City centre stretches, woodland trails, incredible views and historic landmarks. Here’s the lowdown on what to expect at Ultra North: the 25k/55k ultra running event on Newcastle’s doorstep.
1) A low key start. If you’ve entered Ultra North, it’s likely you’ve taken part in some races in the past - perhaps even huge events like the Great North Run or a big city marathon. And, if so, you’ll be familiar with the hype and energy that builds at the start line. But Ultra North is much more chilled and low key. Just make sure you get there in plenty of time with your water, map, fully charged GPS watch/device and all your kit. Then feel free to relax, chat and prepare mentally for the challenge ahead.
2) Getting going. After a short briefing covering key info and last minute advice, it’s time to make a start. Go easy for the first mile or so; take some time to tune into your body and see how you’re feeling as you warm up. Have you found a comfortable rhythm? Shoes and kit feeling OK? Can you see the route markings? If you get familiar with them now – and the intervals at which they’re placed – it’ll be easier to recognise if you’ve taken a wrong turn later on.
3) Checkpoint one. Hopefully you’ll be familiar with the route from your pre-event prep and you’ll know roughly when to expect the first checkpoint and aid station. This is your chance to hydrate, refuel (if you need to), use the loo and adjust your kit (again, if necessary). Then it’s time to get back into that rhythm again, hopefully feeling focused and refreshed. Go, go, go!
4) The tricky middle section. We say ‘tricky’ because it’s at this point where things can start to feel tough. It’s perfectly natural to feel like you’re up against it, though. Try to cope with the challenge positively: adjust your pace; slow down to a walk; eat or drink, or come to a complete rest if you need to. Remember that very few entrants run the whole Ultra North route – most manage it with a mixture of running and walking.
Once you get going again, try bargaining with yourself – tell yourself you’ll run for a set amount of time followed by a period of fast walking, for example – and stick to it. You’ll get there bit by bit if you take it slow and steady – promise.
5) The end in sight. Again, your training will have prepared you to know when you’re coming to the final stages of the course – but it can feel a bit ‘so close and yet so far’! You might be exhausted or even have a bit of pain, and it’s natural to experience a mental block at this point.
Again, the best strategy is to manage things as positively as possible: break the distance down into smaller chunks; only focus on the next immediate stretch; slow down if necessary; keep your energy levels up with food and water, and walk the last bit if you need to. Nobody’s judging, and you’re about to cross that finish line and prove you’re made of strong stuff.