Lessons from the podium at the UK long distance 24 hour push race.

The UK UltraSkate is a Long Distance Longboarding & Skateboarding (LDP) and Roller skating event that offers a limited 100 participants from around the world the opportunity to ride for 24 hours and push themselves to their physical limits. They state: ‘There is no limit on what can be achieved’

It is the first event of its kind in the UK and marks a historical moment within this discipline of skateboarding in the UK. The 2023 event was held in Betteshanger Country Park and the circuit is 1.25 miles with a gentle gradient both up and down hill. 

Ry Swanton based outside of Birmingham has been riding for well over a decade. A known member of the UK community and riding everything from street, downhill, dancing to distance. On skating he says: “My one true love in the world of skateboarding is downhill, it’s what brings me back to skateboarding again and again. There’s an addictive quality to playing with speed and grip to hit the right lines”. 


Authored by Ryan


For a good 5 or 6 years I was really heavily involved in all the UK events and races, and was just beginning to get out to European trips and events when I really badly injured my knee. I’m not sure what the exact cause was, but it occurred on a winter skate trip to Tenerife in 2015 and I spent the following few months unable to walk up stairs or get up off the sofa. This injury wrote me off from riding downhill as I could no longer do heelside slides. 

It took 18 months of hospital trips to get the real answer from an MRI scan – a double partial tear and extension of my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my right knee. An ACL injury never heals due to the amount of movement in the joint, so it’s surgery or live with it. After some heavy physio I was beginning to be able to walk again without pain, and managed to get an extra 3 months with the physiotherapist to focus solely on a return to sport. That first session back I walked into a very fancy private hospital with my skateboard in hand, and we began to build out a training plan around how we can get me back to downhill. The crux of the answer – swap stances and learn to ride goofy. 

I then became my own personal skate tutor, painfully relearning all the motions in the opposite stance. It was extremely difficult rocking up to skate sessions knowing you could go so much faster if you just took a run in regular again. Session by session I was slowly ticking off different skills and starting to be able to link sets of corners together with the correct predrifts. My persistence paid off, and there’s not really a spot in the UK today that I don’t think I can ride goofy to some capacity. The hardest part, which still doesn’t feel totally natural, is having the ‘board feel’ to be able to carve deep and take sweeping corners at speed. 

I honestly never specifically had an interest in distance skateboarding, though over the years a few different things did catch my attention like the Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon and the Long Treks video series. But seeing the “first” UK Ultraskate happening caught my eye and sent me down a rabbit-hole researching all about different ultraskates. I’ve always been drawn to tackling things that feel impossible to me, the bigger the challenge the more my stubbornness and determination kicks in. Being a keen runner nowadays, partly as ongoing maintenance for my knee injury, I felt like I had a base level of fitness where I could actually attempt an event like this – but I’d never tackled anything of this scale before. 

Photo by Michael de Bairacli Levy

It was two months from sign-up to the event date, so a potential training block was going to be pretty limited. Working with a friend of mine Sam Coxon, a PT & Triathlon Coach, we built up a plan of how to build skateboarding specific strength and endurance. The main focuses throughout the training block were; low heartrate training, weighted single leg exercises and putting in the miles on a board. Training was pretty full-on over those couple months with only one rest day out of every fortnight over the peak of the training. Sam and I really used everything we could to mix it up and help avoid injury; weighted hikes, weighted stairmaster, weightlifting, core workouts, low intensity running, sprint interval sessions, plyometrics, cycling, stretching and of course skating itself. 

I was also going to need a proper skateboard to ride. I decided pretty rapidly that this was primarily a physical feat, not a technical one, and I wasn’t going to waste any time or money into pumping as a means of propulsion – rather focussing entirely on pushing strength and endurance. Of course I know pumping has its benefits, but I also knew how much of a pain it was going to be to try and get right given my lack of experience with it. This was going to save me serious money on my setup while also keeping me single minded in my goal. I chose a Pantheon Pranayama, this board is a real masterpiece in skateboarding engineering. The wheels and deck are optimised around Paris TKP trucks, giving you the lowest ride height and zero risk of wheel bite at an affordable price. Big shoutout to SlidePerfect for their support in helping me get what I needed as fast as possible so I could crack on with training. 

