Race to the Stones Kit & Training

What does it take to run 100k?

I wanted to give you an insight into our training & what kit we used for Race to the Stones.

The lovely guys that have contributed to this article are:


Mark Kenna @MarkKenna

Darren Smith @RunnersKnees


What made you sign up to Race to the Stones?

Me: 100k seemed inconceivable but I saw people on Twitter that had done it & I was in complete awe so it became a target for me too.

Darren: I had run marathons before and wanted to move up my distance as I am not really getting any faster. The tag line of my website is “if you can’t go faster then go further” and I believe that. I know a lot of people who have run 50K ultras but that to me is not much more of a step up from a marathon, although, to be fair, most 50Ks are trail ultras, which are a different kettle of fish entirely. For me I needed a new challenge and that was 100K in one go.

Mark: I’ve been on a fitness journey these past few years; At the start of 2014 I was 18st4lb (256lb / 116kg) and decided that my lifestyle just had to change. I signed up for a Tough Mudder on August 18 2014, this was my goal, to loose weight for my first event. I started to run in March 2014 and I ran the Bristol 10k in May 2014. I took up Insanity workouts, cycled more and even started training with Kettlebells. I wanted my workouts to be free and to be able to do them in an instant as running my own company meant that I would often get random times to train. I was down to 13st4 at the Tough Mudder 2014. (186lb / 85kg). I really enjoyed the event and booked again for the following year. I then started incorporating bodyweight hit training in September, looking for more events as I felt these helped me to keep focus. In 2015 I cycled more (Swindon to Bristol, Weymouth and London) I also completed my first 100km Sportives (cycling through Wiltshire & New Forest) as well as a few more 10k’s inclining the Costwold Warrior 10k OCR and Bear Grylls 30k Ultimate Warrior OCR in October last year, which nearly ruined me!) In July 2015 my brother and I decided to run the London Marathon to challenge ourselves and decided to sign up to the Brighton Marathon too, just in case we didn’t get a place in the London Marathon. We then signed up to the Bath half-marathon in March 2016 as this would be a great training run. We got a place in the Brighton Marathon instantly and of course, the London Marathon then came good. We were now running 2.5 marathons and pledged to raise £2,000 for Cancer Research UK. A charity close to our family. We were then invited to an evening with Lord Seb Coe on the 7th April ran by CRUK and their coaches Running With Us. This a very useful event and it was on this evening, we were invited to think about joining the CRUK team at the RTTS Ultra. We didn’t take much persuading as we shook on it there and then to run the 100k ultra and hadn’t even ran a marathon by then.

What is the furthest you’d done in a race before RTTS?

Me: 50k is the furthest I’ve done pre-Stones.

Darren: Marathons, including one trail marathon, RTTK, a few weeks before.

Mark: The furthest I’d ran, previous to Race to the Stones, was indeed the Brighton & London Marathon’s, although I had previously ran 30km when I completed the Bear Grylls Ultimate Survivor OCR back in October 2015.

Could you talk us through your training? 

Me: So far this year I have done 4 marathons and 2 x 50k.  Here’s my running mileage in the months building up:

March: 111 miles (including Canalathon, Dartford Half & Rail to Trail Marathon; April: 84.1 miles (including Brighton Marathon); May: 91.6 miles (including Cranleigh Marathon & Weald 50k); June: 74.2 miles (including Race to the King Marathon 3 weeks before Stones).

Along with the running I do a 7 min stretch most days (from good ol’ Davina) & twice a week I do yoga/workout from a DVD- sometimes strength sometimes aerobic; usually arms/shoulders at least once a week as if I don’t do arms I get very sore shoulders when running.

Darren: Hmmm. This is really terrible. After Berlin marathon last year, for which I trained my backside off, I decided for Manchester in April this year that I would try to see how I faired without any training at all, so I could work out what level of training I needed. I somehow got a PB. I then got injured (non running related) and didn’t train until I ran Vitality London 10K. I was still limping and sleeping in a boot/air cast when a week later I ran the Copenhagen Marathon in May. I got injured right after that too (again non running related) and didn’t train until I ran the Race to the King RTTK marathon last month. This really kicked my backside but, rather than running, I spend the next weeks before RTTS at the gym cross-training and weight training.

So in a nutshell, my training for RTTS was 3 marathons and a 10K in the last 3 months, and two weeks at the gym.

Mark: I’ve basically, only been running seriously since 27 December 2016 which is when my 16 week marathon plan started for Brighton. I started running 4 times a week but by week 8, I was completely exhausted so I dropped back to 3 training runs a week.

