Compared to a Marathon, training for and running an Ultra Marathon is a completely different ball game altogether. But at the same time, running 50 miles or 100 miles is not an impossible task.
Here are five running tips on how to get you through a gruelling Ultra Marathon.
1. Do not make excuses to skip training sessions
In a marathon, you may possibly be able to get away with struggling through the race if you have not done adequate training for it. But for an Ultra Marathon, especially one that is hundreds of miles long, training is very important. So do not make excuses as to why you should not go out on that long training run – yet still hope to finish the ultra in good timing and good shape.
2. Do back-to-back long training runs
When you train for a marathon, it is recommended that you gradually build up your mileage until you are able to complete a single long 30 to 32 kilometre run.
But for an ultra, try back-to-back long runs instead. For example, to train for a 100km ultra marathon, you might do a 40km run on Saturday and then on Sunday, you should immediately wake up and do another 30km run. Doing these back-to-back runs help to stimulate the feeling of tiredness and fatigued legs that you would experience during an ultra, and training for it this way would help you to get used to this sensation – without having to run for example, 12 straight hours.
3. Go at a slow pace
During a marathon, you may see runners bursting out fast from the blocks at the starting line – but only to collapse in the final 10 kilometres of the race. In an Ultra Marathon, it is recommended that you do NOT do this. Many ultra marathons can be easily at least twice the distance of a marathon. So if you go too fast at the beginning, you are most likely to drop out of the race before even the halfway point. So go as slow as possible and conserve your energy – so that you will have the stamina to last the whole distance.
4. Do not try anything new on race day
Similar to marathon running, you should never try anything new on race day during an ultra marathon. This includes the energy gels and food that you will bring for fuel, to the extra clothes and hydration bag that you will carry on you, as well as the exact amount of hydration that you are planning to use for the race.
Ultra Marathons may also take place in the dark, so it will be useful to bring a headlamp. But make sure that you test out this headlamp first for comfort. The last thing you want, would be bruises and chafing on your head, thanks to the headlamp not fitting properly – or even worse, the headlamp being too big and falling off.
Also, get used to the weight of the entire pack that you will be carrying during the ultra and practise running with it, especially if you have not run an ultra before, so that you will not be in for a rude surprise on race day.
5. Train your mental strength
During an ultra, mental strength is just as important as physical stamina, when you are going to be out there running for many hours at a time. So do make sure that you are strong mentally and will be able to push yourself to keep on moving when things start to get tough. Sometimes, runners who have not had enough physical training, but are strong mentally, may even end up beating to the finishing line, a runner who is well trained physically, but is weak mentally. So bear this in mind when training for and running an ultra marathon.