Going The Distance With Rebecca Barber
26.2... been there, done that? Looking for a new challenge? Ready to turn things up a notch? Look no further than an ultra marathon. An ultra marathon is anything over 26.2. It could be a 50K or 50 miles. You decide. Don't think you're ready to complete one? Meet Rebecca Barber. She says you are....
Rebecca Barber is the founder of the Rocky 50k Fat Ass Run. We met up with her to discuss ultra marathon running, tips for first-time ultra marathoners and the inspiration behind the infamous Rocky 5ok Fat Ass Run, scheduled for this Saturday.
1) Tell us how and why you started running.
According to my mom, I was always scurrying and running around. I played sports growing up, but never stuck with one for long. In elementary school, I heard about a local running club and decided to join. I started as a sprinter and thrower (hilarious now since that is the polar opposite of what I'm good at!), but running stuck. I joined the Cross Country and Track teams when I went to high school and I haven't really stopped running since.
2) When did you complete your first 5K, half marathon, full marathon and ultra marathon? Basically, what was the timeline?
I ran no more than 7 miles before I went to college. I joined the Drexel Track Club, running 5ks and 10ks my freshman year until my coach suggested I train all summer for the Philadelphia Marathon. I finished it when I was 19, running my first half marathon only a few months before. I spent a few years running marathons, then in 2010, after running the Pajama Loop at 20in24, I knew I had to try the Lone Ranger 24 Hour race, so like my marathon, I ran a 12 hour race beforehand. I was younger than most of the field, being 22.
3) What piqued your interest in ultra marathons?
My HS running coach's husband was a competitive ultra runner in the 1990s, so I heard about his exploits and always thought it was nuts. But after reading Dean Karnazes' "Ultramarathon Man," I guess the seed was planted. After reading about 20in24's Lone Ranger and not getting excited to train for a marathon, I knew I had to try for longer.
4) What's a typical week for you when training for an ultra marathon?
I tend to be a lower mileage runner compared to most ultra marathon runners. I typically won't run more than 50 miles in a week and that's a peak for me. I try to eat a mostly healthy diet, eating a mostly flexitarian diet. There are some sweets and drinks in there, obviously, but I try to keep my food mostly healthy to fuel my running.
5) What advice would you give someone that wants to complete their first ultra marathon?
I think the best thing to know is that being slower is key. I know it was hard for me when I felt like I was running so much slower than normally, but unless you are winning races, slower is going to be key. Eating is also really important! You can get away with a few gels during a marathon, but nutrition and hydration are vitally important in an ultra. It can make or break a race. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to ultra running, so check out pages like:
- Sign up for the Ultra ListServ: http://listserv.dartmouth.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A0=ULTRA
- Check out this book: Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons
Or you can always ask me! I don't know it all, but I know a few things. :D
6) What inspired you to create the Rocky 50K Fat Ass Run?
When I read Dan McQuade's article, it sounded like too much fun to not exist. I emailed him immediately and got his go-ahead to make it happen. Rocky in many ways embodies the spirit of Philadelphia, so it felt only appropriate to turn it into this fun event.