It’s one of the biggest trail races on the calendar, and there’s no wonder why. Apart from a great course with plenty of challenges and rewards along the way, it also has an incredible atmosphere. From the buzz at the start line and the countless smiling faces of the volunteer fire fighters at the aid stations, to the incredible excitement of one of the best finishes you’ll experience, the six foot track marathon is an event every runner should aspire to do!
Here’s out top 6 tips to make your Six Foot a day to remember:
The race starts with a very steep and technical descent down Nellie’s Glen. While it’s only short, having such a fast downhill early on in the race can have a huge impact on the rest of your day. If you haven’t conditioned your quads to this type of flogging, you’ll have dead legs with basically the whole race still to go. It’s a good idea to find some steep downs on rocky terrain and practice your foot positioning and get your pins use to the eccentric loading.
Do Hills Reps
The course is famous for the big climb up Pluvi. It comes shortly after you cross the river, when you’ve just been running mostly downhill for around 16km. While this is the climb everyone talks about, it’s the rolling hills afterwards that will break you. So to prepare for Pluvi, do a mix of short, fast hills, and longer, sustained efforts of 5 minutes or more. You don’t need to obsess over it, just pop some hill reps in every couple weeks. It’s also a good idea to try and do your long runs on hilly routes.
It’s easy to get sucked into the excitement and chaos of the start. You can find yourself swept up in the rush to get to the stairs in a good position, only to then end up plodding down and realistically losing very little time. It’s also common for people to run hard to the river, then explode shortly after. The reason being you typically feel great on the gradual descent, only to notice the hole you’ve dug once the work really begins at the saddle. So my advice is to feel like you could easily be running faster, for at least the first half of the race. Go down Nellies and to Cox’s River at a pace you can comfortably hold a conversation at.
Fuel Light But Regular
There are more aid stations in the event than you could possibly imagine. I remember the first time I did it, thinking to myself that if I ate something and took a cup of sports drink at every one, I’d put weight on by the finish. So take advantage of having so many opportunities to refuel by having only small amounts as you go, but frequently take in some liquids and calories. This is the best way to keep on top of hydration and energy requirements.
Get Use to Heat
No matter how cool it can feel at the start, when you’re high up in the mountains, by the time you’ve run 6km you’re down in the valley where it’s a lot warmer and often very humid. As the sun gets higher, if there’s been recent rain or it’s a foggy morning the humidity goes through the roof. Get conditioned to the race day weather by doing some heat stress training.
Know the Course
No matter what trail race you do, it’s always a good idea to be as familiar with the course as possible. But in the case of 6 Foot, it’s even wiser. It’s a course that’s divided into four sections: the descent to the river, the climb up Pluvi, the Black Range, and the descent to the finish. Each one should be approached with a different strategy. Knowing where the key features are along the way will allow you to mentally prepare and know with certainty where you are and how to manage your effort. You can change your plans on the fly and adjust for how you feel. You can also tick goals off as you go, giving yourself stepping stones to focus on, instead of looking purely for the finish.
Bonus Tip: Celebrate your achievement!
The thing that I love most about this event is the final 500m to the finish. You can hear the cheering crowd below as you descend to the final straight, and once there, it’s an amazing sensation to see the arch and ticking clock, with people flanking the finish chute. So make the most of the moment and celebrate what you’ve just done.