The rise of ultra running in recent years has been mind-blowing. More and more people are looking for their next challenge and it seems opting to run longer and longer is ticking those boxes than ever before – this is also fueled with a rise in the profiles of Pro runners like Jim Walmsley, who broke the 80km world record running an average 3.37m/km! Ultra running has never been more accessible to the “normal person” with races all over the world costing less than a dinner for two. The sheer volume of races available in postcard perfect locations is not to be missed. So here are 6 things you should know when preparing for your first ultra.
1. Get out and suffer in training – unlike shorter distances, when you run/race for longer the number of variables increase and with that the chances of something going wrong. It could be cramps, gastro-intestinal issues, sleep deprivation, hallucinations….the list goes on.
The ‘perfect race’ is rare and there WILL be some difficult times. Get out, train hard, run through the dark, camp outside, and really challenge yourself – get comfortable being uncomfortable. The better prepared you are for that means when the situation arises on race day, you will be better equipped to handle it.
2. Hike – Probably one of the things most athletes in the Middle East miss out on. Some races have over 13000m of ascent and descent! There is no one on planet Earth who can run all of that. Get out, work on your hiking and become efficient in that discipline since you will probably spend quite a bit of time hiking if your race is in the mountains. If you don’t have access to mountains…drop me an email and I can send you some of our “ultralegs” workouts.
3. Focus on increasing your low end speed – The effort required to increase your running pace from a 5 minute km to a 4 minute km is well….lots. However it IS much easier to increase your aerobic effort at the lower end from say 10 mins to 7 mins per km. As you are more likely to spend your time running at this effort level as you increase into ultra distance get yourself comfortable running long distances “slowly fast”
4. Eat frequently – Depending on distance you could be running anywhere from 6-60hours! That requires food, a lot of food. Practice eating in your training and find what works for you. For me, it’s 100 cals every 30mins on the dot!
5. Peaks and troughs – One minute you will feel invincible and have the best time of your life and 10mins later you will be in the valley of despair, questioning every life decision you have made! This is Ultra life! Know that the bad times will pass.
6. Have fun – Remember the training, early mornings, late nights, long days, and finally the race are all part of the process. You signed up for this, you wanted to go down this path, so smile, enjoy yourself and know you will be a better person at the end of it.
By; Rob Jones, Endurance Coach