Article: The place of expeditions in training

By Buzz Burrell on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 05:53pm
George Brill

Article by George Brill

Running expeditions such as FKTs take up a lot of time and effort. Athletes question how much they’d disturb their training schedule: the taper, the recovery, the time commitments.

But there are many huge benefits in throwing the odd expedition into your training, and not just because they’re often much cheaper than races! Expeditions provide a freedom of creativity you can’t get in organised events, and are a unique opportunity to develop aspects of your running you can’t get from regular training.

Hopefully this post will encourage you to start adding a few into your own training. After all, there’s plenty of FKTs still waiting to be done!  Here's some reasons to get on it:

1) A motivator to train. Just like races, having an expedition in planning is a great motivator to get those training miles done. It also gives you a context and goal to tailor your training schedule towards.

2) Training in itself. Expeditions are a great form of ‘real-world’ training beyond your carefully controlled—and often a little stagnant—training schedule. In an expedition we can live the running, with training as a biproduct, rather than the other way around. Expeditions can be designed to be specific training for upcoming races, and force us to deal with the unknown and uncontrolled: the building blocks of resilience and adaptability. 

3) Re-instil your love for the sport. Everyone has motivation lows, when training becomes a drag and we lose enthusiasm for running. Change it up. Take it back to basics: pure and uncomplicated. Find a novel way or context in which to perform. Give yourself a reason to fall in love again. Expeditions are a way to break from the restrictive predictability of regular training and competition. They allow you to literally live the sport with no distractions.

4) An opportunity to test yourself. Expeditions can be a challenge far and above day-to-day training. They’re an opportunity to see where you’re at and prove your ability in a real-world context. The sense of personal achievement they bring is worth it in itself!

The unexpected builds resilience ...
The unexpected builds resilience ...

And if the sense of personal achievement isn’t worth it -

5) Bragging rights. Completion of any expedition, especially one you’ve created and planned yourself, is a huge achievement. Even in the company of fellow runners, it deserves respect. You’ve gone and done something different, committed serious time and effort, and embraced the unknown. That takes an impetus and guts worthy of praise.

6) A social event. Like races, expeditions are great excuses to catch up with old friends and spend time with like-minded people. One social advantage of expeditions is that you’re working together, not competing against each other!

7) See new places; do new things. An expedition is limited only by your imagination. They’re a great excuse to see new places and explore your running in new ways. What better start to a vacation than a running expedition to discover the area?

8) Expeditions are fun! There are two types of fun. The fun that’s actually fun, and the fun that’s fun when you look back on it afterwards… Expeditions are filled with both, the first type occurring at least before and after if not during! But after all, ‘unless you cry and/or bleed at some point, it’s not an adventure’ (Jenny Tough).


Go new places; see new things

The underlying point is that expeditions are the perfect excuse to fully immerse yourself in the discipline you love: running. It’s what you enjoy doing in life, and quite possibly where most of your social life (or even all your life…) is. The real question is ‘why not?’

Note: This article is adapted from Adventures in Fastpacking: Advice and inspiration for creating your own ultrarunning expedition. You can download the full eBook here: