Mammut Pro Athlete Helen Bonsor ran the 63 kilometers of Tranter’s Round in Scotland in only 12 hours and 25 minutes, thereby setting a new record for women. We asked Helen about her preparation for such a record-setting performance.
Helen, congratulations for your amazing achievement. We are wondering, what does it take to get ready for such a challenge. But first things first: Why did you choose the Tranter’s round?
It is a really elegant route, over some great hills and ridges. Running over a long route like this, gives such a sense of freedom and being at one in the mountains. It was something I wanted to try from 2010, when I started to get into hill running seriously.
Please tell us more about your training. How frequently do you run and what other forms of training do you do in order to prepare yourself physically and mentally?
I usually run every day, as well as cycle. During the week days, most of my training is done running or cycling into work, and over lunchtimes. At the weekends, we usually drive a few hours to the bigger hills, to do some long training runs or compete in races. This generally gives a good mixture of strength training, endurance and speed work in any week.
"Running over a long route like this, gives such a sense of freedom and being at one in the mountains."
What did your days leading up to the record-setting attempt look like?
In the three months leading up to the attempt, we did quite a few reconnaissance trips to find the best lines along the ridges, and to find the high level streams where we could get fresh water on the attempt. Generally, we had really good weather and would run in lightweight shirts and shorts with a MTR 141 backpack. We did our final reconnaissance trip as a two day run over the route with an overnight wild camp, but the wind and rain was so bad we could hardly stand up on the tops! The lightweight Mammut Rainspeed hardshell jackets, and thermal longsleeve tops did a great job – we stayed dry and warm both days.
"For most of the day we only had a few meters visibility, so we had to navigate with map and compass for some parts, and couldn’t just run by sight."
Let’s talk about running the record attempt itself: What equipment did you take with you? What was in your backpack?
It was important to keep our backpacks as light as possible, whilst still having enough equipment for the conditions. We both took Rainspeed hardshell jacket and pants, map and compass for navigation, a survival foil blanket, a pair of the Astro glove, a head band, a lightweight longsleeve top, a 300ml soft flask, and a few energy gels and home-made energy bars.
You were running for more than 12 hours. For someone who is not a trail runner, how do you do that?
We had done a lot of long hill days in training before the attempt, which had conditioned our legs and minds to running for more than 12 hours. During the attempt we kept a steady pace going the whole time, and only stopped once for a few minutes about half way round. We tried to eat an energy gel or bar every hour, and to drink some water. We each carried around 300ml of water, and kept filling up our soft flasks at high-level streams, which meant we kept the weight of water we carried to a minimum. The weather was very mixed on the day of the attempt, and for most of the day we only had a few meters visibility, so we had to navigate with map and compass for some parts, and couldn’t just run by sight.
Was there a point where you knew you were on track for the record?
I had made a conscious decision not to look at my watch at all during the attempt, as I didn’t want to feel I was running the whole Round under pressure, and worrying if I was ‘a minute up’ or ‘a minute down’ on each top. I really wanted to enjoy being in the moment, and just to keep a good pace, and enjoy being in the hills, and see what happened. Andy, my partner, did have a watch, as well as several different schedules attached to his map! – so he knew how we were progressing throughout the day. When we got to the final summit, Andy, for the first time, told me the time and said “you’ve got an hour to get to the bottom” – I knew then we were on track for the record, and it was a great feeling running down the final descent into Glen Nevis, knowing everything had come together and to enjoy the moment.
Helen, Thank you so much for your time and all the best for your future projects.
For her record-setting run, Helen packed the following products into her backpack: