Sunday, 4 April 2010

UltraStu or UltraStupid!

Hi to everyone out there,

Thanks to all of you that commented on my last post. I received a mixture of responses, which is great to see. Giving me satisfaction in that my 'mutterings' are perhaps providing a catalyst for people to question what they do with regards to ultra running.
One of my friends suggested that I rename by blog from UltraStu to UltraStupid! I particularly liked his response, and Peter Duggan's response "I'm ..... predicting mass self destruction if everyone else starts off running 'as fast as they can while they can'! I also enjoyed. But what I found most interesting is the website link that Richie posted

Thanks for the link Richie, it was great reading.

For those of you that didn't follow the link it was about Ultra Runner Cavin Woodward, from Leamington Cycling and Athletic Club, setting the World record for 100miles on the track in 1975. What was so amazing about Cavin Woodward was his approach to pacing ultra events, very similar to my thoughts expressed in my last post:
"Run as fast as you can, while you can!" and "... no matter what pace you run at, ... , after 5 hours of running you feel tired." Stuart Mills, 2010.

Well compare this to Cavin Woodward, 1975 - World Record Holder 100 miles - 1975-1977.
The article quotes his strategy as "... to go off as fast as he could for as long as he could." With Cavin quoted as saying "No matter what pace you start at, you will slow eventually, so start at a fast pace ..." Cavin Woodward, 1975.

It is great to see that the approach I proposed in my last post led to a World Record in 1975. What was so interesting about the article is that it also listed the 10 mile split times for not only Woodward's world record in 1975, but also Don Ritchie's world record in 1977, which stood for 25 years until Oleg Kharitinov broke the record in 2002. (
(And Kouros running 100 miles on the road in 1984)

The absolutely amazing thing is that Kharitinov and Woodward used completely opposite extremes in terms of pace judgement. Clearly illustrated by the difference in running the first and second 50 km split times, being 1 hour 41 mins slower for Woodward, compared to only 13 minutes slower for Kharitinov!

The main conclusion I draw from these articles is that there is NO "one correct way" to run ultras. As much as science tries to provide the one answer, one answer does NOT exist, and whoever tries to tell you that "this is how things should be done" needs to be referred to the history of the 100 mile world record, especially to Cavin Woodward.

Sadly Cavin recently died in February this year. Upon reading about his approach to racing I was so inspired that I wanted to chat to him. I had loads of questions to ask him ... did he try even paced racing? what did he consider to cause him to slow down? what fuel did he use? etc. etc. One can learn so much from others, as well as from oneself.

So should I rename my blog UltraStupid? I now have evidence to support my ideas. So no way, the name UltraStu stays. How can setting a world record be stupid?

I am truly inspired by what I have read, so please look out for me in my next Ultra. To try to honour Cavin Woodward, on how he did things his way, not following the norm, my aim is to run the first mile in the same time as he ran the first mile of his world record - 5 minutes and 19 seconds. Lets hope it's a downhill start!

To all of you reading my 'mutterings', whatever your approach is at the start of your next Ultra, my signing off quote is from Steve Black - coach, motivator, counsellor and friend to rugby great Jonny Wilkinson.

"You've got to believe in what it is you are trying to achieve. Without that belief you've little chance of accomplishing anything of worth." Steve Black, 2008. Page 29: Jonny Wilkinson, Tackling Life - Striving for Perfection. Headline Publishing: London.

Enjoy, as you achieve.


PS. I have finally got around to downloading the photos that my family took of me as I ran the Hardmoors55. Take a look at the two photos below. They really illustrate the tough conditions.

Running out of the mist!

Wearing a balaclava for the first time ever in a race. But still all smiles!!!!!!!!!!


  1. To be honest I find it often enough patronising when "experts" comment on the pacing of another runner in particular when a runner appears to run "fast".
    Take Samuel Wanjiru in the 2008 Olympics. He took off very fast (in very warm weather) and the BBC commentators called him "silly" a dozen times for his fast pace. And only when it became apartent that he was not "breaking down" as they kept on predicting they stopped their patronising comments. But never apologised. Wanjiru won in olympic record time of 2:06:32.

