Updated: May 16, 2022
100 miles is the ultimate goal for many a keen runner and as their popularity grows we were thrilled to discuss Mark Kearney's recent experience of both his first run over 100 miles as well as his win.
The 13th edition of the Hardmoors 110 saw temperatures soar to well over twenty degrees as runners toiled along the Cleveland Way. Bright and early on the 29th of May, nearly two hundred runners gathered upon Filey's cliffs, excited to compete against their Hardmoors friends once more. Of those starters, only 87 were to complete in what would be a gruelling day of trying to keep up with staying hydrated and battling against the rising humidity. Mark was able to stay cool and collected, smashing out an amazing time of 22 hours and 28 minutes. We caught up with him to find out all about his experience and how he prepared for it.
How long have you been running ultras, have you done many races and what made you want to run 100 miles?
I started running in 2015 after hanging up the football boots. My son was playing football and my daughter had just been born so I wanted something that had a higher degree of flexibility around other commitments and that would take up as much time as football, golf and the gym…..strange that eventually I found my way into ultra running; looks like I may have missed my initial target!
It didn’t get serious until 2017 when on holiday Michelle suggested I run a Marathon to raise money for Tiny Lives charity as our Daughter was born prematurely and the care they administered to Freya over the first 11 weeks of her life was simply amazing. No spike races, no speed work, no sessions, just running as training, building in the long run and then in September of 2017 I found myself on the start line of the Lochness marathon….3:03 later I had finished and the usual ‘never again’ words were spoken. By the time we got back to Durham I was googling which marathon could be next in the Spring as sub 3 wasn’t that far away, we fast forward to 2017 when me a good friend decided to try something longer and we entered Race to The King along the South Downs Way. 54 or so miles for the first ultra experiences, from then on it's been a great mix of road and trail races from 5k to ultra to mix it up and keep enjoying the forward motion.
Fitting for me that my first trail race was the Saltburn half marathon in 2017: poor kit choices, bad haircut and no fuelling strategy. Those that were there will remember it for the weather where we had all seasons in one race. After that, I again vowed to never race on the trails again and to get back to my beloved tarmac.
From that event (and the thing about running and trail running in particular) is the friendliness of the events; from the organisers, the marshalls to the competitors after the race.Still now after 4 years I still regularly talk to the guys who were around me in that race and one has just joined us at Elvet Striders.
I've raced a lot. More so on the road with shorter 5k, 10k and half marathons where recovery time can be quicker. I was lucky enough to race the 2019 Hardmoors marathon series after a few years of building up from the 10k and Half Marathon events in 2017 and 2018. The results went for me that year and was lucky enough to win the Marathon Series.
The key for me was to build into it. I didn’t jump straight into trail running at Ultra distance but built into it with shorter races and longer training runs.
I'm still a relative novice in the world of ultras though with only 7 or 8 races completed above 30 miles. So far they have been good to me with some good results over the varying distances.
Why run 100?
It's in the Hardmoors series so didn’t have a choice?!
For people who want to push to go further, faster, longer it’s a great target to hit triple digits; something even, circular and whole.
It’s a great conversation starter (and ender)….
’what did you do at the weekend’….
’oh I raced’….
’ah great, where was the race and how far’…….
’North Yorkshire and 110 miles’……..
’yeah, it was tough but a great experience. What did you get upto?’……..
’erm…..well, not sure I want to say now you’ve told me that’
I always add that everyone loves to do something and that we're all different, it's not just the guy or girl that wins the event that can enjoy those conversations but all who toe and cross the line.
How did you train and prepare for the event? How did you choose to fuel?
I do like to put the effort into training. If you train hard it makes the event more enjoyable in my opinion, it also reduces the pain on the day and enhances the performance.
I did change this year in my planning and spoke with Kim Cavill at Cavill Coaching for a plan for the event. I found this very beneficial to structure the sessions and recoveries and target weaknesses in previous preparation.
Consistency is the key and I was lucky enough to have a period from February to May with no serious set backs; no injuries or breaks in the plan. Linking this with increased levels of specificity in training conditioned the body, legs and feet for the event.
Train with the foods and fuel you're going to use. Granted mine didn’t quite go to plan but when your training in rain and snow and you race in bright sunshine there are always going to be changes in the plan as you go and adaptation is key.
For larger races I also ditch the booze. I find 4 weeks without a drink enhances my physical performance, allows a little weight to be lost and allows better training performance; generally just overall feeling better.
Well sunshine and warm weather has historically not been my friend, so the fuelling plan changed on the day as solid food became less and less palatable.
I had an ‘episode’ in London in 2018 (the hot year) where I was dragged over the finish line and royally ‘dumped’ in a stretcher for St. John and his ambulance to take care of me for an hour or so. As a result, I'm very wary of over exertion in the heat and take care on managing hydration.
