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Lessons Learned From Top Ultramarathoner


Long Distance Running Tips

When I got a chance to run with one of the world’s top ultra marathon runners I knew I was in for something special. Not only has Piotr Kuryło run in over 50 marathons, he took part in numerous ultra marathons, including a second place finish in the Spartathlon. However, his biggest feat was a run around the world which took one year to complete. So, if there was one person to take lessons from about distance running, this is the man. I got a chance to spend over 2 hours with him and run for over 90 minutes. Here are a few long distance running tips I took out of the experience.

Piotr Kuryło

You Have To Be Crazy

To take on great distances, you have to be crazy. Maybe not in your own perception, but in the eyes of the general public. Although Piotr is a very humble man, you do sense the wilderness and craziness within. The howling noises he makes when running through forests are just an example of that. After all, he is the wolf!

Take a Break

As we set off after a 30 minute break, Piotr told me, we’ll run for 300 metres and stop. Sure, why not I thought. When we stopped, he told me to notice, that now, my muscles were not working, however, my lungs were still going. Stopping for 2 minutes after a short stint, allows the lungs to get the oxygen to the muscles, and the whole body to get into rhythm. I have learned the principles of a warmup fast paced walk and same for a warm-down but this was a new lesson, and it makes sense.

The Arms

I observed that Piotr Kuryło makes minimalistic movements with the whole upper body, including the arms. Running arm movementNot to say they are not moving. He told me to make slightly circular motion with them. Moving the arms forwards and backwards may work to drive you in sprints and short distances, but long distance running is all about energy conservation. A light circular movement lets the arms flow with the beat and conserve energy.

Nutrition

Hydration is key. At every pause, Piotr would reach for water. Never underestimate the importance of hydration. Next, nutrition. Although he eats everything, I noticed Piotr focuses on whole grains and proteins. Vitamin supplements are a go as well with such distances. As he is running from Poland to Greece, Piotr Kuryło said that he mainly eats cold food (cooked, but cold). After all, all wild animals eat cold food, so why couldn’t we.

The Feet

Short and low strides. No high leg kicking, no long strides. Running foot movementShort, sweet and even paced strides. Uphill, downhill on the straight – same movement. I learned the same lesson from Scott Jurek’s book “Eat and Run”. I don’t know whether it was because he had already run 70km that day or if it is the way he runs, but Piotr keeps his feet very close to the ground, sometimes even skimming it as he moves them forward. Again, minimalistic movement.

Go the Extra Mile

If you were going to run 10km, try to run 11km. As you approach the end of your run, move the finish line a bit farther. Challenge yourself. Going the extra mile will prepare you better physically and more importantly, mentally!

Don’t Follow the Same Pattern

If you are running the same distance every time, your body will get used to it and will not be challenged. Complacency is your enemy. Rather, vary your runs. Run 15k one day and 5k another. It’s better than running 10k each time. This way you will improve endurance and push your limits. The shorter runs will assist with recovery after earlier long runs.

These are simple lessons and running tips but very valuable. Writing about them is not the same as experiencing them in real life. I wish everyone who enjoys running to have an opportunity to run with someone of Piotr Kuryło’s stature. His presence is enough to wear off on you and inspire to greater feats. Both in terms of running and in personal life. I have recently come across a quote which I think hits it right on the nail, “If you want to change your body, exercise. If you want to change your life, become a runner!”

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