Conquering Heights: My 2024 Trail and Ultra Running Journey

As dawn broke on 2024, thinking about my goals around running, the air was thick with anticipation and the promise of adventure was strong. But at the same time, there was also an air of uncertainty about it for me. Last year was a good year in terms of ticking off some big items on my list. I completed events such as the Wild Horse 200, with UTS 50 following shortly after. But cooking myself on Day 1 of the Dragon’s Back, dropping down to the Hatchling course left me slightly uneasy going into 2024.

This year, my trail and ultra-running journey is set to scale to new heights, literally and metaphorically, as I tackle three monumental challenges that beckon me to push my limits further.

I have set my sights on three big events:

  • The rugged beauty of the Ultra Trail Snowdonia (UTS) 100k
  • The breathtaking expanse of the Swiss Alps 100, a 100-mile ultra that promises as much beauty and awe, (as it will test my physical and mental endurance)
  • The Bob Graham Round. A 24 hour fell running challenge in the English Lake District, where I will need to traverse 42 fells, starting and finishing at Keswick Moot Hall, involving 66 miles (106km) with 26,900 feet (8200m) of elevation change.

Ultra Trail Snowdonia (UTS) 100k: The Welsh Mountains call again

First on my agenda is the Ultra Trail Snowdonia (UTS) 100k, an event that is as daunting as it is exhilarating.

Last year I took on UTS 50, which had a rather chunky 3400 meters of elevation change. The UTS 100k version will double that elevation change and distance, and includes some significantly more technical sections.

UTS 100k route profile

Nestled in the heart of Wales, Eryri National Park (Snowdonia National Park) is a landscape wrought from the very essence of adventure. With its towering peaks, rugged valleys, and ancient forests, it’s a trail runner’s paradise. UTS 100 will not be just a race; it’ll be a pilgrimage through one of the UK’s most storied and challenging terrains.

Swiss Alps 100

As if the UTS 100k wasn’t challenge enough, 2024 will also see me venturing into the heart of Switzerland for the Swiss Alps 100 in August. Failing to get a place in Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) with my ‘lottery stones’ this year, I started looking elsewhere. I’m actually really pleased to have this race booked now. It’s a much smaller number of participants, and I’m sure it’ll deliver a smaller and more tailored experience than I would have had at UTMB. I wanted a challenge that I haven’t yet attempted, and the elevation I’ll be running at is sure to deliver that. It’ll also be a voyage through some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring landscapes on Earth.

Swiss Alps 100 mile race route profile and map

Bob Graham Round

The Bob Graham Round (BGR) is the last big challenge on my list for the year. It may even slip to 2025. I haven’t lent much thought to it yet, other than the fact that I’m going to need to spend a fair bit of time learning the different legs of the route, and building a support network around me for when I do take on the challenge.

I’ll need pacers to run with me (they are also ‘witnesses’ of the effort itself, a requirement should I manage to complete the challenge in under 24 hours).

I’m setting this challenge for post Swiss Alps 100. After that I’ll hopefully find the time to journey up to the Lake District in England. There I’ll do route recces, offering up my time to help pace others doing the challenge. I’m sure this will be a great way to learn the best lines, and terrain, as well as helping out others at the same time.


My training regimen has been much of the same as last year. A blend of weekly long runs to build endurance, hill repeats to mimic the relentless ascents and descents I’ll be doing in the races, and occasional faster tempo, threshold, or sprint sessions to try to keep my top end speed ticking over. Added to this, I haved tried to stay consistent with my strength training to fortify my body against the demands of these events.

Preparing for the Swiss Alps 100-mile race in such a demanding environment (elevation!) requires a holistic approach. The physical training mentioned above is what I hope will take me through physically, but I am uncertain what running at extreme elevation will do to me.

For this reason I am looking at hiring an altitude simulating tent/system and using that on and off in the months ahead of the race in August. I hope that this will help my body adapt and acclimatise.

In addition, the family and I will be heading to Courmayeur, two weeks ahead of the race. We’ll stay in a hotel right at the base of the mountains with ski lifts within walking distance. I’m hoping I’ll be able to spend some early morning hours each day up in the mountains getting my body further adapted ahead of the race.

My long runs lately have been on pretty fatigued legs. Trying to cram in all of this as well as my day job and family life has been a struggle. Speed sessions wreak havoc on my body for a day or two post. It’s like riding a fine line between injury and progress. But one thing it does is simulate the fatigue of the latter stages of these races.

As always I try to spend a lot of time training on technical terrain. This is delivered in part by the Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and less frequent adventures out to the mountains of South or North Wales.

Another component to train is that of mental resilience. And a crucial one it is for ultra-running. With each training session I go through, there is always a goal, but even better is to hit two or more goals in one go. If its raining, cold, or a long slog ahead, I try to remember that this will help train mental resilience too.

Nutrition, and rest have been equally pivotal in my preparation. I have been slowly tweaking things, focusing on good sleep, reduction of my caffeine intake, and trying to eat more whole foods. A while ago I wrote about some tweaks, but things have evolved even further from there.

The Journey Ahead

As I embark on this trail and ultra-running journey in 2024, my goals extend beyond mere finish lines. These races represent a journey towards understanding my limits and learning to exceed them. They are a call to adventure that I cannot ignore.

Hopefully through this blog I’ll be sharing insights from my training, and the races themselves. Lessons learned on the trail, and, ultimately, the stories of these two incredible races (and one big fell running challenge!) Whether you’re a seasoned ultra-runner, a trail enthusiast, or someone who dreams of taking on such challenges, I hope to inspire you to chase your own adventures, no matter how daunting they may seem.

4 thoughts on “Conquering Heights: My 2024 Trail and Ultra Running Journey”

  1. This is so exciting, Sean!!
    I had a look at the website of the Swiss Alps 100, it’s going to be an incredible race. I like that it seems to be fairly small – a nice change from the UTMB races.
    I looked at the 2023 results: the woman who came in first last year for the 100 miles (Denise Zimmermann) is a well-known ultra runner in Switzerland. She came in at 29:47 – which says a lot about how difficult the terrain must be.
    You will do well. You’re so meticulous in your preparation and training – I don’t think there’s anything that will surprise you. I’m curious to know how that altitude tent thing will work. I think that Nike used it for their Oregon Project runners. It seemed to work for them!

    Good luck with your training!

    PS: will you be passing through Zurich at some point?

    • It is rather exciting! But daunting too. 29:47 for Denise’s time is impressive for the length and elevation stats. I was trying to draft a rough pacing plan myself yesterday. I would like to aim for 34 hours, but even that sounds ambitious now. Perhaps a sub-40 hour would be a good goal to aim for.

      I’ll definitely be posting about the altitude tent if I go that way. I think it’s a good idea for preparation considering I’ve never run at high altitude like this before. I’ll take a look at that Oregon Project reference you mention to see if I can gain any insights there. From one or two other sources I’ve seen it looks like there is concrete evidence that they help.

      I’m not sure if we’ll pass through Zurich yet. It looks a bit further past Fiesch where we will be travelling to from Courmayeur for the start of the race, so that might be a tight one, however, we’re still looking at what we can do in the two weeks ahead of the race. It’s possible we might add that to the plan for a visit.

      • Yes, if you’re driving by car from Courmayeur, Zurich will definitely be out of your way. It would only work if you arrive by plane and stay a few days in or near Zurich.
        Driving by car makes much more sense when travelling with the family!

        • It’s going to be a bit of a journey for us, but we’re planning a few stops and to take the journey over 2-3 days slowly! I’m not sure how the kids will handle long driving, so hopefully this breaks down the time with good rests between.


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