    Starting fast is not always the right strategy and it may even be the wrong choice for most runners in respect of finishing time but for many runners (including myself) a fast start(ish) is part of the enjoyment of a race.

    And slowing down at the end of an ultra race can be as much part of the experience and struggling through the last miles of an ultra race can make the finish even more rewarding.

    Finally we are all adults and responsible for our own choice of pace. Are we not?
    I just hope no one gets the idea and starts disqualifying runnings for starting "too fast".

  2. I'm so glad you have started this blog! Already you have caused many to think about different tactics.

    Last year in the whw race my friend Neal set off at a pace that I thought was stupid (he was in the top 5 at Balmaha) and I assumed he would pay for it and I'd catch him further up the course.

    He didn't slow down and finished the race 8th in an amazing time of 18hrs 42mins 00secs. Neal has encouraged me to try and start faster!

    I have the Fling in less than three weeks .... Do I try a different tactic? Go off faster?

  3. hi stu, I was fortunate enough to be in the same races as cavin back in 83/84(woodford-southend,lincoln 100km and preston 24hr,all of which I believe he won); needless to say the only time I saw him in an event was being lapped in the 24hr! but I remember back then so-called authorities predicting he would blow up and not finnish. Speaking to him in the changing room he was full of encouragement and advice.


  4. Doubt I could run a single mile in 5:19, let alone as part of an ultra!

  5. I know that this is an old entry to your blog, but Cavin was my 2nd cousin, I was just two when he ran that phenomenal 100 miles so was blissfully unaware of this magnificent achievement, but having grown up away from my Mum's home town of Leamington and only really getting the chance to spend time with him during the many family get togethers, to see so many people with so many wonderful things to say about him really humbles me. His death was a total shock to the family and I still cannot believe it today. I was merely searching the internet today to show a colleague some extracts from his various interviews to help her in her motivation for running the Great South Run in Portsmouth this weekend and I stumbled across so many articles/blogs written by people who have been inspired by him or who have trained and ran with him. It has made me remember a man that I had a great deal of respect for, thank you x

  6. Stu, just thought I would drop you a line, as I have just sent to my local paper a press release. I am going to be attempting a 100 mile run (hopefully at Leamington's Edmondscote track) on the 40th Anniversary of my dad's 100 mile, for charity. I am in no shape to attempt it at the moment, but I've got 2 years, and will be aiming to run the 100 miles in 10000minutes and raise £10,000. If anyone wants to join the celebration/commemoration I will be looking for people to get themselves sponsored £25 at least to run 1/2 mile of a relay with me.

    1. Darren - Would you please e-mail me your own e-mail address? I have a couple of questions to ask, re- your dad Cavin. Many thanks!

  7. Obviously that should have been 1000 minutes not 10000!

  8. Hi Darren

    Thanks for letting me know of your planned charity run to celebrate your Dad's historic 100 mile World record. I will add the date 25th October 2015 into my diary and would love to run part of the 100 miles with you.

    All the best with your training. Running 100 miles in 1000 minutes is no easy task! A really good challenge.


  9. Hi Ajay

    Thanks for leaving the above comment regarding Cavin Woodward, your second cousin. Yes, although I never met Cavin, and only discovered his great achievements a few years ago. I have taken great inspiration from his approach to racing. His belief to do things his way, even if others may have questioned the logic of his approach. It definitely worked for him, and to have set various World records, he was indeed a great athlete, which as you have realised from your web search, he has inspired many, many runners.

    If you see the comment above, Darren Woodward, Cavin's son is planning an anniversary run to celebrate his 100 mile World record in October 2015. This sound like an excellent occasion to celebrate Cavin's great achievements. Running 100 miles in 1000 minutes. Are you up for it?

    All the best, Stuart