What you need to know about Ultra Running
So, you’ve decided to take part in an ultra run. What happens now?
The ultramarathon distance is growing in popularity year on year, and while the humble 26.2mile marathon distance was once the holy grail in running, many are now challenging themselves to ever-increasing distances. Here’s what you need to know about tackling an ultra.
Change Your Mindset
The first thing you need to do when stepping up to an ultra is accept that pace is no longer the be-all and end-all. Completing the event is the most important thing, and if this is your first ultramarathon, then the focus should be on crossing the finish line and nothing else right now. Focusing on pace will lead you to make rash decisions, better to keep a clear mind, managing your body temperature, hydration and energy levels, whilst ensuring you stay on the correct route.
Completing an ultra is a journey, with peaks and troughs, and will last long in the memory as one of the greatest things you will ever do – so don’t ruin it for yourself by trying to break a world record!
Time On Feet
It’s fairly safe to assume that you’re going to have to increase the distance you run in your training if you plan to complete your ultramarathon challenge, but it doesn’t all have to be running.
Some runners have reported that taking on a long hike is similarly beneficial to the preparation that you’ll need. It’s about time on feet after all, and you have to get used to the fact that you’ll be out on the course for a long time, in changing conditions, and you need to be feeling comfortable with that as soon as possible.
Many runners tend to use visualisation as a technique to get them through the tough times they will encounter during their ultra challenge. Take a look at the finish line, run some of the course, familiarise yourself with the route. Doing all of this will mean there will be fewer surprises on the day and you will be fully aware of any difficult sections that would have popped up out of the blue otherwise.
Covering this amount of miles will mean that you need to take on fuel. It may be something you’re used to in half marathons or marathons, but while you may have been using a gel or an isotonic drink in those events, you can stop and have something, well, more like food in the world of ultramarathons.
If you don’t have enough carbohydrates on board, you’ll be in trouble long before the end of the event, so you need to find what works for you and practice with it before the big day – foods that work for some won’t work for others so don’t take your mate’s word as gospel if he’s recommending a wonderful flapjack that, 30 miles in, your body is making you deposit on the side of the path.
Generally speaking, if you follow a healthy, balanced diet, you’ll be in good shape for this event. There will be check points / aid stations on the ULTRA NORTH route with a range of food and drink available for all participants.
The loneliness of a long distance runner is multiplied when you’re an ultra runner, and although you may start with others, you are likely to spend long spells of this event on your own. That voice in your head is never louder when there is nobody else there to drown it out, so you have to prepare for some real testing times out on course. Your mind has a knack of telling you what you need, so don’t ignore it if it’s telling you that you need to eat, or go to the toilet. Because most of the time it’s right on that front. Get used to doing some of your running alone, where it’s safe for you to do so.
The kind of kit you need for an ultramarathon is vastly different to what you would normally use in a half-marathon or a 26.2mile run. Because you’re expected to be self-sufficient and know where you’re going, you’ll have to keep a mobile phone on your person in case you lose your way, or need to withdraw from the event.
Before the event, we’ll let you know the mandatory items that you need to keep on you. If you don’t have those, you may not be able to take part, or you may face disqualification.
Our advice is to practise with that kit, and take on a few long runs with a fully-laden backpack.
Break It Up
To succeed, you need to break up your run into manageable, bitesize chunks. The best way to do this is to break it up into the checkpoints, work out how long each section is, and how long you think you’ll take to do it. Then take on each section as if it were its own event, planning your fuelling and toilet stops around that. If you think about it in its entirety, then the task will most likely be overwhelming. Just look towards the next checkpoint.
Making sure your body is in the best possible condition is a very important step to take while preparing for your ultra event.
Otherwise known as strength and conditioning, prehab is the art of protecting your body from the rigours of running miles.
Introduce one or two prehab sessions a week into your training plan and you’ll end up with a well-conditioned body ahead of this event.
Run, jog or walk along the charming route and exploring some of the North East industrial heritage, glorious trails and wonderful woodland. ULTRA NORTH is an ideal event for both those looking to take on their first Ultra, and experienced ultra runners, looking for a new challenge.