Andrew Lee Talks Ultra Running

In the sport of ultra marathon, there are few nicer guys than Andrew Lee. He’s at his happiest when battling through a race and you’ll never find him without a smile. What’s more, he’s always happy to give advice and share his vast experience with you. Throughout his already successful running career he has achieved many great things, but like all of us, there’s unfinished business.

What is your favourite race?

I’d have to say two races (I can’t split them!) – Six Foot Track Marathon & TNF100. Both of these are sentimental to me. Six Foot was my first marathon of any description and I haven’t missed one since I started. Likewise with TNF100, it was my first 100km and I have also competed in all since. I’m a bit biased I suppose, as I reside in the Blue Mountains. But both of these races are set in some of the most magnificent backdrops you can get. They’re also very well organised and patronized, plus there is a great atmosphere and a real buzz of excitement at both. I really enjoyed the Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon too last year and I can see this event growing on me.

northface 2009What’s your most memorable running achievement?

I have two! Winning the TNF100 in 2009, which was totally unexpected. The raw emotions of that day have never left me! Also the 2009 Six Foot. Back in ’09 I’d only heard of the TNF100 five or six weeks prior to it and reluctantly entered after persistent nudging from a good mate. I had no idea of what to expect, or for that matter if I’d get past 50km, as the longest I’d run prior to it was 45km in Six Foot and in one or two training runs. Six Foot that year was just one of those runs where you feel good the whole way and you just want to bottle it for re-opening (I set my PB in ’09 of 3h23). Unfortunately I’ve had trouble opening up that Six Foot bottle since!

Which piece of your running kit could you not do without?

My red/yellow water running belt, which has provision to carry a 600ml bottle. I’ve had it since Moses was a boy. Yes I’m that old! It’s fading, smelly and starting to fall apart but I can’t bring myself to throwing it out.

Where’s your favourite training run and why is it so good?

Call me crazy but I quite enjoy doing Mount Solitary repeats, in particular over the last 6 months or so. You can’t really go that fast, as it’s a real slog on the uphill. But despite this I believe these reps are great for strength and endurance. I haven’t been able to display this yet in recent races, but my times in some of my regular long training runs have seen vast improvement in the last few months as I’m realising I’ve been able to hold a steady pace and rhythm for longer periods. This has all coincided with the Solitary reps. I now have to bring all this together and nail it in some races. By the way the scenery isn’t too bad either once up on Solitary!

What is the most you’ve ever run in one week?

180km, which I think was either for Six Foot or TNF100 in 2010.

What are your plans for the year?

Six Foot Track in March, Buffalo Stampede in April, TNF100 in May & Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon in June.

If there was one race on the planet you wanted to win, which would it be?

UTMB…maybe next year!

What piece of advice would you offer aspiring ultra runners?

Gradually build into it. Take it easy and enjoy the ride. Ride the run!

Casting my mind back to my early days, I simply went in with the attitude of placing one foot in front of the other. I realise it’s an old cliché but this worked for me. Sure there was a bit of uncertainty early on. I would often ask myself “Can I make 10km, 20km, 30km, 40km etc? What damage will this do to me? Will I wake up in the back of an ambulance!?” But as I gradually worked my way up in distance I realised I was getting stronger, could run for longer and eventually the pace picked up a bit too. I also felt a lot better within myself. The weight dropped and strangely enough I had more energy in everyday life. This ultra caper was growing on me! From a racing perspective, I believe soak up the atmosphere (the camaraderie in the ultra world is alive & kicking), enjoy the surrounds before, during & after.  Once the race starts, work your way into it. Get a feel for rhythm. Do what works for you, stick to your plans and simply just try your best. The latter has always been my motto, and if that happens to place me up at the pointy end of a race, fantastic. But if not, no worries. I can walk away with no regrets and not be left wondering.

Also listen to your body, heed the warning signs (which I haven’t at times), mix up your training distance and locations (for me sameness can make things a bit stale) and also please don’t do what I’ve been guilty of just once or twice – Don’t push a training run or two in the week leading into a major race!!