These days, more and more people are taking up ultra running, and participating in some of the more popular ultra races in the world, such as the Western States Endurance Run and Leadville Trail 100 in the United States – even going through a lottery system to get a slot.
Running an ultra though, is a completely different ball game compared to doing a marathon. Here are some of the things that your body has to endure, when you are out there on the race course for many hours, running an ultra.
Having hallucinations are part and parcel of ultra running, when you are out there alone, especially in the dark. Being fatigue can cause you to imagine things such as non-existent footsteps following you or inhuman shadows lurking just behind the bushes.
So take a few minutes off for a quick snooze when you feel sleepy. This should refreshen you – just remember to wake up, though!
2) Insect bites
In trail ultras this is common. So if you are prone to mosquito bites and insects are particularly attracted to you, then maybe you should consider using plenty of insect repellent.
3) Cuts and bruises
These are quite common in trail ultras because you will invariably scratch yourself against some branches or you may take a tumble. But as long as you watch yourself and you do not get seriously injured, then you will be fine.
Like cuts and bruises, sustaining blisters are also common in ultras. This can happen more easily when your shoes and socks are wet, no thanks to mud or water seeping in. So when this happens, changing into a dry pair of shoes and socks will do you a world of good.
5) Stress Fractures
With the amount of distance that ultra runners cover, stress fractures may occur. These may be most common in the feet due to the constant pounding and resulting stress on them, but the pelvis, tibia and fibula may also be susceptible.
When you have a stress fracture, whether you should continue or not, depends on where it occurs. Areas such as the navicular, pelvis, and femur are considered as high-risk areas because they do not heal very well, especially with repeated pounding of your body. So you may have to make a decision on the spot, at whether to risk completing the race but sidelining yourself from running for an extended period, or to stop there and then and trying this race again when you are fully recovered.
But if the stress fracture is in the tibial, fibular and metatarsal areas, these tend to heal well without the requirement of crutches, so you may still be able to continue, if you take it easy and at a slower pace.
In an trail ultra, hypothermia – a condition when your body temperature falls below normal – could happen. This is even more so, if the day and night temperatures fluctuate very wildly and you do not have adequate protection and you are running low on body fuel.
So ensure that you eat enough and do plenty of research on the temperatures – especially for an overseas trail ultra – before you actually set out for the race.
7) Stomach problems
Ultra runners definitely have to eat real food during a race. You can’t get by with energy gels and salt tablets like marathon runners.
But you will still get stomach problems though, if your body is not used to running with food.
So plan exactly what sort of food you are going to eat during the ultra – and have a dry run beforehand, to ensure that the food does not cause any stomach or indigestion problems.