I needed to do a lot more hill work (Ige did hint this to me), but work and family commitments would have got in the way. The highlight of this training was a 3 hours 20 minutes marathon in December. The lowlight of the training were forgetting to take my hydration pack on one of my trips abroad, which disrupted the nutrition plan for my 60 km training run.

My nutrition coach Harvie de Baron was excited to take on the challenge of helping me with the BDM 102. He has advised good athletes and those trying to lose weight before, but not someone doing an ultra-marathon who can't gain weight. In fact after a few weeks of additional healthy snacks (fruit, sports bars and milk) I gained 2 kilos which converted to additional muscle whilst my fat content remained very low at 5%. This can be explained by my high metabolic rate, equivalent to that of a 12 year old! The plan for the race was to get all my calories through liquid rather than food. I opted for wearing a hydration backpack and taking frequent sips of isotonic drink, with short stops every ten km for an energy gel and extra water. We slightly increased the concentration of isotonic drink to enable me to get 260 calories/hour. I could also carry a phone, torch and spare headlamp in the hydration pack and I got used to carrying all this weight on my training runs. Other key ingredients of the training were a protein recovery drink after all long runs and a weekly massage.

I decided to race in compression shorts and vest, much as the triathletes do, which avoided any chafing problems.
My GPS watch was essential to my training and the race itself, but I wore a second basic running watch as a backup just in case it failed me.

Life outside running
During the five and half months of ultra marathon training there wasn't much of a life other than running and sleeping. Moreover the demands of work as well as the training meant I often didn't get enough sleep Ð but not starting work until the afternoon most days allowed me to catch up with sleep after the early morning runs.

And reflections afterwards
Why did I do it? Were the long hours of training worthwhile? What next?
I run because it is easy to do and I am built for it, even though having the right running gear makes it an expensive sport. I like the competitive nature of races and the thought of winning is a great spur to action for me. I like the health benefits it brings Ð very high fitness level even at the age of 60, with not a day off work through illness in the last 10 years. With no weight problems I can eat and drink what I like within reason. Running also gives me extra energy for work which brings its own rewards as well. So I see myself continuing to run for many years yet, competing against the world's best runners in my age group. The change from middle-distance running on the track in England to an ultra-marathon in the Philippines has been very enjoyable and I intend to vary my competitive programme going forward with a different focus some years to others.

I hope this account inspires more people of any age to change their lifestyle to include exercise and good diet and others to extend their running beyond the fun-run level right up to the challenge of doing a fast ultra-marathon.

Peter Kennedy 2012