My First Ultramarathon: Anna Sparrow

Written By Anna Sparrow

By day, Anna is an Associate at Linklaters law firm. By annual leave, she is an avid adventurer and ultra runner. Anna completed Ultra X Jordan in 2019.

10 January 2020

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Part of the Ultra X mission is to convince people that everyone is capable of an ultra marathon, and that simply approaching an event with the right mindset puts you in a great position to cross that finish line. A 250km event may seem daunting but it is really more an adventure than a race. We want to show you that people who do not run, or run very little, and have full and busy lives can get to a point capable of completing an Ultra X in a relatively short period of time.

One such example is Anna. Anna completed Ultra X Jordan 2019 having signed down with her boyfriend James in July (the race is the first week of October). Working as an Associate at Linklaters Law firm means that finding the time to juggle training around long work hours was not always easy, however she managed it and with only 3 months of training completed Jordan coming in the top 50 overall.

We caught up with Anna (who has recently committed to Ultra X Mexico as her 2020 challenge) this week, to discuss how she managed it.

Start Line Ultra X Jordan Ultramarathon

Tell us a little about your background. What got you into running? What made you sign down for Ultra X Jordan and what is the 9-5?

I’d always done a lot of sport at school and uni and then when I moved to London I found I had less time so playing team sports was not so easy as they all had fixed practice times. I got more into running then as its more flexible.

What was your experience of doing ultra marathons before Ultra X Jordan?

None, I hadn’t done any ultras before I started training for Jordan and I had only done one marathon.

What simple advice would you give to a new or novice runner?

I feel like I am a novice runner so don’t feel like I could give very much good advice. I guess be careful and don’t ramp up mileage too quickly, I always seem to and then get injured which just sets you back. Also enjoy your runs; I started running much slower (and longer) when training for Jordan so I was running in new places and at a way more comfortable pace so really took in the scenery and enjoyed it.

What was the hardest part of the event or training?

100% not getting injured, I mostly trained over the summer so it was pretty enjoyable on the whole, what I found hard wasn’t the training itself but doing the right amount so that I didn’t get injured. I actually think that training for an ultra was way nicer than for a marathon as I took most runs nice and easy.

Anna Sparrow During Ultra X Jordan

Can you describe your typical training week? How far in advance did you start training and what was the furthest you ran before Jordan?

I would say that I trained 4-5 times a week (but that was not always running), I would cycle whenever I could/ walk when commuting so that even if I wasn’t running I was generally a bit more active than normal. I also tried to be good about doing some strengthening so I didn’t get injured (perhaps half an hour twice a week). I also swam a little if I had time. I started training about five/ six months before but then had to stop for about two months in the middle because I was injured. The furthest I had run was one 30 mile run and then on a one weekend I did a marathon on each day.

What did you eat during the week?

For breakfast I had porridge and an oat bar. Throughout the day I snacked on cereal bars, biltong, nuts and sweets and then for lunch and supper I would have a freeze dried meal (mostly pasta). I took gels but didn’t really eat too many of them as I looked forward to snacking throughout the race and gels just aren’t as yummy — I’d say run for x many miles then you get some sweets (gels weren’t quite as motivating).

What was in your race pack during the week?

First aid kit, mandatory kit, snacks, gels, torch, loo paper, whistles, sun cream, cap, iPod and music.

What’s next?

Hopefully the Ultra X race in Mexico in November!

Anna did fantastically well and we cannot wait to see her in 2020. She also used Ultra X Jordan to raise £3,500 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. You can find out more and donate here

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