My magnificent crew had all my previous training fuels with them including:
Jelly snakes / Haribo
Chia Charge flapjacks
Kendal Mint cake
Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel
Too many biscuits and snacks to list just in case
And hydrated by Mountain Fuel
From the above, and after a day of sunshine and Roseberry topping I ran on;
Caffeine energy gels
Kendal Mint Cake
Mountain Fuel for my hydration
Not big or clever but it's all I could take and thankfully was sufficient to get me to the end.
Did you suffer any lows and if yes, how did you manage them?
Thankfully on this race there were no major lows
Biggest low was the morning sun and lack of cloud when we woke up. When we have all trained in rain, snow and wind for the last few months it does make running harder in warmer conditions.
By tea time and with 8-10 hours of straight sun it was hard going. As we climbed out of Saltburn and up over to Slapeworth as the sun was still beating down.
Thankfully, I told my crew my low target time was no longer in my mind and that we had to back off the pace a little. This decision was made at Whitby to manage the body through the afternoon and early evening.
Eating due to the heat was a struggle too so eventually I made the decision to switch to a liquid fuel which worked for me and eventually gave me a second wind after I had cooled down.
Everyone will have highs and lows in races but if nothing is broken and there are no major pains we know things will get better as food and fuel kicks in and allows us to recompose as we recover
If you ran a 100 mile event again, what would you do differently?
Given the result it's hard to say.
Perhaps with the heat switch to a liquid fuelling strategy quicker.
More training on the quads perhaps to condition and reduce the doms; the rest of the legs felt good.
Other than that not a lot; I had a great day where most things went my way. There will be other days where it is anything but great but as long as you have prepared and trained the best you can in your own circumstances then you cant worry; you just run your own race.
What would be your advice to new or improving ultra runners?
10k’s take less training……
Have a chat with a coach.
You don’t need a full time coach but a number can develop a plan for you for an event and will give you some building blocks for training and improvement.
The coach isn’t going to run the race, do the hard sessions or recover for you but it gives you structure and support.
Bad training sessions happen along with fatigue in training. Don’t be disheartened. Just get the session done (even if its shorter) and recover.
Race the conditions and your own targets.
If you're having a lull in a race it's likely someone else will have one too, it may not be at the same time but it will happen. Don’t beat yourself up and be positive as it will get better.
Cross train. Short simple strength sessions will help keep injury and bay and increase general strength
Prepare. Think about kit that works for you: trainers, socks, shorts, tops and try them beforehand.
Train with your food so you know you can eat it and it works.
If you train for months for an event and you can I would advise to recce the race route during the training. Whether you're wanting to compete or complete, it's good to know the route and terrain; nothing worse than getting lost, then frustrated, wasting energy and adding distance to an already long event.
Vaseline is handy….
Plan and have targets.
It's difficult to pace and have targets like on road running on standard distances.
If you want to have a target time use historical race results and checkpoint times to set mini goals and break down the magnitude of the event. Chose a similar paced runner you may know who has raced the event before and work with those stats
Enjoy it, you're paying for the pain so get some pleasure.
The crew and support runners. Huge help and mine were fantastic. So supportive, committed in pre meetings and couldn’t do enough for me.
What do you plan on doing next e.g. further, faster or something less high impact like knitting?
Well this year I'll hopefully be seeing the Hardmoors slam out with the 55, 60 and 80 still to come with the 30 and 110 completed. I have a couple of other races from last year which were carried over to need to plan which I use as time on feet and which to race.
With 2020 being written off for so many people in more ways that one, it's just great to be able to get back to normality in life and running.
There are so many fantastic events around the country and beyond, on trail and road. It's frustrating we can't do them all.
As for general targets:
BGR in 2022?
One of the UTMB smaller races would be fantastic but so difficult to get into.
Comrades Marathon has always been something I've kept an eye on; but it’s a long way to travel for a race.
Tick a couple more of the Abbott WMM off and a return to the roads perhaps for a V40 vest and try and break my PB from Manchester in 2019….
Loads of options and something to start and plan in the Autumn.
We absolutely loved reading about Mark's preparation, ethos and race day. What a lot of great advice too! We think that Mark is one to keep an eye on and very much look forward to seeing what he achieves in the future. And of course, we hope that he gives us a shout when he decides to tackle the Bobby G - we'd love to support!
Thank goodness we are back to racing once again. Our Summit Crazy team have been up to all sorts including: Georgina & Paul at the Backyard Ultra, Ben at the Tyne Trail and Luke melting on the Hardmoors 110 course.
We hope that you're enjoying being back out there and are making the most of the sunshine.
The Summit Crazy Team