I then introduced my bodyweight workouts back into my routine which really helped me feel strong again. I mainly focused on upper body and core (pushups, pullups, situps, straight leg levers and plank).  I then took the week off in-between Brighton and London the week after, well I was in the gym every night swimming, jacuzzi and sauna.  I started training for RTTS on May 2, which was week 6 of my Rory Coleman RTTS 16 week program. I did mix it up between 3/4 runs a week, focusing on off-road running. We’re lucky to have the Ridgeway just 15 mins drive from my house.

I typically train with my bro & we focused also on the back to back runs as this was the other main difference in our training. So Wednesday/Thursday runs would typically be 10k’s and Saturday/Sunday runs would be anything from 12k/21k to 10k/42k (we actually ran 2 training marathons during our stones training, we couldn’t believe we were running a marathon for training purposes!

What kit did you wear?

Me: Runderwear pants, Nike lycra shorts, ukrunchat vest, suacony baseball cap, Saucony Peregrine 5 trainers, socks (not sure where they’re from as they were a present, New Balance Sports Bra (with sports tape underneath to save me from chaffing on my back).

Darren: Favourite X-Bionics undershorts, shorts, twin skin socks, thinnest tee shirt I have from Adidas, and I carried the kit in my Salomon backpack, using solid water bottles rather than bladder. I wore my hard trail shoes (La Sportive Raptors) but after 20K (or at the second pit stop) I swapped them for my road shoes (On Cloudracers).

Mark: I wore my Saucony Peregrine 6 which were just great in my training runs.  I like to run with my North Face hat, in sun and rain, as it makes a big difference in both weather conditions.  My bag was a cheap £16 2ltr Camelback copy from Wish. They have some really cheap gear, but I will invest in a CamelBak for the next Ultra.  Socks, I wear Hilly compression with cheap tesco sports socks.  Plasters too, 69p for 1M in boots and they work a treat on the nipples. After a long run in the rain, you never want sore nipples again.  I do tend to wear an iPhone 6 arm band too, although I’m ditching and putting the phone in my bag.


What did you carry/use during the race? Is there anything you didn’t need/wish you’d had?

Me: In my Ultra Direction ‘Jenny vest’ I carried a 2l bladder with water, 2 small bottles with tailwind, long sleeve top, foil blanket, 1st aid kit, spare sports tape (pre-cut), tissues, money, sudocrem, suncream, 2 x shot blox, 4 x tailwind, 2 x spare pairs of socks, head torch (Unilite PS-H8), sleeves, rain jacket

I’m glad I had my sleeves to wear pre-race & as we started but I soon took them off & tied them to waist; my buff was also tied to wait & came in useful to wipe sweat off when putting on sports tape; am glad I had the sports tape as I put it on the area my bag started chaffing me & it caused me no further issues.  when it got dark I wore my long sleeve top & jacket; the head torch is awesome & although I didn’t use socks I’m glad I had them just in case….I re-covered my feet in vaseline at the half way point (did pre-race too) & had no blisters/sore or lost nails.


Darren: First aid kit – didn’t use

Rain poncho – didn’t use

Silver heat blanket – didn’t use

Gels (SIS/Gu/Torq) – didn’t use

Hiking poles – didn’t use

800ml and 200ml bottles – the larger I used for tailwind, water and squash, smaller one coke and squash

Salted peanuts – had a few

Mars bars – ate them

Mints (like individual Kendal Mint cake) – ate them

Money – spent it at the pub

USB charger (for phone or watch) – didn’t use

Garmin – barely lasted 7 hours


Mark: I would not run another long run without my Burtons Fish n Chips. I took 8 packs on the RTTS and had 4 packs per 50km. They are a godsend and really help me to replace my salts and get instant carbs into my system. When I eat them, I can feel them working instantly 😉 I also loose so much salt, so I have to fill my 2ltr bladder with 3 High5 Zero tabs. I like citrus and berry. I did carry my long sleeve top and didn’t really have to use it, but this was more luck as a few degrees cooler on day 2 and I would’ve been glad it was there, plus it didn’t really weigh much. The food was so good at the Stones, I didn’t really need to carry much, but did eat everything I brought with me, apart from the gels which I would always carry for emergency. They work, I just don’t like them. I love taking pictures so I’m glad I took my spare battery pack. As I said above, maybe next time I will free my arm up and not run with the iPhone case, although I hear many of the runners Garmins and watches didn’t last the race, so I was happy that my phone recorded everything, although looking at the readings it thinks I did 7km more than I actually did and at one point the average pace was 3.08min/km. It was double that at least – lol Suncream was also useful, especially the dry stuff, not too oily at all. It was hot on Day 1, very hot, but we’d trained in hotter, so we were used to it…only just. I drank 8ltrs of water on day 1 and 7 litres on day 2. My overall time was just under 16hrs so just about the right amount of fluid as I only used the loo twice.


How did you feel at the end?

