Alan Wilson will be entering the Ultra X Sri Lanka in April 2019. He is a regular runner who has competed in marathons for many years, but made the switch to ultra-running relatively recently. He entered the Ultra X event in Wadi Rum Jordan and is now headed to their event in Sri Lanka.
Ultra X Sri Lanka is a five-day, 250km ultra-run with five stages generally between 30 and 80 kilometres, one of a series organised by Ultra X. Races are partly supported: competitors must be self-sufficient for the event, but while they are actually running they carry only the gear needed for the stage. Luggage is carried forward by the organisers. Other races in the series are held in the Azores, Mexico and Jordan. See more about the Ultra X series. All images courtesy Ultra X.
First a bit of form
Alan Wilson: I have always tried to take care of myself. My father died of diabetes and related issues and if he had looked after himself better he might have had a much longer life. Also I find that time spent running helps with work and life. It gives me a chance to reflect on issues and make plans.
I didn’t really like running at school – certainly not cross country - though I did do ok at the 1500m. But running is my main form of exercise now. After starting work I found I needed to do something physical, so I took it up again. This led to me taking part in the London and the British marathons a long time ago. Since then I have done the occasional Bath Marathon and a few others.
The impetus to start ultra running was a walk across Crete, where I have a house. I was following the escape route of some of the British Forces during their retreat in May 1941. It was 60 miles over two days and I felt good after it, even if my feet were a little damaged! I decided: if I can walk it, then why can’t I run it? Sri Lanka will make 11 ultra runs in all now.
To me running is freedom, fresh air and thinking time. If I won the lottery I’d be flying all over the world running. It’s just that life and work get in the way.
Why Ultra X Sri Lanka? Why now?
Being half Scottish, I am always open to a good offer... and I was a previous contestant.
Sri Lanka came off the back of Ultra X in Wadi-Rum, which I loved. I find that in the afterglow of competing and finishing we forget the pain and anguish that’s involved in the taking part. It’s funny how you remember all the good things – the people, the landscape and the nature that surrounds you - and yet the sore feet and exhaustion, you don’t remember them at all.
In the background, I am conscious of my drive to live life to the full now. There will be plenty of opportunity to watch others getting the best out of life later on!
I have been getting in better shape to run rather than walk more of the event, by doing miles and miles of running, day after day, to get the body used to consecutive days. Also, it helps to get the weight off a bit. I have a “running wife” who comes over to help me do some long distance slow running. I have slowed the speed I train at as its important to reflect the actual pace that I’ll be running during the race.
I had a cold before Christmas and then another one after Christmas, so after that I did around 30 miles, up to 40 miles per week. I fitted in a few long runs and then tapered down. I have done more core strength training. Not that it was an issue in Wadi Rum, but I know it will help! Generally the fitness feels in a better place - but ask me in late April!
I’ll be taking less kit this time, only one of each item. Last time I overthought it.
I have also been working on nutrition and my body is now tuned to use fat as much as possible. Hitting the wall is about the change from using carbs to using body-fat, so if you haven’t been eating carbs and your body is used to training on protein and fat then you’re not going to go through the painful transition. It’s been lots of pulses, beans and plenty of meat… I just don’t eat the custards and puddings any more.
Most daunting aspect?
As it gets closer, I have been thinking about the terrain and what the climate will feel like. It’ll be hot humid rather than hot dry like Jordan, which I liked. It may rain. I hope it doesn’t as I am not too fond of running in the rain.
And what are you most looking forward to?
Taking part in a challenging event with a load of like-minded people in a beautiful country. Also the atmosphere of the event; we’re not so much competitors out there as people defeating a course together.
What constitutes success?
Completing the race and enjoying the memories, and crossing the finish line with a smile only face. And then, when I have finished, seeing how many days it takes before my mind starts thinking “what next…?” or “On to the next one… ”.