Ultra runner will be looking to break the record of nine days two hours when he embarks tomorrow
When it comes to the goal of running around 100 miles per day for nine days, physical training is obviously paramount. However, James Williams, who will set off on a Land’s End to John O’Groats record attempt tomorrow morning, has been training his mental capacity too.
The ultra runner will try to complete the distance between the two extremes of the British mainland of nearly 850 miles in less nine days two hours and 26 minutes.
Williams has been putting in 50km per day in training, but has also been taking advice in how to improve the mental strength needed to keep going through nine days of a gruelling regime which will see him get by on only four hours of sleep per night.
The Saucony UK ambassador says: “The psychological aspect is huge. People say that it gets more important as the challenges get longer. And I think that’s true.”
Some might believe that ultra athletes such as Williams are born with superb mental strength, but he adds: “I think you definitely can develop it too. I’ve been working with a sports psychologist Evie Serventi over the past 18 months, and she’s brilliant.
“I’ve got a whole range of techniques that we’ve worked on together. And I’ll be using them throughout the attempt - although hopefully not too much! Or too early!”
Williams could hardly have asked for a better coach as he embarks on a journey to try a break a 2002 Guinness record that has recently come under great scrutiny as to its accuracy. Mimi Andersen, who holds the women’s record, has been guiding his running training - although few can match her when it comes to mental determination too.
In 2008, Andersen went from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 12 days 15 hrs. She still holds the fastest time for the fastest cross of Ireland too, while she has set many others records, including 24 hours on a treadmill.
Although her days of extreme running are over due to knee injuries sustained before being forced to pull out midway through a cross-USA record attempt in 2017, she can derive a great deal of enjoyment for passing on her experience.
Andersen, who has now switched to cycling in her bid to continue with her own endurance challenges, praised Williams for his commitment.
“He has put everything into this,” she says. “For me, coaching him has been fantastic. He goes out and running 30 miles every morning.”
She laughs: “He rang me up and said, '‘Mimi, do you think we can increase the mileage?’ It gives me a huge amount of pleasure.”