Dan Lawson, superhero

Dan Lawson is an elite athlete. He belongs to a relatively small band who could be called Super ultra-distance runners. There are lots of web results on nutrition and physiology for ultra-distance runners; from marathons to around 100 miles & more. However once distances and endurance levels ramp up to Dan’s standard – three marathons a day for several days in a row, numbers of reported examples drop dramatically.

It’s day seven of Dan’s gruelling quest to beat the world treadmill record – 520 miles in a week. As I write, he’s more than halfway through his penultimate marathon. So here’s a brief insight into what Dan’s body has been dealing with 12-18 hrs a day since last Friday. On Wednesday Steve from the Albion In The Community health team tested Dan’s vital weight/fat/muscle statistics. Like many endurance runners Dan is lightly built & muscled, but with a high lean muscle mass. He has very low body fat levels including very little fat around his internal organs.

The treadmill has been recording Dan’s daily calorific expenditure at upwards of 900 calories per hour, at least 9 or 10,000 calories per day. He’s a light eater at the best of times and like many runners can find eating unpalatable when in action. So it’s unlikely that he’s eating this many calories; probably more like half, or even less. The answer to the calorie deficit is likely to be in factors that confuse the treadmill’s computer and make Dan the runner he is – economy of motion, efficiency and importantly, mind over matter.

Listening to Dan’s stride next to anybody else’s you notice it’s quieter. At his smoothest, nearly silent. Little energy wasted on slamming the belt, less risk of ‘footstrike haemolysis’ – anaemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells from repeated pounding of the feet. 2am last night, at the end of a very long day six, so on a relatively slow pace, Dan’s footstrike rate was around 180-200 per minute. It might be double that or more when he’s running fast, but even on slow, he’s hitting the ground 12,000 times an hour. Work that out over a week of 12-16 hour or more days… Phew. Energy saved here is important.

So Dan is ultra efficient. He can usually talk easily while running, doesn’t sweat a great deal and his normal daily eating regime – perhaps one meal a day, has accustomed his mind and body to burning lean. During the last six days he has been drinking electrolyte fluids & eating simple carbohydrates and sugars while running, saving any proper meals for beginning and end of the day. General guidelines recommend around 60gms carbohydrate per hour for distance running – up to a kilogramme per 12-14hr day. It’s unlikely that Dan is eating that much and he’s still so strong – this morning he ran his first marathon of the day at 4hrs 20 minutes!

With another two marathons to go today before reaching the record and keeping the above in mind, it becomes plainly apparent that not only is Dan a Super ultra-distance runner, he’s almost super-human… Dan L’awesome, personal superhero for us all.

Postscript: Dan finished his run and beat Sharon Gayter’s world record late on Friday night having run 521 miles in under 7 days. Here’s my video of his last mile…