Kristian Ultra has recently run a 630-mile challenge on the South West Coast Path Solo. What an epic achievement!
Congratulations Kristian and thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
How did this challenge come about?
Back in 2018 I helped set the current world record for running the 2193 mile Appalachian trail (AT) in the fastest known time by pacing my friend Karel Sabbe. Inspired by my experiences I set out to go for the record myself but due to crewing problems I was unsuccessful. Since the failed attempt I've been preparing for another attempt on the AT which would have happened this year, but due to being unable to enter the USA I had to abort the challenge. During training since I had prepared for a long trail I started to search for a similar challenge but In the UK. I decided upon Britain's longest Nation trail, the 630 mile South West Coast Path (SWCP). The record was held by Damian Hall (Britain's most accomplished trail runner) so I knew it would be a difficult record to beat, but I was up for the challenge.
What was the hardest part and the best bit of this challenge?
The hardest part of this challenge was at the end of day nine I agitated my right quadricep. This came about as a mistake which was made which left me without a head torch after sunset on a difficult section of the path. As I was descending with only my iPhone torch as a light source due to poor visibility I landed awkwardly and hurt my right quad. I didn’t complete the daily mileage quota and decided to take the extra one hour to sleep hoping the quad would recover. Upon waking in the morning the quad was still sore and restricted my movement of my right leg to 40%. I knew as I had lost Miles the day before I needed to push right through the night and without any sleep aiming to finish 110 miles. I did this by using what range of movement I had left with my right leg and realised I had Far exceeded what I thought was physically possible for me as an athlete. Later after the challenge I met my friend who had been in the army and he said Royal Marines have something called battle fitness, he said "Kristian you have battle fitness". I said "what is battle fitness?" and my friend replied "battle fitness is the ability to move forward whilst injured in volatile situations." I thought this was cool even though I fully admit I was not in any life-threatening situation but it's still cool to think I have battle fitness. It’s hard to pick one bit of the challenge I deem the best however one morning I was running, the time was about 4:30 am and I looked up to the sky which was full of diamond like stars and said Greek gods please give me the power and strength of Spartoth and then upon saying this I kicked a rock and tripped forward. I couldn’t help but laugh for the next 10 minutes but then something amazing happened I saw a meteorite slowly move across the sky burning up against the Earth atmosphere, it was the slowest shooting star I’ve ever seen and I was mesmerised by this site... maybe a sign from the Greek gods?
How many calories and meals did you have to consume each to sustain this adventure?
I ended up weighing 5 kg lighter than when I started which equates to about 4000 cal coming from body fat each day. The other 4000 to 6000 cal came from food which I ate throughout the day. Each day my routine would be... start with a camping meal breakfast my favourites were the Real Turmat. Then I would snack on real food, no gels were consumed. The real food included everything like crisps, ice cream, sandwiches made by my mother, fruit, even baby food which Helped me get my vegetables in. Not every single day but some days I had lunch (camping meal) instead of snacks and I would sit and eat again another camping food meal so in total I guess I was consuming about 2000/3000 cal from camping food meals. Then in the evening I would have another camping meal again. My favourite was the Real Turmat as it tasted as if I was at a restaurant except I was sitting in my tent. So my total calorie expenditure was in between 8,000 and 10,000 cal per day. But my intake as I said was 4000 to 6000 cal from food as 4000 cal came from body fat. It’s apprising even the skinniest person has enough body fat to run 100 miles without eating.
Did you have a preferred meal or brand?
There is no question my favourite brand was the Real Turmat for many reasons. I like the way they were packaged. The vacuum seal was tighter than any other camping meal. This means they didn’t take up much space. The taste was delicious. As I said, it was like a restaurant meal but on the go.
Did you mainly eat freeze dried food or ready to eat expedition meals?
All my meals were freeze dried.
What advice would you give to someone taking on a challenge like this?
My profession is as an online running coach. I help people with their chosen challenge. This could include a marathon, an Ultra Marathon, a multi day adventure or even an FKT. There are many things to take into consideration when going in for something like this and the advice I would give would be to get a coach who is experienced and accomplished in the challenge similar to which you set out to achieve. My coaching site is www.kristianultra.com.
What's next in the pipeline to challenge yourself?
My next adventure is to break the speed record held by my friend Karel Sabbe which I helped set back in 2018 on the Appalachian trail in the United States of America. This is a 2000+ mile hiking Trail only. This means no mechanical vehicles are allowed. It’s the most popular Trail in the world and has had the best ultrarunners on the planet set records on it as the years have gone by. I will attempt to break the record in 2021. The SouthwayWest coast path has given me much confidence in approaching the AT next year. Last year I funded the attempt myself and this year I hope to get funding from the GoFundMe I have created as I'm not able to self fund again. You can make a contribution to the fundraiser here https://gf.me/u/yxghmp or on Kristians website as mentioned above.