Top 10 tips to prepare for an Ultra Marathon!

Updated: Jun 10, 2019

1. DON’T FANTASIZE. VISUALISE

There’s no point thinking about how perfect your race is going to be and being positive to the point of fantasy. Instead it is best to visualise all the difficult moments that might occur during an ultra-distance race and how you’re going to deal with them effectively. Then, when the inevitable happens, you are mentally prepared to deal with it. This is a powerful tool in any ultra-distance athlete’s armoury.

2. GET TIME ON FEET BY HIKING

Everyone has different race goals, be it to complete or compete, but crucial to all is the necessity to rack up time on feet in preparation. When it comes to trail ultras, hiking is really underrated in terms of building a good base of endurance and leg conditioning in a low-risk way. Even the very best ultra runners hike during hilly races, so it makes sense to train for this. Walking/hiking is a different movement strategy and therefore will fa

3. TRUST YOUR OWN PREPARATIONS

Don’t look or listen to what other people have done in their training. They’ll likely tell you they’ve done more miles, more ascent, more races (equals more over-training)….. but blank it out and trust your own preparations. Try not to study what other runners are wearing, what they’re carrying or talk in-depth about their fuelling plans. You already know what you like to wear, what you like to carry and what you like to eat, so don’t change your mind because someone else is doing something different!

4. PACE YOURSELF, OBVIOUSLY

If the pace feels too fast, then guess what? Yes, it’s too fast! Don’t get caught up racing the early speed merchants, you will only pay for it later. Slow down. However long the race is, the first third to a half is the warm-up. Let those who wish to set off fast go past you in those early stages…. more often than not you will see them again later on! Focus on yourself, your pace, your hydration and your nutrition.

5. KEEP EATING.. THEN DRINKING!

100 milers (and ultra-marathons in general) are eating contests. Its almost like the more you can eat the longer you will last. Drinking is just as important. Keep those electrolytes up at all time!!

And when you start going into ultra distance, start uping your protein and fiber intake.

6. BE PREPARED TO SPEND A LOT OF TIME ALONE

Be ready to be on your own in grim weather conditions, often at night and sometimes on mountain tops. The best thing you can do is talk to yourself! Get motivational, get emotional, get it out there. It’s true, it’s nice to have some company and buddy-up with someone while running an ultra race, but remember you are running your own race, not someone else’s, so be prepared to go solo.

7. THE TOUGH TIMES WILL PASS

In general, I think one tends to go through rough patches on most long races.. It helps to remember that these patches almost always pass in time, and things invariably improve with the coming of daylight. Just keep eating, keep moving and try to enjoy the experience.

8. ENJOY YOURSELF

If you’re lucky enough to be able to partake in this sport then don’t take it for granted. Enjoy every minute. You are lucky to be able to do so and it is just sport at the end of the day. So when things go wrong, learn from them and move on.

9. GET YOUR KIT READY WELL IN ADVANCE

Running a long way in uncomfortable running kit is a great way to turn yourself off the sport! Take the time to try different pieces of kit so that you iron out any issues well before race day. That vest-pack strap that rubs on you collar bone for an hour might not be so bad, but for 20+ hours? It’s not fun.

10. REMEMBER THE ‘SPINKS RULE OF THREE’

If you’re in an ultra race and you’ve thought of something three times, then in reality you’ve probably thought of it between 5 and 10 times. This is a warning sign and it’s your body telling you that it needs whatever it is you’ve been thinking about. It could be a need for food or water, to put clothes on, take clothes off, go to the loo or fix a sore spot. Don’t ignore it any longer. Stop right away and do it.


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