Running any long distance is never easy, but running an Ultra-marathon can be quite challenging. What the body goes through during a 50+km race is quite astonishing, especially long distances like 100km or more can have serious consequences on the body that is unexpected when you are running your first Ultra-marathon. Running a marathon is not easy, but running really, really long distances can make huge differences physiologically, psychologically, and logistically.
Gastrointestinal problems: Having to consume high levels of carbohydrates and food while running can cause some GI issues. Ultrarunners burn a higher percentage of fat and have to consume a lot more calories while running, making it harder to digest.
Blurred vision: Some runners get that white cloudy or foggy vision (corneal edema) when running Ultras, which is a condition caused by altitude, wind, cold weather.
Muscle cramps: Often when running an Ultra, runners get cramping in the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings.
Blisters: Running on the trails with rocks, water, mud, running downhill or on varied terrains can cause some severe blisters.
Insects bites and stings: This is very common on the trails and can affect your system for a few hours.
Cuts and bruises: Running for long periods of time on uneven terrain, rocks, when fatigue sets in, the chances of falling or tripping increase significantly.
Those are just a few of the issues that Ultrarunners can go through during a race, that is why having support from friends or family can have a huge positive impact on the race.
How to support an Ultrarunner:
Find out all the details about what they will need during the race- A week before the race have a meeting to ask all the questions to find out exactly what they will need;
How do they want their gear laid out?
What kind of food do they want available?
How do they want their food prepared?
What type of drinks do they want and where?
Will they need to change their clothes and where?
Will they need to switch headlamps and where?
If it’s hot weather will they need ice and where?
What do they need in the First Aid kit?
Make sure you provide emotional support:
Ask the runner the best way they like to be helped emotionally. Do they like “tough” love to keep them going or lots of gentle kindness? Emotional support during a long race is very important, when you are running low on energy to see someone you know and is there to motivate you and cheer you on can keep you going for a long time.
Look after yourself:
To support an Ultrarunner takes a lot of physical and mental energy, it can be a bit stressful, sorting out and preparing all the food and gear, driving to and making sure you get to the checkpoint on time. Looking after yourself is also important, making sure you bring your own food and drinks, the right clothes, chairs, headlamp as you might have to stand and wait for quite some time.
Be prepared and flexible:
Often times, supporting an Ultrarunner might involve some unexpected problems; your runners will show up sick and vomiting, injured, wet and cold or crying. You never know what can happen, it is important to be prepared and flexible for all sorts of eventualities.
Be the best volunteer and supporter by focusing on the runner:
Yes, it will be a long and stressful journey to support someone and focusing on that person to make sure they have everything they need physically and emotionally. But volunteering for an Ultra race or supporting a runner is one of the most rewarding experience as you will see how important your support is, how big a difference it will make. To see a runner run that distance, be that strong and persistent is such a positive and mindful experience, both the runner and yourself will get an extraordinary outcome.
Train Hard, Eat Right & Feel Great!