Shaun Stafford | The Everest Marathon Part 1
In a matter of weeks I’ll be running a Marathon up Mt. Everest.
This is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done; my body is going to be battered and bruised, but I know my mind will carry me to the finish line.
For me, Everest is not a mountain and the marathon is not a race, it’s an opportunity to push myself, mentally and physically, further than I ever have before. It is also an opportunity to (hopefully) inspire others to find out what they are truly capable of and discover their very own ‘Everest’!
The Action Plan
My journey from a World Champion physique competitor to Adventure Marathon runner in just a few short months has not only changed the way I train and eat, but also the way I think!
My usual way of life is to lift weights nearly every day, eat lean and clean in order to keep my physique and body-fat levels on point. My mind-set is purely focused around short, intense workouts, with the primary focus of leaving my body looking better than it did the day before.
This way of life will not take me to Base Camp of The World’s Highest Mountain, let alone allow me to run 26.2miles across some of the toughest terrain on the planet.
For me to do this, I need a complete change.
Having competed in “physique” for the best part of the last 7 years, running long distances is something completely alien to me. In fact, before October last year, I hadn’t run further than a 5km race!
In order for my body to cope with running over 40km in one go, I had to get my miles up in a way that was progressive and gradual. I started running twice a week in January: one shorter run (10-20km) on a treadmill and then one longer run (20-30km) outside each week. This has now increased to three runs a week, with one incorporating some speed and hill work to replicate the gradient changes I will experience on the mountain.
By the time I leave for Nepal, I will aim to be running 50km+ per week.
Once a bodybuilder, always a bodybuilder.
Although I have dropped my weights sessions down to 2-3 sessions a week, they are still my most enjoyable workouts. The reason for this drop is not only a practical one (based on the amount of time I have to train in a week) but also an intensity-based decision. With my increased workload from the additional cardio, I was becoming increasingly tired and my performance in the weight room was dropping significantly.
Since I reduced the frequency of my lifts, the intensity has gone back up and my body and mind feel much better for it. Training at a higher intensity and not as often has definitely worked for me during this prep.
Each weights session is about 90 minutes, and focuses on big compound moves within the 8-12 rep range. My general split at the moment is to get two upper body ‘beach-weights’ sessions and one ‘lower body/core conditioning’ session in a week. Hopefully this will allow me to hold on to some of the muscle mass I have put on over the last decade, and not let all the cardio training I am doing destroy all my Gainz!
Train High – Altitude Training
One of the biggest unknowns with this event is the effect and impact the extremely high altitudes will have on me. Breathing at 5,500m is tough enough without having to run a full competition standard marathon!
To combat this, I have been doing a lot of my training in an altitude chamber set to simulate the conditions of Everest Base Camp; this will help my body adapt to training at lower oxygen levels so I am more prepared for the trek and race.
You never know how your body is going to react to actual high altitudes, but by working with the team at The Altitude Centre, I am giving myself the best shot at being able to complete the event in one piece!
Eat Big To Run Big – Nutrition
In order to stay photo-shoot ready (ish) year round, I normally have a high protein, high fat and low carbohydrate diet of around 2,750kcals a day. This is maintenance calories for my normal week, with my body predominantly burning fat as a full source (similar to keto).
When I began my #RunEverest training, my diet needed a switch up; not only did I need more calories to cater for my increased workload, but I also needed to change the source from which I got the majority of my energy… Carbs.
When your body needs energy quickly, glucose and glycogen from carbohydrates are the most easily accessed by your body. They are also the easiest and most convenient to take on-board whilst running (via isotonic drinks, carb gels and jelly babies etc.)
When you are running for over 2 hours, chances are your body will need to take on extra fuel to delay the dreaded ‘bonk’ and sustain your energy levels to the finish line: having the extra carbs definitely helps with this, although consuming all those extra carbs when you are used to a high fat diet can be pretty challenging, but something you just have to get used to as part of the journey!
The Home Straight
When you get outside your comfort zone, it can be pretty uncomfortable…
The switch up from weight training to long, steady state cardio will see your hard-earned gainz slip away slowly week by week.
The switch to a ‘high carb, calorie surplus’ diet will also see those shreds disappear quicker than during your winter bulk!
The energy levels that usually have you perky and peppy 24/7 might begin to desert you as the miles crank up and your legs get heavier and heavier…
However, pushing yourself like you never have before will only lead to a tougher, more mentally strong version of you: personal growth only really comes from a dark place outside of what is comfortable, and every failure along the way will come back to you as a lesson learned and an opportunity for you to grow.
Whereas running a marathon, especially up Everest, might not be for you, hopefully it can excite you as to what might be possible if you really put your mind to it. There is nothing better than looking into yourself and finding out what you are truly capable of, so I urge you to step outside your comfort zone, wherever that may be, and find something that really pushes you.
Find your own marathon, whatever that may be… and find your own Everest.
If you’d like to follow my journey as I prepare for the final few weeks, follow me on Instagram & Twitter, or support me with my fundraising by donating to my just giving page - any support and love is really appreciated and will be more than warmly received.