William Sichel’s performance at last month’s Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Race in New York saw him run further in a single, measured race than any other UK athlete has ever done. We talk to him about how he prepared for the race and what it's like to run for 50 consecutive days.
How did this compare to other ultras?
Very, very different. Most obviously the sheer distance and duration which was way beyond anything I'd done before. My longest race prior to this one was 1000 miles in 2010. In addition this was an 'urban course' ie open to the public. It was in Queens, New York, a busy suburb so except for the first two hours and the last three the course was often busy with normal life going on around us. There was an enforced break from mid-night to 6am when everyone goes home and to allow the event to be more manageable. All these factors put together certainly made for a very different experience.
So 50 days of running …
I know! I struggled early on and by day 19 was around 70 miles behind the daily average required to complete the race. This meant I had to run a negative split (something that’s never been done before in the history of the event) to complete the event.
Did you anticipate the fact you would break so many records? (Sichel’s performance saw him set new records at British M60, British Overall and World M60 levels)
The short answer is no because I had no idea how I would cope with the distance and duration. I always believed I could do it but obviously had no idea whether I actually could or not.
Is there any way you can prepare your body for running 5000km?
Yes and no! I don't think you can actually train to run 5000km, you just have to do it. Having said that there is a lot you can do to get fit for the race. I believe my 20 years of training and competing was part of my preparation. In addition I have always put a lot of effort into my conditioning work and not just clocking up miles.
How did you tailor your training?
The longer you have been running the more important it is to include conditioning work in your programme. My training is very broad based including weight training (x2 per week), flexibility/yoga, plyometrics and weight vest running which I have done for 19 years.
What is the recovery process like, both mentally and physically?
So far the recovery has been good. My masseur said he was really surprised how good my legs were considering what I'd just done. From my point of view, I've needed more sleep than normal, my legs feel quite stiff, joints a bit sore but I don't have any injuries and I'm healthy which is good. Although I didn't lose any weight I feel that my body composition has changed a bit with some muscle loss from the quads and upper body. I'm not putting any time limit on my recovery and will drift back into exercise when I feel like it.
William is working on Project165.com in which he is attempting to have set 165 ultra running records before his 65th birthday on October 1 2018. For more information, you can visit his blog.