How to run an Ultramarathon

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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. 

20 March 2023

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HOW TO RUN AN ULTRAMARATHON 

Running an ultramarathon is a significant challenge that requires proper training, preparation, and dedication.

Here are a few suggestions you should consider to help you better prepare for and complete an ultramarathon:

Train consistently

Consistent training is critical when preparing for an ultramarathon. To start your training, it is important that you have given yourself enough time to begin this process, especially if this is your first ultramarathon. By giving yourself time, this will allow you to increase the miles slowly and decrease the possibility of getting an injury. You should aim to run at least four times a week, gradually increasing the distance and intensity of your runs. It is also essential to cross-train with strength training, yoga, or pilates to build strength and flexibility.

If you are new to trail running, start with a slow pace and shorter distances such as 5K or 10K races before attempting an ultramarathon. You need to build up your milage gradually or you might not make the start-line.

Remember an ultramarathon is not a sprint, learn to conserve your energy throughout the race.

Follow a structured training plan

It is important that you have built a base training plan to begin with. This includes all runners even if you are new to the sport or a seasoned runner. You will need to adapt to a different type of training which you might not be as physically fit for, e.g. transitioning from road racing where you may require to shift to a slower pace.

Additionally, a structured training plan that incorporates rest days, long runs, speed work, and tapering is essential when preparing for an ultramarathon. Consider hiring a coach, using a reliable training program or look at how to create your own training plan. Click here to read our guide on how to create an ultramarathon training plan.!

Ultramarathon Recovery: Rest and Repair

Getting enough rest is crucial for recovery and injury prevention. Rest is just as important as training consistently. Your body will often know before your mind does that you need to recover and recuperate. The rest days you do take will help to strengthen your body, increase your focus and positivity. Allowing your body time to recover will build your stamina and repair tissue damage. This will then allow you to come back into your next training session stronger than before.

At night you should be aiming for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Make sure you take the time to look after your body and don’t push yourself too early too soon.

Focus on nutrition and hydration

Ultramarathons can be long and gruelling if you do not have a strong nutrition and hydration strategy. If you do not consume the correct amount of fuel for your body, then you will not achieve the desired results. Your body needs to consume enough calories to fuel your body, maintain hydration, and replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Your body already stores energy in your muscles and liver glycogen which will allow you to run 1.5 – 2 hours before you need to refuel. It is crucial for an ultramarathon that you store a form of fuel that is easy to digest for your body.

Additionally, it is important that a minimum of three days before the race you are fuelling correctly and consuming enough food.

Check out Jacqui Bell’s blog, Ultra X Ambassador for more on nutrition here.

Prepping for race day

Before you get to race day, it is essential that you practise with your kit and nutrition. This will allow you to see if any of your kit is uncomfortable and what nutrition will work for you during the event. All our bodies are different which means what might work for someone else will not necessarily work for you.

Be prepared for the unexpected

Running an ultramarathon can be unpredictable, as you may face unexpected challenges. This includes anything from external issues like the weather to injury, or equipment failure. Therefore, it is essential that you are prepared for anything and have a backup plan or a short-term solution that will aid you.

Have a positive mindset

An ultramarathon is physically and mentally challenging. Mentally it can be hard to see the finish line, therefore it is essential to have a positive mindset. Do this by breaking the race into manageable sections and stay motivated throughout the race.. Remember, completing an ultramarathon is a significant achievement, but it requires careful preparation, consistent training, and dedication.

Ultramarathon for beginners

A perfect race to start off your ultramarathon journey could be either the Ultra X Spring Trail or Summer Trail Series. The distances include 25km, 50km and 75km, click the button below for more information.

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