Read the full review of the Pantheon Pranayama by Downhill254 if it sounds interesting to you.

Photo by Michael de Bairacli Levy

My approach for the event was very calculated, and all informed from my training rides. The plan was pretty much to ride for a block 90 minutes and rest for 10 minutes, rinse and repeat. The mindset was really to just focus on the block in hand and let go of the scale of the event. You really can’t be thinking about how much time you have remaining, it will only mentally weigh you down. Although I was reluctantly reminded of the remaining time every lap by the countdown clock on the start/finish line – seeing 14 hours remaining when you are 10 hours in is pretty brutal.

Throughout the event I was supported by Tom Campbell, a long time friend and cofounder of Brianne Collective. I had already meticulously planned my eating, drinking and stopping schedule so Tom’s job was to have everything ready according to the plan and help me handle odd jobs like charging devices. I couldn’t be more grateful for his help and support, being able to switch my head off of the logistics and focus on how I felt and what I needed was invaluable.

Photo by Michael de Bairacli Levy

Anything you do for 24 hours will have a whole host of effects on your body, some expected, some unexpected. In testament to my coach Sam, I probably managed to hit the 16 hour mark before starting to feel any real physical discomfort. From that point on I seemed to be having to reinvent my push every few hours to relieve small strains across my achilles, glutes and calves. The biggest worry I encountered though was a declining heart rate in the later hours of the race, being sensible I rested much more in the last riding block than planned as I was running almost 2 heart rate zones lower than at the start of the event due to tiredness. 

I didn’t suffer any significant issues throughout the 24 hours, a lot of the major issues I was already well prepared for from my training rides. There were some strange ones I should share with you though:

  • A weird bursting feeling in my little toes, but no blisters. My assumption is this is some kind of nerve damage or aggravation as I still have no feeling in them 1 week later.
  • Chafing on the top of my ears (where glasses would sit) from my headphones and headtorch.
  • Struggling to take on food at about the 8 hour mark, feeling really sick and not being able to swallow, but desperately trying to stick to my fueling plan. 

I wish I had a story about how I overcame a big mental barrier or broke through the wall, but that honestly isn’t how I felt. Each 90 minute block flew past pretty nicely, each with a different small problem to be solving. There were definitely some blocks where I resorted to sticking one song on repeat to help lose a sense of time though. I do strongly believe that my time with Marafun Run Club, a ‘mindful’ running club, really helped me just accept each moment as it was and not hold on to any kind of suffering.

I tallied up 158 laps of the 1.3 mile course in 24 hours, totalling 205.4 miles, taking 3rd place overall. Having not entered with any expectation of podium, only wanting to hit 200 miles total – I couldn’t be happier with that result.

Photo by Michael de Bairacli Levy

Would I do another Ultraskate? Possibly. Reflecting back on this whole experience, the biggest thing I’ve learnt is how much of a difference real training and planning can have. I’ve effectively been playing semi-pro athlete for the last 2 months and the difference I’ve seen in my fitness is immense. I think if I was to do another Ultraskate in the future, I would tie it in with the training for a running event like a marathon or ultramarathon as there is such a huge overlap. 

If you are new to skating, or a long time skater wanting to get into distance skateboarding, I would really recommend just 3 things:

  • Build out a pushing deck (something nice and low to the ground) with big wheels of some kind – it really will make 10 miles feel like 2. 
  • Think about other forms of cardio that can support your fitness, it can be hard to get out on a skateboard sometimes. Running and cycling are skateboardings closest friends. 
  • Get yourself a Strava account or Garmin watch. Watch your stats, learn about your body through the data both during and after.

As for what’s next for me, my focus after all of this will be shifting back to the world of downhill skateboarding – planning and running the upcoming Tregz Freeride. The UK’s premier closed-road freeride event for the downhill skateboarding community. Tom and I at Brianne Collective have been running this event since 2015, and it’s a true cornerstone of the UK downhill scene. We want more people to experience the same thrill of downhill skateboarding that we have, and keeping this grassroots event alive is doing just that.

Tregaron Freeride Event 2nd & 3rd September
On Youtube

Photos by Tom Farmer