Last-minute Race to the Stones tips

Race to the Stones Route


The Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones is almost upon us again and with less than a week to go a few friends doing this for the first time asked me for some advice on how to approach the Ridgeway race. I thought I might as well share what I told them for anyone else who might still have some last-minute questions about what to do around race day. 

What’s your nutrition plan? Can you shed any light on amounts you drink/eat pre and mid run? 

Pre-run: Don’t do the usual carb loading pasta binge. It’s bullshit. You’ll just wake up feeling like you need to shit a giant gnocchi baby, only you won’t be able to, at least until mile 7 when it’ll demand to leave your body immediately. Between now and the race day just start adding a little more carbs to your meals. I just add a good portion of sweet potato the night before.

Race morning: It’s gonna be very early which complicates things a little. I actually go for a liquid breakfast (A 33Shake Endurance shake with Herbal life meal replacement and some protein powder). It’s easy to get down and digest before the race. Doesn’t sit crazy in the gut.

Mid-run: At one of the aid stations I’ll stop for a bit longer and take on board another one of my 33Shake Endurance shakes with Herbal Life, rest for a bit to let it go down and then maybe walk the first half mile out of the aid station until my stomach is settled and I’m ready to run again. It might feel like you’re losing time but 10 mins at this aid station, getting the right fuel in, can save you hours later.

Other things I’ve found work for me on the run:

  • Knor Chicken Noodle Soup. Sounds mental but it’s full of salt and little bits of pasta. Easy to get into the system. Carry a packet and a cup and they’ll have a kettle at some of the main aid stations.
  • Ritz Crackers – salty salty savoury goodness. Just don’t eat too many.
  • Watermelon – cool, sugary, melt in the mouth, freshener for you otherwise rancid sticky gelled-up gammy mouth.

How much water do you carry with you between checkpoints? 

I take one 650ml bottle that has water plus my carb and electrolyte drink in and then another 650ml of plain water. I’d recommend topping up whenever you can as sometimes the course and the terrain can mean time you spend on course between the aid stations is longer. Just because they’re all approximately 10km apart doesn’t mean it’ll take you the same time to move between them.

Is what they supply at checkpoints enough? Should we be thinking about supplementing our fuel?

Food and fuelling is really, really important. It can make or break your race. Eating little and often is the way to go and don’t wait until you feel drained to get some fuel in. It’s best to eat before you think you need it, while being careful not to eat so much you feel sick. It’s a really fine balancing act.

Whether you can rely on the checkpoint food is really down to you and what you can stomach. I prefer to bring my own rather than rely on the aid stations but plenty of people just eat what’s provided.

Top Tip: Bring a couple of freezer bags so you can take some food from the stations to carry with you.

In case your interested, this is what I’ll be carrying.

10 Foods To Fuel an Ultra Marathon

How this works in practice is that I have one freezer bag per hour-ish of running that I carry in a front pouch where it’s easy to access. In that I have some dates, an Ella’s Fruit pouch, a 33Shake Gel and either some protein balls or a Paleo Bar, a diarolyte and maybe some salt tablets.

Electrolytes: Do you carry with you? How much do you take on mid-race?

I’d recommend some kind of soluble electrolyte tab that you can add to one of your water bottles. As I said I also pack a couple of diarolytes so that if I feel I’m not getting enough water on board, I can neck these as an extra boost of salts. If it’s crazy hot I’ll also take some salt tablets but you’ll probably be good with Nuun or the like.

What kind of foot stuff do you use? 

If you can get both the 2Toms products I’ve listed on here I recommend it. One stops chafing and the other lets sweat out but not in, keeping your feet dry and hopefully blister free. This means there’s no need to Vaseline. I’ve found it works really well having it used it at the Marathon des Sables and on the Centurion Running Thames Path 100 miler.

Any techniques on mitigating foot pain? Not just blisters, but just general foot hurt? Change of insoles?

Your feet are gonna hurt after a while from the general impact that comes from being on them for so long but if you’ve chosen your shoes right this shouldn’t be a big problem. Bring spare socks and change them if your feet get particularly sweaty or wet. Or just for a freshen up, it also feels kinda nice after 7 hours to put on clean socks.

What shoes do you run in? 

I think I’m going to run in a some inov-8 Roclite 290. They’re light trail shoes. And I’ll get my crew to pack a pair of more cushioned road shoes in case the course is dry enough to take it and I want a bit more softness under foot. Last time round I ran the first section in road shoes and because it’d been raining I was slipping a lot for the first part. It dried up though and then was perfectly ok for road shoes really. Read something from someone who’d be out on the dampest bits recently and they said they thought it’d probably be dry-ish.

Any other advice for a first timer at the Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones?

My other advice is to break this race down into 5 mile chunks. It’s just 12 little 5 milers. Think about your average pace for each 5 mile chunk rather than each mile  as some miles you’ll move quicker (running the downs), some slower (walking the ups). Last time it took me 12.5 hours so that’s an average of 12 min/miles of 5 miles per hour but for the first 20 I was doing  8 min/miles and paid the price. I would have had a better day just doing steady 12s. So think about it this way. It’s ok to have slower sections where you give your body a chance to recover.

Finally, expect it to be a long day where you’re hanging out your arse. But that’s all good. If you expect the pain it’ll somehow honestly be easier to deal with than if you go in thinking you might somehow get away with it not hurting.

And know you will do it. It’s just one foot, one foot, one foot, one foot. Until you run out track.

Also when you pass me crying into a hedge having ignored all of my own advice, please give me a kick up the arse and remind me that I said this.

You might also like

Race to the Stones Basecamp Sign

9 Things I learned running the Race to the Stones