So, are you planning on running your first ultra-marathon? It may not be as easy as it may seem. You will need an excellent physical and mental strength to do this. However, you do not have to be an experienced runner to be on an ultra-marathon.
The ultra journey begins with simple workouts at home and preparing your muscle for this endurance race. You must do slight exercises often to be able to run an ultra marathon. If you fail to work out and prepare for the race, then you might not perform well. You may also look out for an ultra-running community in your neighbourhood.
The community may give you tips and the morale to undertake your first ever marathon. You will find new and experienced racers who will share your experiences with you. Here, you might learn a thing or two from the community because you are all like-minded individuals.
Here are 9 top tips for running your first ultra marathon:
1 – Mindset
Mental toughness is required for ultra runners. A strong physique is not enough to undertake ultra running successfully. Experts say that ultra running is mainly 10% physical and 90% mental. It’s because the power to run and endure an entire race is solely up to the mind. As much as a strong physique may come in handy, mental strength is also key.
Taking part in an ultra marathon is a great decision you have made. It will test your mind and physical strength in ways you can only imagine. If you are a first-time runner, you must have a positive mindset and maintain it all along the journey.
- For mindset strategies & inspiration check out the CraigWilliamsUltra YouTube Channel
2 – Step up the distance and terrain gradually.
If you join an ultra running community in your vicinity, then the benefits you will reap are countless. You will get to train with experienced individuals in different weather conditions and different terrains. All this will help better your speed and endurance as you race. Moreover, ultra training is necessary if you are to take part in an ultra marathon.
If you do not train, then what is even the point of racing?
Lastly, training is done in phases. You will begin running over a short distance then gradually increase the distance you cover per training session. It will help your muscles adapt progressively to the distance you cover per day.
- To help create more effective goals & training programmes – Download the 1-Page Fitness assessment For Runners Here
3 – Practice course-specific training
Taking a race profile with mileages on it can be very helpful on the race day. It would be best to come up with a strategy you will use on the race. It’s because you cannot go into the race without a plan on how you intend to complete the course successfully.
It would also be best to prepare for bad weather and any harsh conditions that may manifest in the actual event. No one can really predict the weather patterns these days, so you must be prepared for whatever may come.
While in training, you might want to practice on downhills. It is because of the elevation gain. The elevation angle will give your muscles that extra push and will help you on the actual event.
Lastly, you never really know what the race director has got cooking for the event. It is better to go in ready for any terrain by practising on specific courses.
4 – Ensure you have the right kit
Here is a critical ultra-marathon advice for beginners, carrying the right kit for the race. It may seem too obvious, but even experienced racers tend to forget important gear and are often caught up in the moment. Kits are easily forgotten because they are the most obvious thing a runner should remember. Quite a bit of irony there!
If you are a newbie, always remember to carry your trail shoes. The perfect pair of trainers for a person may be a nightmare for another. It’s because of the different shaped feet and shoe sizes. So, get the shoes early in advance and do not make any changes on race day.
Also, remember the water bottle. The water will keep you hydrated all the way. You can also remember to carry your phone but only if it is convenient for you.
Being a trail runner is no small feat; you will have to endure the harsh weather on a rough race track. Expect it to be a test of mental and physical stability.
5 – Pace yourself
Among all ultra-marathon tips, this one stands out. Ultrarunning requires different energy levels. As a newbie begins to train, they will start small and progress to running a handful of miles. This means that you need to keep track of your race pace to know if you are getting any better at it. If not, you can consult a trainer or an experienced runner for bettering your mile pace.
Here is a piece of advice, if you are training to take part in an ultra marathon, you might want to pop into an aid station. Here you may buy something that has calories that will keep your energy up. Also, you must have awesome effort levels to complete a race. Remember that power is in the mind.
Watch my video on creating your Ultramarathon Pace Strategy here
6 – Start running long and slow
Training runs help you build up for the race. They help you come up with a strategy for completing the ultra-marathon with ease. Remember always to pay attention to your coaching programs so you can know how to better your race strategy on the big day.
Additionally, avoid any overuse injuries. These are the injuries caused by repetitive movements. You can do this by not taking too much too quickly.
Make gradual training efforts and be patient as a good runner gains their skills over time and not overnight. The overuse injuries can prevent you from taking part in the race. They mostly occur around muscles or joints.
Also, avoid going on those extra mileages during the first training sessions; this will help you avoid overuse injuries. Remember to increase time on feet gradually to avoid stressing your bones and joints. Start slow and progress.
7 – Break it down
Breaking down the entire course can be helpful if you are a first-time ultra runner. You should commence with a 10 miler if you are only starting, and you can progress to a 50-mile race as you move forward.
If the race is a multi-day ultra, then you have the comfort of time. You can race depending on your capability and at your own discretion. You will have to determine the distance you want to cover over a certain period and take a rest after completing it. Rise early the next day and make more progress on your ultra.
Lastly, remember to keep track of time.
8 – Be prepared for anything
Here is a crucial ultra-marathon advice for beginners. Always be prepared for anything. If you are looking for marathon success, then you must have the right frame of mind. It will help you anticipate anything. There might be rough weather conditions that may affect your will to progress, not to mention the possibility of unforgiving terrain.
Training your mind to overcome all these factors that may derail you is very important for any runner.
Additionally, you might want to consider talking to a person who has racing experience. They might share some wonderful insights with you that might prove useful as you race on your first ultra.
Lastly, if you sustain any blister during the race, then you might consider carrying a blister plaster to the race. It will protect and cushion the affected part from more rubbing that may cause the blister to worsen. The plaster will also relieve some pain so you can proceed swiftly. You might also consider carrying your phone along, so you listen to some music along the race track.
9 – Learn what fuel best works for you
It is best to have a nutrition plan before going into any race. You certainly want to maintain a healthy diet that will keep you going on for hours. You must have knowledge of the number of calories you burn per hour to plan on what foods are best suited for your energy usage.
In the morning, a cup of coffee would do just fine because It is loaded with calories and caffeine. The caffeine in coffee will give your brain a boost and will keep you alert all day long.
You might also consider including pickle juice in your diet. It contains lots of potassium that help your body hydrate much faster as compared to taking water. Additionally, it has sodium that helps your body retain its normal electrolyte levels after a rigorous training session full of sweating.
Energy gels should also be key in your diet. They give a concentrated source of energy. It makes it easier for you to replace the lost energy used up during training or racing.
Runners can also use a carb drink to maintain a healthy diet. They are awesome energy drinks that can provide you with energy to go on for hours. Most carb drinks are formulated with loads of carbohydrates to give you more energy. Also, athletes love them because of their flavours that are quite sweet.
Lastly, remember to stick to your diet. Try not to give new things a shot on race day. It may affect the normal digestion your body is already used to, and this may be disastrous. The most beneficial thing you can do would be to get your system dialled in training. Maintain it all the way to race day. Any expert will tell you not to switch up your diet days to a race. It can often be counterproductive.
The above ultra-marathon tips are best tailored for beginners or runners who only have slight experience. However, even experienced runners can learn a thing or two from this post. Additionally, the most important piece of information is staying focused and having a strong frame of mind.
Runners should take it one day at a time and focus only on that day’s scheduled run or training activity. Complete a day race and proceed to the next day.
The same theory should apply on race day. It would be best if you do not look at all the miles ahead that might negatively affect your mental state. Instead, focus on just getting through the next mile and so on. That will preserve the strong mindset you have in place, and you will actually have a successful race.
Lastly, remember to pack your gear the previous day. Prepare a checklist and cross-check to ensure no item has been left behind.