If you’re thinking taking on an ‘Ultra run’ this year, get a leg up with these cutting-edge tech items
It used to be that running a Marathon put you in a elite group of crazy runners. These days, increasing numbers of people are pushing themselves beyond these limits to what are called Ultra runs: anything from about 30 miles upwards.
I should come clean here. I’m one of those people. This year I’ve completed an embarrassing array of running challenges that I won’t bore you with here. Quite why there’s so much more interest in these things I don’t know. Maybe a sign of our times.
Nike Joyride Shoes
These Nike Joyride Shoes (£159.99) look normal until you turn them over. Instead of the usual solid sole, they are filled with thousands of tiny soft beads. This means that the shoe can change and move to match the shape and impact of your feet.
It sounds a little far fetched, I know, but trying them out on a 10 mile run yesterday I was actually quite impressed. Compared to other shoes I wear to run, the Joyride technology has a much more malleable feel on your foot. This means that it encouraged me to focus on the form of my running rather than pure pace.
The beads are segmented up into different compartments to ensure they don’t all “beanbag” up one end and to create different resistances in different areas of the shoe. It’s all quite clever and certainly a shoe I’ll be turning to when I’m on a recovery run after a long race.
Suunto 9 Watch
The new Suunto 9 watch isn’t on the small side by any stretch of the imagination but that extra chassis space gets some pretty impressive battery life. Along with the usual multi-sport features the Suunto’s navigation and interface was clear and responsive throughout my use.
At £449.00 there are cheaper watches on the market but none that can match the battery life and features I mentioned. You can expect to get around 25 hours from normal use, but put it into Ultra Mode and that can reach durations of 120 hours.
Other nice aspects of the watch are the wide range of functions. Optical heart rate, barometric and GPS altitude, interval training, training load, and recovery suggestions aren’t uncommon in these kinds of watches, but the level of testing is what makes the difference here.
This includes impact, temperature, water immersion, and humidity. Last year my Fenix 5 suffered in the cold, losing battery life and locking up in sub-zero temperatures. I’m looking forward to putting the Suunto 9 through a similar test once temperatures start to drop.
Garmin 945 Watch
I’ve had many Garmin watches over the years but the multisport range is the only one that can keep going for my super long ultras. This summer I took on the Jurassic Coast 100 mile run with the 945 (£519.99). I took the precaution of charging the watch mid-run at one of the food stations, but needn’t have worried as I finished the 32-hour race with over 40% of charge still in it.
The 945 offers all the usual Garmin features but at this high end these also include the ability to sync up to 1,000 songs, contactless payment with Garmin Pay, incident detection during select activities. It also boasts up to 60 hours GPS tracking in UltraTrac mode.
While the duration can’t match the Suunto 9, what I appreciate about the Garmin 945 is that it also looks like a “normal” watch that I can wear all the time without people feeling like they need to comment on it. The Garmin app and ecosystem is also well developed for the Garmin which means not only ease of use, but I never have to plug it into a computer even for updates.
Technology designed to keep you hydrated as you run has also come a long way in recent years with all manner of vests and packs on the market.
On longer runs, the VaporKrar 12L offers more capacity. This not only has space to take more food and hydration but offers additional adjustable straps to ensure than any fluid you put in the included bladder won’t bounce around while you run.
It does cost a little more, coming in around £164.12, but that extra space can be essential to accommodate the growing many kit list on many ultras: medical pack, extra layers, phone chargers, running poles and the like.