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The Active Root Ambassador Team welcomed Ultra Runner Michael “Sparky” Sparks last month. Sparky is a seasoned ultra runner with 50K being his go to distance.
Below, Sparky told us a little bit about himself, top tips for road runners looking to make the transition to trail running and why he drinks Active Root.
Active Root Ambassador Michael “Sparky” Sparks
I’m just a regular guy who found running and really enjoys it. In 2012 I ran my first 5k and here I am 7 years later with a handful of 50k’s under my belt and training to run Bulldog 50k for my 40th birthday in August. Although I have no significant life event that brought me into the running world, running has changed my life in more ways than I could ever imagine. I’m in the best shape of my life, it’s an outlet for my energy, I love all the epic adventures, and I’ve made so many amazing friendships. However running for me isn’t just a one way street. It's about giving back to the people who have helped and inspired me in my running journey. I volunteer at races and mentor in half marathons, marathons and trail half marathon training programmes.
Top Tips for Road Runners looking to make the transition to Trail Running.
Trail running is a different beast to road running. Road running is heavily focused on pace and to me feels very much like a thing you do solo and is very focused on the distance, time, and goals ahead of you. I’m not saying that these things aren’t part of trail running, but just not really a big focus. To me trail running is about the community and friendships. Almost every trail run I’ve ever been to the overall feel is completely different than a road race.
First off, you can throw your concept of pace out of the window. Due to the amount of climbing involved there isn’t really anyway to keep an eye on your mile pace. Instead try to stop looking at your watch and start listening to your body.
For folks just starting out on trails I tell them this: It’s okay to walk the hills (walk with a purpose). I’m a very strong power hiker due to this. You need to save your legs for all those fun downhills and flat sections.
Ultra running is more about getting time on your feet. You are going to be out there for a while and you need to have hours on tired legs to be fully prepared for an ultra.
Nutrition is also a very important facet of trail running. You’re going to need lots of calories when you’re out there for hours. Water is important, but you are going to need more than that to keep you going. What has really worked well for me in training is one bottle of Active Root every 10 miles and eating 14-20 carbs every 45 minutes. On race day I still keep the 1 bottle of Active Root every 10 miles and change eating to every 30 minutes.
Convince everyone you can to join you on trail runs. As I mentioned earlier, pace doesn’t really matter that much on trail so it's okay to have your slower friends join you. You can walk the uphills together and take breaks to let them catch up. This is the greatest thing about trail running and the reason I do this.
The golden rule when it comes to trail running is “What happens on trail, stays on trail” that means trails are a safe space and you can talk about whatever you want to. Knowing that your friends can only ever bring up what was said when they are on the trail again.
Why I use Active Root.
During training for my first half marathon I was told about nutrition and that I would need more than water to get through it. Being new to the running world and not being a previous athlete, experiences like this were all new to me. So I trusted the advice of friends and mentors. They told me about the popular choices for nutrition. I tried a lot of different stuff, but kept bonking or having tummy issues with specific running fuels. Then I started looking at the ingredients listed in these fuels. I was shocked that I didn’t know what anything listed was. I then started the almost 3 year search for natural sports drinks and fueling options. I was so happy when I discovered Active Root. After placing a sample order to give it a go, I knew within my first run I had found something very special. I’ve always carried ginger chews with me on runs just in case of a stomach issue. Now all I need to do is take a few extra sips of my Active Root and the tummy is right back in line. I also love the fact that I know exactly what is going into my body. The gang over at Active Root are some sort of wizards in knowing exactly how to balance out their flavors, carbs, and proper amounts of electrolytes to keep you going at your top performance. It also taste delicious!