Photo thanks to Bernice

Well I had to include this pic of me and Bernice with our matching books, right? There’s nobody in the world doesn’t know we’re planning to run an ultramarathon next summer is there? Being sensible us, we’ve read race reports on people’s blogs, checked it all out, had a planning meeting AND bought books. I had a poke around looking at the millions of how-to books here and this was written by a woman and praised by some of the ultrarunners I admire, so I went for it.

Oh and this won’t be one I take to the next book swap at running club. This one’s with me for the foreseeable!

Krissy Moehl – “Running Your First Ultra”

(01 October 2018)

Moehl has been running ultras for over a decade, and shares interesting stories about starting out running with the guys, with kit that was barely adapted for women, and the changes she’s seen in the sport over the years. I really loved this personal aspect in what is very definitely a how-to book with multiple training plans (as opposed to one of the many ultrarunning autobiographies I seem to have filled my running reading with).

She’s also risk-averse, sensible, cheerful but not over-the-top and calmly convinced that (with a bit of help from her) we can do it. She’s all about the mental as well as the physical aspects and there’s a wealth of exceptionally practical information. She even explains how ultramarathon training is different from marathon training: for a start, you’re not expected to run 70-80% of your distance in training as you do in marathon running (typically I will get to 23 miles before a marathon; we are planning to slot in a marathon before this race, but that will be a one-off rather than several goes around that distance). There are little lists throughout about what, for example, she always takes with her on a longer training run, as well as formal packing and support team lists at the end.

The training plans are packed full of information, inspiration and tips and hints – something to read and concentrate on every week and lots to learn from. At the back are lots of details about your support crew (we won’t need this this time, but the plans go up to 100 miles), with a big emphasis on smiling when you see them and being appreciative and grateful, something Moehl is big on the whole way through (she also advocates volunteering at races and working on trail maintenance as well as respecting what we call the Countryside Code here in the UK. All good stuff.) There’s a great section on how you actually do the run, including race etiquette, choosing whether to run with music, etc. and a great early section on thoughts that can work against you (what if I feel I can’t finish?) and what you can do about them (including a sensible attitude towards injury).

There’s a chapter on recovery which I will read this time (well, I have read it, but I will remind myself after the race). Somewhat famously, I didn’t research how to recover after a marathon when I did my first one, as I wasn’t entirely convinced I was going to do the thing until I was actually on the start line, and went racing about almost doing myself a mischief until I finally slowed down!

I only have one small criticism and that is that somewhere in the production process of the copy I have, some fairly awful typos slipped in. I couldn’t see anything that affected the actual running content, but it’s hard not to be disconcerted when you find so many errors (and I’m not THAT editor, it really has to be bad to have me mentioning it). Maybe the proof text slipped through to the finished product. As a fairly experienced runner, I could see it doesn’t affect the content and practical information, but I’d hate the great content to be undermined by someone worrying that uncaught writing errors could reflect errors in the advice.

This is a great and inspiring book which, although the training schedules look tough and I can promise everyone now I will not be running five to six times a week, ever, has plenty of relatable and doable information which I have no doubt will make our path to our ultra a lot clearer and more copable with.


I’ve moved on to a VERY doomy Mary Webb which I know isn’t going to end well (OK there’s a pet animal, so I looked). “Gone to Earth” is luminous and wild and weird and a good read nonetheless. What’s the best how-to book you’ve read to help with a hobby?