Running a course that’s 50k or more is going to need some serious preparation. Here’s our guide to getting ready for your first ultra marathon.
Ultra marathons have risen in popularity in recent years and there are some incredible events with breathtaking scenery being held all over the world. However, if you're planning your first ultra marathon then there are a few things you might want to bear in mind to get ready.
An ultra marathon is considered anything above 50k and the terrain can be incredibly varied. Research the course of the ultra marathon you want to do and plan your training accordingly. Hill repeats are a good idea for anyone looking to improve their running, but if you are about to put yourself into an ultra in the Lake District, then hill repeats are going to be even more valuable to you. It’s also worth remembering that the general pace on an ultra is considerably slower than that of marathons, and there should be a strong focus on endurance in your training plan.
Nutrition and fueling
You’re unlikely to get round your first ultra on water alone and your nutrition is going to need careful planning. You’ll want to test various nutrition plans and experiment with different gels, electrolyte sachets and bars to find a solution that works for you. It’s a good idea to start experimenting with this early on in your training, so you can start refining your fueling plan as you approach the event.
Test kit out beforehand
As with your fuel and nutrition, it’s a bad idea to try anything new out on your first ultra. Familiarity is key here and you want kit that you are accustomed to and comfortable with. Be sure to test new kit out on some good long distance training runs to figure out if they chafe, rub, or need some breaking in. It’s much easier to deal with any issues in the lead up to your ultra, than on the day itself.
Check weather reports
Most ultras are going to see you out in the field for a considerable amount of time. You are likely to be in exposed areas like national parks and countryside and getting caught in adverse weather could hinder your progress. Check weather reports thoroughly right up until the morning of the run and pack accordingly. After all, this is Britain, and you’re as likely to need sunscreen, as you are a lightweight rain jacket.
High quality, anti-blister running socks are essential for all long distance runners. When undertaking an ultra marathon though, be sure to pack a spare pair. If you have damp, or wet socks, after a while abrasion is going to be inevitable. Making the switch to a fresh pair could be the difference between crossing the finish line comfortably, or with open sores and burst blisters.
Again, if you’re about to embark on your first ultra marathon, make sure you're wearing running shoes that you are familiar with. You want shoes that have room around all your toes to splay out as feet expand during exercise and even more so in heat. When covering greater distances, this extra room is going to prove integral to your overall comfort.
Lastly, enjoy your run! Many ultra marathons take you on a journey through often stunning scenery, so look up and take it all in!