Even for experienced runners, the thought of taking that next step into ultra running can be a daunting prospect. It can take a lot of discipline and dedication to get started, however the end result is always rewarding.
Why do people choose to start out in ultra running? Many choose it for the health benefits it brings, including powerful lungs and strengthened joints. Others look for self-achievement and another milestone to break through – there’s nothing quite like that overwhelming feeling of relief and happiness when you make it to the end. However, as with most things in life, what you get out of the experience all depends on what you put into it.
If you’re looking to make it past 26 miles and break into ultra running, here are a few words of wisdom to help you along the way, from the team at Vitabiotics.
A large helping of preparation
Preparation is key. It can help you remain focused and stay on track to achieve your goals. In this context, preparation includes everything from training, to what you eat and drink throughout the training for your ultra run and during it, too.
It’s well known that your body needs enough fuel to last the duration of your run, but working out what fuel your body best reacts to is another way of optimising your run. Try experimenting with various combinations of complex carbs and proteins, to begin discovering which foods are your body’s best friend.
Ideally, food should be eaten at least 1 to 2 hours before a long run, however it will take time to figure out what works best for your body.
Drinking lots of water and building up levels of supplements can also help give you the boost you need to excel at long-distance running.
Sample new methods
There are many ways to train for ultra running, so it might be helpful to sample a few methods and see which is best for you.
Most runners in training like to begin by breaking the run up into smaller, manageable chunks. Some choose to base these chunks on a change in terrain, whether it’s running until you reach the end of the next field, when you reach the end of the woodland, or when you make it to the other side of the lake, for example. Each chunk ends with a short break to indulge in some rest and a quick snack, before heading on.
Others choose the run-walk method to cover long-distance training effectively. This involves running for a certain amount of time, then taking a shorter time and reducing the speed to a power walk. This process is repeated until you have covered your target distance.
Running continuously during the training for an ultra run can result in quicker fatigue, which not only stops you performing at your best, but will also stop you from actually enjoying the process. Take the tortoise and the hare approach until you’ve completed your first ultra run, and then you can begin looking at reducing your time from there.
Equal parts of persistence and dedication
Reaching your targets requires the right mind-set. Ultra running can be a challenging task, however if you are dedicated and persistent you can easily achieve success.
It’s all well and good having the physical endurance side of things down, but what about your mentality? Ultra running takes a lot of concentration for a long amount of time, to make it to the finish line. Without the right mentality, you could end up hitting a wall – metaphorically speaking – just a few hours in and with a lot of distance left to cover. It truly is a case of mind over matter when it comes to ultra running, so think about fitting in some time over the course of your training to exercise your mind and prepare it for the journey ahead.
Sweat the small stuff
You can happily head out of the door on a short run with just the clothes on your back, your running shoes and maybe a bottle of water and some tunes. With ultra running, however, it can really benefit you to think about the smaller additions before heading out on that 100-mile trip.
What could you take with you along the way, that could potentially save your skin during an ultra run? It could be anything from Vaseline, SOS Blister, easy-to-eat snacks, your route map, or clothing layers, to name a few. Without the essentials, your ultra run could quickly become a nightmare endurance test, rather than something enjoyable.
These are just a few ways in which you can begin preparing for your very first ultra run. We’d love to hear some of your own words of wisdom that come from your first-hand experiences of training for an ultra run, so why not share them with us in the comment section below.