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  • Writer's pictureSusie Chan

Fancy trying an Ultra? You can do it.. Here are my TOP TIPS!

Fancy trying an Ultra? You can do it.. Here are my TOP TIPS!

It seems everyone’s at it! Running into distances beyond marathon, 30, 50, 100 milers… some doing races that look like utter madness on paper.

If you have ever been even slightly tempted by the growing world of ultra marathons, I can assure you that is it not as hard as you think.

Unless you are one of the top flight runners (then you really don’t need to read further) Ultra Running is a different kettle of fish to more standard distance races.

Your race will not be governed by minute miles, by that feeling you get when you run fast, fast, faster trying to get to the finish line within a minute or two of an estimated time.

Running an ultra is less about the time and much more about the sense of achievement.

The race will be more about nice slow pacing. Stopping now and again, eating.. and eating some more, possibly lots of mud, hills, views (most ultras are trail races) and definitely a sense of being in it together with your fellow runners.

The chances are if you can run a marathon, you can run an ultra.

Here are my top tips for getting from marathon to ultra.

1) SLOW DOWN. Yes, unless you are one of the gifted few (you never know you might be!) then adopting a nice steady pace a couple or more minutes slower than your marathon pace should see you right. Taking into account the various stops that frequent ultra races (check points, wee stops, route checking) you tend to spend time faffing. This may seem alien to half marathon and marathon runners. However the more ultra races you do, the quicker you will refine this element. Walking up hills perfectly normal in ultra races. Walking! Yes indeed. Your legs will thank you once you are past 26.2 miles.

2) FOOD. I love my food, but when I run long distance my normally raging appetite tends to desert me. Things which I find yummy can seem repulsive. You may be lucky enough not to experience this. Practise eating on the move (eat whilst walking up the hills) find out what you enjoy eating during a run, and make sure you have a variety. Make sure when you do run long you keep your energy topped up regardless of appetite. Enjoy the carb load, and for post race stock the fridge, have Dominos on speed dial, book a table for a carvery, whatever your guilty food pleasure is…the post run hunger will catch up with you!

3) TRAIN, BODY & BRAIN an obviously necessity, however, you don’t have to bang out massive long runs every weekend. (For my 100 mile race the furthest I ran was 40% of the final distance in one go) Try day on day training, get out running on tired legs. Perhaps 3 or 4 days of 7 – 12 milers for example. Or split the miles over 2 sessions in one day. Your training should be like a longer slower extension of marathon training. Adding only a couple of miles a week, getting slightly slower each time. I like to mix it up training with weighted training and biking to strengthen my legs. You will need to practise running on varied terrain, and with your chosen kit on. A nice running vest with bottles or bladder will be a solid investment , as is choosing the correct footwear. For the longer training runs, forget pace and pick out a new route to explore. Distraction tactics to keep you occupied on the long run can help if you are that way inclined… audio books, pod casts, radio. See if friend will meet you toward the end and see the last 6 miles in with you. Pack a really nice slice of cake to eat, having things to look forward too can help.

During the long run is a useful time to prepare your head. If you tell yourself you will complete the ultra, you will. Yes, having strong legs help, but resolute positivity in your mind is the most powerful thing. In an ultra race, as in other races, you will experience ups and downs. There might be points where you feel tired, and it all seems rather ridiculous. These do pass and 5 miles later you can be feeling much better. Focus on the good stuff, the achievement of finishing, the post-race-gloating, the MEDAL!

If you fancy having a go at ultra running, take the plunge! A race such as Extreme Energy’s multistage races might be a good start. You can go for just 1 day (the last day is best) and they don’t have time limits, are open to runners and walkers so there is no pressure to make a cut off point, and are super friendly.

I know people that have gone from a half marathon straight into Ultra running. If you are thinking about it give it a go! Go on… you know you can do it!

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