Lab Rat – Do I or Don’t I?

So it’s decision time again. ­čÖé About two weeks ago I was approached to take part in a research program with one of our major universities. Essentially they are wanting to do research into a 5 day ultra marathon and whether it is better to

a) Carry more food to improve performance or

b) To carry less food and hence less weight while running

With (a) you have heaps of food and energy but have to carry a lot more weight. With (b) you have a light backpack but starve (well almost)

For me it is interesting research as I’m preparing for the Marathon Des Sables next year as it will give me a real insight into what is best for me.

But here is the kicker. To take part in the program I have to run 50km each day for 5 days on a treadmill and do this 3 times this year.

For those of you that don’t know, I currently run about 80-100km per week. I run a marathon or greater every second weekend, with a half marathon ‘rest run’ on the recovery weekend. Roughly 10-12km every other day of the week. I have a couple of Ironman triathlons under my belt and numerous half Ironmans. I am slow, but I do get there eventually.

So now I have a decision to make. Do I do it?


  • I’ll get an EXACT diet and nutrition program tailored for me for next year
  • I’ll know exactly what I should be eating and when, to maximise my performance
  • I’ll have access to some of the best research, nutritionists and exercise physiologists in the country
  • If I can manage such a huge volume it would not only give me a huge confidence boost, but will probably transform me as an athlete

Disadvantages (and these are important)

  • Whilst I’m fit enough to run a marathon at the drop of a hat and keep training the next day. (I did a treadmill marathon on the weekend, just to try it out) This is something WAY outside my comfort zone
  • The risk of injury from stepping things up so substantially┬áis significant. (I’m finally clear of all injuries at the moment)
  • The risk of overtraining is also substantially higher
  • Risk mental fatigue and burnout (having just recovered from all my IM training after 12 months) is pretty good.
  • Once I start I can’t pullout┬á(unless of course I’m injured) or I risk putting someone’s PhD at risk
  • I need to give up 16 full days this year, that has a work and financial impact (there is also an ‘additional’ 50km day to start so that they can set all the parameters for nutrition etc)

Then there is also the fact, that this will have to form a significant part of my training this year and I will have to wrap my training program around it. Am I better off going this way or doing more running out on the trails and in the hills?

So the question is: Do I or Don’t I?