MARCHING MASONS 32 & 16 WEEK TRAINING PLAN
Train weekly and build your distance slowly. There’s a Q&A below with more tips and insights.
Create a diary where and when you will walk, who you walked with, and how long it took – that way you have a reminder to look back to and also how you are progressing in terms of speed and distance - including breaks! (consider Strava). Also take note of any dangers or challenging direction and report to the committee so we can be aware of those.
Below is an example of a full distance training programme for a 32-week (couch to full distance) and 16 weeks (for intermediate fitness to full distance). Key points:
For both programmes: Train/walk every week
For the 32-week programme: Ensure that every 2 weeks you walk the suggested distance below & the weeks in between you walk a shorter distance
Train in different weather conditions (April can be very wet and windy or sunny and warm!) & test out different clothing
Have appropriate walking shoes for the terrain
Consider walking sticks for back up & carry a minimum of safety equipment with you – more on that nearer the time
In the last 6 weeks prior to the start ensure you do a multi-day walk – irrespective of the distance you walk
32 WEEK TRAINING PROGRAMME: COUCH TO FULL DISTANCE
16 WEEK TRAINING PROGRAMME: INTERMEDIATE FITNESS TO FULL DISTANCE
You will notice that the distance increases each week, with an occasional drop to offer some rest and recovery walks. Key is to ensure you complete a 2-day walk in the months prior to Easter to check fitness and endurance.
This programme starts in the winter – so be prepared to get out – whatever the weather! Clearly, don’t leave it too late and start as early as possible whilst the weather is still fine.
Start & Finish: Bradgate Park – Memorial Wood
Distance: 102 miles (164 km)
Ascent: 7,028ft (2,142m)
Maximum height: 663ft (202m)
Walk time: 10-13 hours per day including rests for the full distance.
updates on the route book:
links to maps and gpx file:
TIPS FROM ULTRA-RUNNER DENNIS CROMMENTUIJN-MARSH
How long in advance should you realistically start with the training (average condition)
You should start your training now and build it up gradually to give your body the chance to get used to walking a long distance during multiple sequential days.
What does a training schedule look like?
If you haven’t done any walking, start with small distances. If you are used to walking you could start with a longer distance. In either case, you need to build up stamina, physical strength and endurance. The above-mentioned training 32-week programme is designed to increase every two weeks by 5km ~3miles in length. The weeks in between you do a shorter walk to keep the practise up. In this way you have plenty of rest and recovery and also a varied programme.
How far should I practise in total to prepare properly.
If you do the whole round, it is important you walk a few times 15-20 miles over 2 days. If you do a shorter distance, still practice that over subsequent days so you learn how your body responds to a multi-day event. The terrain for the Leicestershire Round is mostly a gentle undulating landscape across farmland – so the surface can be either very dry with deep holes from animal hooves or very muddy when wet. Also walk some long hills and varied terrain to get used to the different demands they place on your body and muscles.
What is the impact on your body of such long distances across 4 days?
Walking long distance on roads can be a monotonous and repetitive motion, however, for the Leicestershire Round the tempo will vary because the terrain varies. Thus the good part is because the terrain underfoot will be varied, you will use your muscles slightly differently throughout the day to maintain your balance – the downside of this is that it can put a lot of stress on your ankles and knees, your tendons and other short muscles. Thus work on your balance, consider walking sticks as an aid and also consider stretching exercises during breaks and at rest points.
How about food and hydration?
You will burn more calories, so replenishment is critical. I would recommend a variety of foods, things you enjoy eating, and start experimenting early – don’t buy sports food for the walk if you haven’t practised eating specialist sports food. I see some people suffering as a consequence. As this is an endurance event of 10-13 hours per day, you want to have the right balance of proteins and carbohydrates. Rehydration is key – independent of the temperature – ideally with an isotonic mix to replenish essential salts which will minimise cramping up.
How about clothing?
We don’t know what the weather will be, so it is key to dress appropriately for the conditions. You need to be prepared for the worst (rain, wind, snow, mud)– we will issue a minimum kit list every walker must carry to be self-sufficient in the case of an emergency or if the weather takes a turn for the worst, e.g. waterproof trousers and coat with taped seams.
What do you recommend for shoe-wear?
Appropriate shoe wear is key, and make sure you have walked many miles in those shoes. Consider proper walking boots or a proper off-road shoe with a high grip profile. Also consider which socks you will wear for the four days and test them out – typically throughout an endurance event I use 4 pairs of double skin socks and they have all been worn in. Finally, I always carry foldaway Nordic sticks – they are my ‘life saver’ when I am feeling tired in my legs or when I have a steep hill or a challenging field to cross. Again, ensure you have practised walking with Nordic sticks so you know how to store and access them quickly when needed, and that your hands are used to the repetitive motion, as the handles can cause friction points on the palms of your hands.
What is the risk if I walk 4 days of 25 miles without training?
The worst issues are feet and blister problems, tendon and muscle problems. I have seen lots of people drop out early due to bad preparation and also due to bad hydration and eating during the events. So not ideal, but hopefully not permanent damage.
Besides walking training, what other exercise do you suggest?
Upper body & core training – as you will be walking with a small rug sack with kit and train your gluteus maximus (bum muscles). They are the largest muscle group in your body and if they are weak, they put a lot of pressure on your leg muscles and you get tired quicker. For my ultras I had to learn to walk properly using my whole body – which I never considered before.
Should I walk an entire 25 miles prior to the event?
It is not a must – if you walk 2x22 miles a few weeks prior to the event, you should be able to walk 25 miles.
Doing a long distance two days in a row is more important so you get used to how your body feels over a few days of exercise. The second day will feel worse than the first.
What are the most common injuries during a multi-day endurance event?
Blisters and tendon injuries are the most common. You can minimise blisters through hardening your skin with a mixture of surgical spirit and olive oil. Have good quality walking socks without seams. Tendon injuries you can minimise through sufficient training with different walking speeds. Consider having some specialist massages prior to the event to unlock any knots you may have. Always seek professional medical advice if unsure.
How long should it take to complete a single day?
Even marathon runners – despite being well prepared may struggle to do a multi-day event – especially 4 days of long hours of walking. During a 4-day walk you walk at about 3 miles per hour; thus 25 miles means at least 8.5 hours without a break. Add to that 1.5 hours of stops and lunch and you talk about 11 hours in total. So, timing for walking and the breaks is key to ensure you get to key check points before the cut off times.
Do you have a fun anecdote to share?
My last ultra was from Carlisle to Newcastle along Hadrian’s wall, I loved the off-road part, and disliked the on-road as the surface was hard and unforgiving. I would steam across people on the off-road and fall behind on-road. I had repetitive tunes in my head, including the theme song of ‘Annie the musical’ and ‘The A-team’ - over and over again! I learned that I didn’t like chewing food on the go, so opted for liquid Weetabix – which became my saviour! Finally, the weeks before the event I would minimise and then stop drinking caffeine drinks – so during the event when I got past the half-way mark I had my first a cup of coffee and be literally flying off the roof!