Ultra X | How to run an ultramarathon and how long does it take?

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Written By Amber Dale

Amber is one of our placement students working here at Ultra X. She is currently studying Business Management specialising in Marketing at Cardiff University.
She loves her sport especially netball but is now switching it up and testing her limits on the trails. 

18 May 2023

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

How long does it take to run an ultramarathon?

The time it takes to finish an ultramarathon varies greatly based on a number of variables, including the event’s length, the terrain, the runner’s degree of fitness and experience, the weather, and overall race strategy.

Ultra Marathon Distances

Ultramarathons often cover distances more than the 26.2 miles of a standard marathon. There are several standard ultramarathon distances, including 50 km and 100 km. Additionally, there are events that go over 100 miles, such as 200-mile (322 km) or multi-stage races.

Ultra Marathon Times & Durations

Elite runners can finish a 50-kilometer ultramarathon in under four hours, although recreational runners may need five to eight hours or longer, depending on a variety of conditions.

At Ultra X 50 Scotland our first-place male runner finished in 4hrs 53 minutes and first-place female finished in 5hrs 5 minutes.

Elite runners can finish a 100-kilometer ultramarathon in seven to nine hours, although casual runners may take ten to fifteen hours or longer.

At Ultra X 110 Scotland multi-stage our first-place male runner finished in 10hrs 20 minutes, and the first-placed female finished in 13hrs 9 minutes.

A 100-mile ultramarathon’s length might vary significantly. While ordinary runners frequently take 24 to 36 hours or longer to complete the course, elite runners may finish in the range of 12 to 20 hours.

It’s vital to keep in mind that these are only broad estimates, and anything can change. Ultramarathons are endurance races where finishing is often more important than speed. Every race is unique, so it’s advisable to check the specific race details and course records to get a better idea of the average times for a particular event.

If you are looking for a great course with a mixture of terrain, then Ultra X Scotland is perfect and provides the runners with some stunning scenery. 

Variables that can affect your time to complete an ultramarathon

Several variables can affect how long it takes to finish an ultramarathon, which can impact the entire experience and result of the race. Your level of training must be considered. If you have been consistent and motivated, then you stand a greater chance at finishing in a quicker time as you will fatigue less.

Distance

The length of an ultramarathon can vary, from 50 kilometres to several hundred kilometres. Naturally, the race will take longer to finish the longer the distance. As the distance grows, the event’s duration lengthens.

Terrain and Elevation

The kind of terrain and the course’s elevation profile can have a big impact on how long it takes to complete an ultramarathon. Compared to events that feature steep ascents, descents, tricky trails, or challenging terrain, races held on flat surfaces or concrete roads typically permit for faster running speeds. Participants can become slower, and the duration can be increased on difficult terrain.

Weather

The pace and performance of runners can be impacted by weather conditions including heat, humidity, strong winds, or extreme cold. Extreme weather can lengthen tiredness, dehydration, and discomfort, which could increase the time required to finish the ultramarathon.

Experience

A participant’s experience is a key factor in deciding how long it will take them to complete an ultramarathon. In comparison to novices whereas experienced runners typically have higher endurance, pacing tactics, and mental toughness, enabling them to finish the race faster.

Pacing Technique

The pacing technique used can affect how long an ultramarathon lasts. While some runners may want to maintain a constant pace during the entire race, others may opt for a plan that alternates between running and walking segments. The overall amount of time needed to complete the race might be affected by the pacing strategy.

Aid Stations and Support

Along the course of an ultramarathon, there are usually aid stations where runners can relax, refuel, and get assistance from medical personnel if necessary. Each runner will spend a different amount of time at these aid stations. While some could aim for short pit stops to cut down on their overall racing time, others might take longer breaks to rest and recover.

Personal Goals and Ambitions

 Each participant may have their own personal ultramarathon goals and ambitions. Some may place a higher priority on completing the race within a predetermined time limit, while others may concentrate on finishing the race regardless of the time. Personal goals can affect the approach and pace, which in turn can affect how long it takes to finish the ultramarathon.

Fitness and Endurance

Exercise increases muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. Regular exercise, cross-training, and routines designed specifically for ultramarathon training improve the body’s capacity to meet the physical demands of the race. Participants can run faster for longer as their fitness and endurance improve, perhaps cutting down on the amount of time needed to finish the ultramarathon.

Speed and Tempo Control

Training enables athletes to hone their speed and tempo control abilities. A feeling of pace and the capacity to maintain it over longer distances are developed through interval training, tempo runs, and long runs at specific speeds. Effective pace control during the race can help avoid burnout or early exhaustion, which can speed up the finish time.

Mental Preparation 

Focus and mental fortitude are necessary for ultramarathons. Training offers the chance to build mental toughness, discipline, and coping mechanisms for the difficulties faced throughout the race. Participants who are mentally prepared are better able to keep going when things become tough, stay focused, and finish the race sooner.

Specificity and Adaptation

Training for an ultramarathon entails gradually building up your mileage and becoming used to the requirements of long-distance running. A runner can prepare their bodies for the physical demands of ultramarathons by gradually increasing the distance and replicating race circumstances. This modification can increase productivity, lessen weariness, and eventually lead to a quicker completion time.

Hill & Terrain Training

Tough terrain and height fluctuations are common in ultramarathons. Hill training and trail running are two exercises that can be incorporated into a training programme to develop the strength, power, and agility needed to handle these circumstances. A faster overall race time can result from improved performance on the challenging and steep parts of the course.

Time Management and Race Strategy

Training offers the chance to create and hone race tactics. Participants can improve their time management during the ultramarathon by using race-specific pacing, nutrition, hydration, and rest methods during training runs. Executing a race plan well can result in a more efficient race flow and, possibly, a faster race finish.

Injury Prevention

Proper conditioning, strengthening, and injury prevention are made possible by regular, systematic exercise. Running enthusiasts can reduce their chance of injuries that could impair their performance in races by adhering to a well-crafted training schedule. Participants who stay injury-free can retain their training consistency, which improves overall performance and may speed up finish timings.

Moreover, many people assume that when you sign up for an ultramarathon you must run the entire race. However, you will find that many walk parts of the course. Walking is not only accepted, but widely done by nearly every ultra-runner. Running for hours on end, especially on trails, rolling or steep hills, and through sometimes crazy weather, it’s almost best to walk sections of the race. If you’re moving forward, you are making progress. 

Ultramarathons may seem like the opposite, but they’re not a proud event— runners don’t avoid certain “taboos,” like walking, sitting down at aid stations and socializing. Better to walk than to risk collapsing before the finish line because you refused to walk up that last steep vertical at mile 24 in your 50K. 

It’s crucial to remember that training should be customised, considering elements like present fitness level, experience, and free time. For preventing overtraining and maximising performance gains, a moderate and progressive training programme in conjunction with proper rest and recuperation is necessary.

These variables interact with one another and that every person’s situation is unique. The combination of these characteristics for each participant has a significant impact on how long an ultramarathon will last.

 

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