Interview with Colin Harper

Last updated: 06-Nov-18

Colin is a relative newbie to ultras and is running in the Marathon des Sables (MDS) in 2014. He gives you a good idea of how much you can achieve in a relatively short space of time. His lovely one liners were shared in the midst of packing his bags for the MDS.

Your experience of ultra running

Q. How long have you been doing ultras?
A. 6 months

Q. How did you first get started doing ultras?
A. Training for the MdS

Q. What motivated you to start running?
A. To get fit for karate – gave up karate but kept running!

Q. When did you do your first ultra race?
A. October 4/5 2013 Saltmarsh 75 – it was the first time this event was run, a first for both of us!

Q. Why do you keep running ultras?
A. It’s fun, you get to see some great scenery and most importantly you meet some amazing and friendly people

Top tips for running

Q. What are the essential ingredients to being successful in ultras?
A. You have to want to do it and enjoy it

Q. What tips would you give to someone doing their first ultra?
A. Enjoy it (there’s a theme here).

Q. What type of kit do you feel is essential for an ultra?
A. A smile.

Q. What is the one thing you never travel without?
A. Hope. The good times running

Q. What is your proudest achievement to date?
A. Finishing my first ultra

Q. What has been your favourite ultra to date?
A. My first, you never forget the first one

Q. Which type of ultras do you like best?
A. Multi-day, you get to meet people in the evening The rough times running

Q. What has been the most challenging ultra to date for you?
A. My first one.

Q. What aspect of ultra running is the hardest for you?
A. Pace control.

Salvation time

Q. Who or what has been your biggest help in doing ultras?
A. My wife

Q. Have you made any significant sacrifices to complete ultras?
A. Not really, I enjoy running so training isn’t a sacrifice, fortunately my wife is unbelievably supportive so for instance holidays were arranged to allow training for the MdS and she runs some of my training with me so I’m very lucky.

Learning

Q. What have you learned by doing ultras?
A. Patience – keep training, build up slowly and you won’t believe how far you can run

Q. How do you feel ultras have changed you and your life?
A. New friends, new sights, always another challenge there whenever I want one

Q. Any helpful sayings or beliefs that have helped your running?
A. Run if you can, walk if you must, crawl if you have to, just don’t stop moving.

Q. How do you get motivated to do the training? –
A. The only training I don’t enjoy is ‘effort’ sessions – hills, intervals etc. I motivate myself by working out how little of my running is actually the ‘difficult’ bits and putting it into perspective relative to the enjoyable bits.

Training and Prep

Q. How do you train for an ultra?
A. Lots of runs, good distance, easier week every third week

Q. How does your training differ for each type of ultra?
A. All my training so far is geared to the MdS so it hasn’t!

Future

Q. What race are you doing next?
A. MdS

Q. What do you hope to achieve with your ultra running in the future?
A. To see more interesting places

Q. What would be your dream ultra event?
A. A remote location, spectacular views, hard enough to be challenging but not so hard that I’ve no energy to enjoy my surroundings. Top Gear recently went to Shan State in Burma, I reckon you could have a good ultra there (political situation permitting!). Otherwise maybe through the Inca ruins in Peru or the Annapurna foothills in Nepal.

"The only training I don't enjoy is 'effort' sessions - hills, intervals etc. I motivate myself by working out how little of my running is actually the 'difficult' bits and putting it into perspective relative to the enjoyable bits."

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An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

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Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

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First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.