Olympic triathlete and Red Bull athlete Courtney Atkinson has just completed one of the most stunning feats of endurance we’ve encountered in the MH office – running up the eight highest mountains in the eight states and territories of Australia in seven days. The clincher: each climb was completed in record time.
The raw figures give some sense of the scale of this achievement.
All up, Atkinson ran for 25 hours, covering 145km – well over three back-to-back marathons. His total elevation gain was 7684m – that’s more than 25 Eiffel Towers stacked on top of one another. And his total kilojoule burn was nudging 60,000 – the equivalent of 46 cheeseburgers.
“Holy hell! I completely underestimated how hard it would be,” says Atkinson of his State 8 project.
“After the first day – where I ran up Mt Bartle-Frere (the highest mountain in Queensland; 1622m) in one hour 48 minutes – my heart-rate data at the end showed that I’d just done the equivalent of a standard Olympic triathlon ... So, yeah, definitely an interesting week.”
Want to build similar staying power? Follow Atkinson’s advice.
SPEND TIME ON YOUR LEGS
“When you’re training, nothing beats time on legs," says Atkinson. "If you want to go long, you’ve got to train long. And you’ve got to train in terrain that’s similar to the terrain you’ll face in your event or your adventure.” When preparing for his State 8 project, Atkinson knocked himself into shape by first doing the two-day 240km Coast-to-Coast adventure race in New Zealand, before snapping out the Six-Foot Track ultramarathon in the Blue Mountains.
KNOW THAT YOU’LL GO THROUGH DARK TIMES
“It doesn’t matter how fit you are – whether you’re an Olympic athlete or you’re just out there doing a hike – you’re going to go through bad periods. We all do," says Atkinson. "But the great thing with ultra endurance stuff – if you eat enough you always come out the other side. And you need to know that. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.” During his project, Atkinson chowed down on high-energy chocolate bars when his energy levels started to flag.
DON’T FIXATE ON THE FINISH LINE
“When things are getting really hard with the ultra-endurance, I just break the challenge down into the smallest portions I possibly can and I don’t focus on anything else except that tiny goal. If I’m really, really stuffed, I just count 10 steps at a time. And I concentrate entirely on those 10 steps. If you’ve got, say, 40km to go, the last thing you want to do is think about that distance in its entirety. You've got to break it down into tiny, achievable goals – counting steps, getting to your next food break or picking and hitting a landmark.”
For more on Atkinson’s training, racing and adventuring, check out his Youtube channel