A race that is longer than 42.195km (26.2miles), an Ultra Marathon can take place on a mixture of terrains, from road to trails during a single race, and the distances can vary significantly, from shorter ones such as 50km and 50 miles, to the 100 km and 100 mile races. Some of the most extreme ultras can even be several hundred miles long.
But before you do your first one, here are some things that you may want to know about ultras.
1. Take your time
Unlike a typical road marathon, where many runners are pushing for a personal best timing, most ultra runners take their time to relax and enjoy the scenery during ultras. Simply let yourself go out there and enjoy the long run. Unlike road marathons, ultras are simply about going out there and seeing what your body is capable of. Forget about clock watching and personal bests.
2. Ultras are eating contests
If you like eating and stuffing yourself up with junk food, then all the more you should go out there and run an ultra!
That’s because if you’re going to be out there running for many hours, sometimes even up to 24 hours straight, you’ll definitely need to fuel yourself regularly, to consistently provide your body with energy to burn.
And at the aid stations of many ultra races, there is usually a generous buffet, comprising of items ranging from your regular energy gels and bars, to chocolates, instant noodles, biscuits, cupcakes and many more. And because you are burning so many calories, it is practically guilt-free indulgence. So go out there and see if you can out-eat your fellow competitors – because you’ll be burning off all the calories anyway!
3. Walking is encouraged
In ultras, you are basically encouraged to walk during the race, which may not be the case in marathons and other shorter distance races. That’s because with most ultras taking place on trails, where the terrain is uneven, ultra runners tend to walk uphill in order to preserve their energy and leg muscles so that they don’t burn out too quickly. At the same time, as you have to keep on moving for many hours, sometimes up to 24 hours straight, it is perfectly understandable for a runner to want to take a walking break during an ultra.
4. It’s in the mind
Completing an ultra is very much a mind game. So if your mental stamina isn’t very strong, then perhaps ultra running isn’t for you. Physical training can only take you up to a certain level, but when the going gets tough during the race, it’s all about how you can mentally push yourself to go on.
5. You may make lots of friends
Making friends is inevitable in the ultra circuit, with the long hours that you are spending running. You will, no doubt, meet up with another fellow runner along the route or perhaps at the aid stations – and begin talking to each other, possibly to motivate each other to keep on going. And as time progresses and you continue running, you may even find yourself sharing life stories and ultra running experiences with each other – and may even find yourselves turning from complete strangers into friends. Unlike road marathons, where everyone is so focused on his or her own running, this happens in the ultra running world, and is possibly much more common than you may think.