Jenna Challenor rocks Ultra Marathon debut

Jenna Challenor rocks Ultra Marathon debut

The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon over Easter Weekend in South Africa was another massive success. While 32Gi and KPMG Running Club athlete, and double defending champion, Caroline Wostmann was forced to stop with a hamstring strain; teammate Jenna Challenor flew on her ultra debut. Hear more on this 32Gi Sports Nutrition podcast.




You’re listening to 32Gi Sports Nutrition, I’m Mr Active, David Katz. We did a fantastic build-up in the last couple of weeks to the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. What a race it was, what an event it always is. It was fantastic to see KPMG running clubs Jenna Challenor in her debut Ultra run to second in the women’s race. Of course she is fuelled by 32Gi. Jenna, it was a fantastic start for you, did you exceed expectations or do you anticipate that you might have that in you?

Jenna Challenor: Hi Dave, thanks so much for having me on the show. I did exceed my expectations completely. I honestly had taken all the pressure off and I just wanted to go and run, the furthest distance I’ve ever run in my life. I had a plan, a race plan and I decided to stick by that and see what it gave me and yes, I’m really thrilled.

DK: Jenna, tell me, going into an Ultra; of course you’ve run some marathons. You came close, you were one of the top South African runners last year in the quest to get to the Rio Olympics and race at the marathon there. Of course could only take three athletes but that progression, that mental and physical progression from running a 42km to running something like an Ultra, 56km; what changes did you have to do to get to that point?

Mental & physical adaptation from a 42k to an ultra

JC: Dave, I’ve only ever run three marathons and it’s not like I’m a marathon guru! I just took what I knew from the marathon and tried to take it into the Ultra. Obviously the Ultra is a lot further, so pace-wise you have to slow down. You can’t go as fast as you do in the marathon.

Your nutrition has to change a bit too because you have to obviously sustain your body to go longer. I just got some help from 32Gi who are fantastic and Mark Wolff is my nutritionist. He helps me a lot, just to figure it out and how to work out the distance.

Obviously just went out for my debut to see how my body responded to the extra distance. I’ve always wanted to run long, I love long, I seem to prefer the long. The longer I get, the stronger I get, we’ve always said, so it would be nice to see how I continue this journey.

DK: Talking about that nutrition, how did you adapt things for the Ultra?

JC: Well, I’m not very good about eating before I run, or before I race, I had to really practice that. Before any long run I had to practice making sure I’ve eaten something, I’ve got something in my stomach before the race, I usually do it about two hours before. I did that and then I had to make sure I drank a lot and I fuelled with 32Gi Race as well as their gels throughout the whole Ultra.

How elite athletes handle their in-race fuelling

DK: Talk to me about the gels specifically. With 56km, it’s an Ultra, for the average person who is running it a fair bit slow, they really need to be careful with the gels. They don’t want to spike too early and then all of a sudden they have a dip. How did you handle your fuelling when it came to having your gels?

JC: The important thing with an Ultra is to fuel early and to fuel before you actually need it. The first gel I took I was about 5km, 20 minutes into the run. I didn’t take a whole gel, I took a big sip and I took a lot of water there. Then we have elite feed tables which are at 17km, 28.8k, 43km and 52km.

On those tables I put my bottle of 32Gi Race and a gel and that’s what I took at those tables. In between I took water and a gel if I needed it. Once or twice my husband was next to a water station, which was at 17km and 11km, and he gave me my bottle of Race then.

DK: Jenna, after the fact, after the race, recovery is something you do all the time; but did you find that you had to do something different in recovery? Or did you stick to your normal recovery regime when it came to your nutrition?

JC: No, I didn’t do anything different. I stuck to the same sort of thing and I actually found I recovered a lot quicker. My legs, which I expected to be so sore that I wouldn’t be walking, actually feel amazing. So I’m really, really lucky and really happy about that.

This is only the beginning

DK: Jenna, where to from now? You enjoy the shorter stuff as well, you enjoy your base and your speed, but you’ve started the Ultra ball rolling, what’s happening in the next couple of months and years for you?

JC: That seems to be the question from everyone right now. But to be very honest, I haven’t planned my life until after Two Oceans. I planned up until Two Oceans. Then I need to now sit down with my coach. Obviously in my head I know kind of the direction I want to go. But I’m going to sit down with my coach this week and really plan forward.

For the next couple of months I will definitely be going to the shorter stuff, get the legs turning over again. Enjoy a bit of the Spar Ladies, I’ve been invited to Cape Town 12, all those kind of runs, Totalsports ladies. I love all those kind of events, so I’ll be doing some shorter stuff and then later in the year I’ll be planning a marathon again.

DK: Jenna lastly before I let you go, for someone out there who has run a couple of marathons, they’re looking for something different; what would your biggest piece of advice be for someone wanting to make a step up to an Ultra?

JC: I would say go for it. It is the most incredible race. When you run a marathon, the pace is so much faster, people have said to me: Did you see the scenery… did you see that thing there… and obviously running marathons I didn’t see a thing.

So, in the Ultra you actually have that little bit, a few more seconds to actually look around and take in the scenery and really, really enjoy it. If that’s where your heart lies, I would say go for it, it is the most incredible race, I loved every single step of it.

DK: Thanks very much there, brilliant effort, Jenna Challenor. From myself, Mr Active, David Katz, we’ll speak again soon.

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