Me: I don’t think I’ve ever felt so tired.  The race tag line is “More Is in you”…there was no more in me.  It took all I had & some.  My legs & feet were pretty sore but that was just from being on them so long.
Darren: I felt exhausted. My feet were very sore more than anything as I had just run and walked 109K (by some people’s measure) in minimal road shoes. Yeah. No blisters though, no chafe from anything. Just a sun burn on my left arm and sore feet. It was a long day, being up and moving for 24 hours and that is how I felt.

Mark: At the end of day 1, it was a real emotional feeling. Having ran further than I had ever gone before. That my bro and I managed to stick together and that we were not injured. We were discussing during the last part of the run on day 1 if we would drink or not, but as we crossed the finish line, the sun was shining and within 5 minutes of crossing the line, we were drinking our first pint of Thachers Gold. Man, did that taste good!

Day 2 was cooler, in fact I enjoyed more knowing what to expect and my legs were working, which was a surprise and felt strong. It was a great feeling to run over the finish line together, the pictures says it all. Ian’s family was waiting for us, they’d made signs and everything. Ian’s wife had brought us ice cold Thachers Haze too, this coupled with the burger was perfect. I went home, had a roast dinner and sat in thehot tub for the rest of the day. I was all over so quickly. Luckily we had a fab UKRUNCHAT group going and the banter, running wounds and advice continued over the next few weeks. This group was such a great support group that we’ve kept it open and I hope we continue to use it for more events. Some of the people on there are hard-core runners, which now I have run an Ultra, I should feel a part of, although I feel I need to do a few more before feeling comfortable referring to myself as runner.


How long did it take you to feel recovered? 

Me: My feet & legs were back to normal within a couple of days.  I felt exhausted all week- it’s now Saturday & I’m pretty much back to normal….but it turns out I did the race with Shingles so I haven’t been great this week.

Darren: I felt fine after it all. Feet a little beaten up on concrete hard ground. I was tired more than anything. I didn’t enjoy 3 hours sleep after the race, and slept on the train and in the car home on Sunday. But I went to the gym Monday and Tuesday). Slight quad ache and stiff knee. The knee took a few days to go but I walked 15 miles today (Friday).

If anything this has prompted me to get fitter and healthier. I took stats before and after RTTS at the gym and somehow (mostly water I am sure) lost fat and gained muscle.

Mark: I felt great on the Monday after RTTS. I felt that I could’ve ran more but I consciously help off and did nothing the following week apart from hot tub, eat and sleep. I tried to get more sleep as I knew my body would need the extra deep sleep to recover fully.  The following week, I started to train again, a few kettlebell and bodyweight workouts, but I feel I did overdue it a little with a few too many drinks and spicy foods, which my body just rejected. This set me back another week but finally 18 days post-RTTS, I feel good. I’m ready to go again, but I’m holding off until next week, just to be super-sure my body is ready.

I will sign up for The Green Man 46 mile Ultra in March and the Isle of Wight in July. I’m still looking at other Ultras, but my ultimate goal is to complete an Iron Man.

Oh, and we’re riding JOGLE next year too

If you were to do it again how would you train differently?

Me: I really don’t know.  People who trained more than me finished quicker, whether that was down to exhaustion from just the race or whether the Shingles contributed to that I don’t know.  I’d plan to be out for longer if I were to do it again.  I wasn’t expecting to be out that long.  I’d work harder at eating more.

I don’t plan to do 100k again.  Perhaps I’ll change my mind one day but not for a while.

Darren: Having see how everyone was and knowing how some of them did well, others ok, and others not so well it is hard to work out how best to deal with something like a trail 100K. Running on roads I can bash out marathons with minimal training (see above) because of a base level of fitness that at least gets me half the way around. Trail is something else entirely. After RTTK I thought that gym would help. I think it must have to a degree and I felt strong. I think getting used to moving more than 6 hours is what is needed. Maybe 50Ks once a week as a super LSR. More hill work. Train with a weight vest? I am not sure. I have registered interest for RTTK double marathon but I have no real desire to complete 100K again. Although never say never.

Mark: Honestly, I wouldn’t. I would do it all over again and probably wouldn’t change much.  After injuring my knee during the 30km Bear Grylls OCR last October, I finally learnt that you have to train for the event in hand.  I think the high milage we got in from the marathon runs helped. Going off road and searching for hills also helped. To run with backpacks and water with salts helped and learning/training our bodies to eat real foods on longer run also helped.


Stats from the race:

Me: My fitbit Stats: 131,627 steps; 448 floors (each floor is around 10 feet); Time: 19:49:30


Stats before the Garmin gave up
Final Stats

Mark: fullsizerender-6

You can read my blog about the run here: HERE


2 Comments Add yours

  1. carldudley7 says:

    This is a fab blog Jenni! I’ve been asking a few people how they are training for their first ultra’s next year – apparently there are now Ultra Training plans. Great to hear your experiences and what to and not to do! Well done all!


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