Zero To Hero: A Beginner Ultra Runner’s Experience At Ultra X Sri Lanka 2019

Emily Like

Written By Emily Like

Emily is an ultramarathon newcomer, who took on Ultra X Sri Lanka in 2019, depsite having only ever ran 5km four months before the race.

17 June 2019


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This week the Ultra X team caught up with Emily Like, one of our Ultra X Sri Lanka finishers, to talk about her experience in the jungle.

Amazingly, four months prior to Sri Lanka, Emily had only ever ran 5km! We wanted to find out exactly what possessed her to sign down, how she prepared for the race and what she would change for next time.

Prior to Sri Lanka you had only ever ran 5 kilometres, what made you decide to take on the challenge of an ultra?

There were a couple of things that made me want to do an ultra, there’s the obvious one of wanting to challenge myself and see whether I could do it or not but also that my dad was a keen ultra runner (back in his day!) and I’d heard so much about all the adventures he’d had and all the amazing people he’d met along the way that I always had it in the back of my mind that one day I’d like to give it a go!

You decided to dive straight in with a five day, multi-stage, 250km race in the jungle! Why this approach rather than starting with something shorter and working your way up?

I think the shorter the race the more expectation there is on needing to run fast! I’m definitely not fast, so for me a multi-stage ultra seemed more achievable. Unless you’re in the elite category no one ever asks what time you ran it in, they’re only interested in if you finished or what you saw or what the country was like. It’s also totally acceptable to walk in an ultra marathon but I’d feel more pressure in a 10km race to try and run the whole thing.

What was more difficult, training or the event?

Definitely the commitment to training. I felt guilty if I missed a session! I actually really did enjoy training for Sri Lanka but it’s nice now not to have the pressure of “having” to go out.

Can you describe a typical training week? Where did the training plan start and what did your biggest week look like?

As I mentioned earlier, my dad was a keen ultra runner so it was an obvious choice of who to turn to when it came to putting a training plan together for Sri Lanka. I really focused on getting time into my legs rather than any speed. I spent hours running/hiking around the Brecon Beacons just getting my legs used to being tired and having to get up and do it all again the next day. A typical week for me was a mixture of shorter runs during the weekdays, three swim sessions, a gym session and then some long days on the hills at the weekend. My biggest week was about 58 miles, that included a 37 miler on one of the days. Everything was slow and low impact to try and stay injury free.

How did you fuel and hydrate in the jungle?

I kept my food super simple and took “normal” food that I knew I liked: M&M’s, pretzels, peanuts, cashews and pork scratchings! For hydration I used Nuun electrolyte tablets in one 500ml bottle and plain water in another 500ml bottle and this worked for me. I’m not a big fan of electrolytes so having plain water was great to get the fluids in me when I really couldn’t face the after taste of electrolytes.

Female Running at Ultra X Sri Lanka

You fared incredibly well and appeared to get stronger as the week went on. What advice would you give to someone approaching an Ultra X event for the first time?

Thank you! I loved it and would recommend anyone to just sign up and go for it! My biggest advice would be to make sure you do your own race including the training! Try not to read too much about what everyone else is doing because what works for them might not work for you. Unless you’re one of the elites and aiming for a podium finish just stop sometimes and look around you and most of all, enjoy it!

What would you change if you were to go back and do it again?

I’d take more pork scratchings and more dry socks because nothing dries in the humidity we experienced in Sri Lanka!

What’s next?

I’m still not sure I’m ready to become a proper “runner” yet so probably another multi-stage race in a hot country – I’m really not a fan of UK weather! Nothing’s set in stone yet but I have a few in mind!

Emily completed Ultra X Sri Lanka with her boyfriend Ant and they are raising money for Mind. Should you be interested in supporting their cause you can find out more here.

Emily’s kit for Ultra X Sri Lanka

 Ultimate Direction 10L pack
– 2 x 500ml soft bottles + another 500ml bottle in the back (this was left empty but had it there if I felt I needed to carry more water)
– First aid kit
– Compass
– Multi-tool with knife and scissors
– Head torch and spare batteries
 Nuun electrolyte tablets (I took 3 tubes for the 5 days)
– Suncream! Lots of sun cream!
– Spare socks (A saviour 3 miles into day 1! For some reason the socks Emily started in which she had worn lots on training runs suddenly started to give a hot spot on my left foot but fortunately she was able to change).
– Food (I ate a lot of “real” food along the course and I think this was the reason I stayed so happy each day)
– Waterproof jacket in a dry bag
 Leki Micro Vario Poles

Ultra Marathon Kit Lay


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