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  • Writer's picturejifnabbs

How to train for an 8,000Km run?

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

The short answer? You don't! The first month is the training.


I'm picking the first month to be a sort of baptism by fire once I get to Newfoundland on May the 2nd. And I'm looking forward to the challenge. That said, there is some minor preparations I've been able to do in the mean time.


I’ve been thankful to get a lot of advice from my friend, Andy Annear. Andy is a top shelf physiotherapist, working with High Performance Sport New Zealand - the national body that oversees a lot of New Zealand’s national sports teams.


We’ve spoken a lot about the project. About how to approach it. About the unique challenges it presents. And I’ve found that some of the thinking that goes into the training for a project of this size to be a little unexpected.


One example of that thinking is that far-and-away the largest part of the physical preparation has focused not so much on improving my fitness, but on injury prevention.


We figured that the main obstacles to reaching the Pacific aren’t going to be whether you get too tired and want to stop (that’s pretty much guaranteed to happen) but whether you get injured and are forced to stop. Tired lungs you can push through with a bit of determination. But busted legs is a different story.


So Andy dished out the hit-list of the most likely injuries - the ones we’d need to mitigate against in our preparation. And here it is, complete with my own translations out of latin and into real-people language.


  1. Plantar fasciopathy (sore feet)

  2. Achilles tendinopathy (also sore feet, but a bit more towards the back)

  3. Patellar tendinopathy (sore knees, not the feet)

  4. Stress fractures in the legs and pelvis (broken bones)


Thankfully, of the four injuries mentioned above, the first three can sort of be bunched together into a group of their own: overuse injuries to the kinetic chain. And the way Andy advised me to prepare was two-fold:


Firstly, "get strong". Having strong muscles is under-rated as far as injury prevention is concerned. And strength goes a long way towards preparing the muscles for all sorts of stressors - even the ones brought on by the relatively low loads of endurance exercise.


Secondly, "do the thing you’re going to be doing". Not rocket science. Put simply, that means if you’re training for a cycling adventure, then cycle. If you’re training for a tennis season, then play tennis. And if you’re training to run across the 2nd largest country on earth, then ruuuun, Forrest, run!


I find it easy to get caught up in the latest training research or best time-saving exercises to be found online, but at the end of the day, Andy’s advice was that there’s no substitute for just running. Put the body under the exact stresses it's going to be under during the event itself, so it can adapt and get stronger against them.


In this sense, you are specializing your body. Your ankles can get hardened for running, day after day. They might not be well-prepared for the hard knocks of a rugby game or the intense split-second exertion of the high-jump, but just log the miles in training and with minimal damage or injury, they (should) be able to run day after day on the harsh pavement.


And the last piece of advice for preparing the legs, which was not so counterintuitive, was to increase the training volume slowly.


“There’s no bad exercise." Andy said. "The body can handle a whole lot of stress, so long as it has time to get used to it. So, increase slowly, don't get carried away.”


10% per week is the increment we’ve gone with. And that’s the standard approach, for example, in the world of marathon running, where people want to crank up their weekly Km’s but then find their Plantar Fascia or their Achilles start hurting. A 10% increase per week is the rule. So 10% is what we’re sticking with.


We figured that when you have to run every day, it pays to be conservative because there’s no rest time. You don’t want to rapidly increase your Km’s one week just because you feel good, only to find that your legs are a bit sore the next day, and that you have to keep running day after day. There’s no time for them to catch up and repair. An approach like that would send them over a threshold, beyond which things become a lot harder to come back from.


The better approach, increase the load slowly, and be patient.


So that covers the training approach for mitigating leg overuse injuries (1-3, above). And in terms of preventing number 4, stress fractures, the thinking to date has just been to make sure I’m continuing to eat a good diet once the adventure starts. If possible, make sure there's enough calcium in the diet. Ideally this will come from my meals available in shops along the way. But an easy alternative is also to get it through a calcium supplement added to the drink bottle.


And one last piece of unexpected thinking in the preparation has been around how to deal with any injuries once they happen. We figured that in a traditional sport; for example a game of basketball or a cycling race, it’s (arguably) smart to push through an injury, because the end is near. You just have to get to the end, and then you’ve got as long as you need to address the injury.


But with a challenge that lasts for 7-9 months, you’re probably not doing yourself any favours to push through the injury. You’re better off to stop, take a couple of days off and try to get it right, and then continue on once things are better. Whether it ends up taking you 8 months, or 8 months and 1 week, won’t matter when you’re standing at the finish.


That’s the thinking to date. Here’s hoping it works! May the 2nd is not far away.



On a training run on a freezing April day in Innsbruck, Austria.


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4 Comments


Beqa Mindiashvili
Beqa Mindiashvili
May 06, 2023

Nothing can stop you Johnny ✊ greetings from Innsbruck

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jifnabbs
jifnabbs
May 07, 2023
Replying to

Danke danke :)

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nathflan
May 02, 2023

Andy sounds like a smart guy! How many pairs of shoes do you reckon you will go through? Any strategy for breaking in new shoes and switching old ones out in relation to those foot injuries?

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jifnabbs
jifnabbs
May 07, 2023
Replying to

I'm planning on 1 pair per 1000Km, give or take. So that's 8 pairs. I haven't thought about breaking-in strategies - that's a good idea!


The thing I'll be most deliberate about is making sure I get the exact same make and model of shoe each time - the same ones I'm already using, Topo phantoms. Defintely a case of "If it aint broke, don't fix it."


But in terms of breaking in, perhaps it would be good to do a bit of an overlap period of 2 weeks or so between pairs where I can wean myself onto the new pair bit by bit to avoid sudden changes.


But I haven't yet thought of anything grander ideas for minimising…

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