Tips on how to run your first ultra-marathon

For runners who are thinking about moving up to running an ultra-marathon, training properly and increasing the distance reasonably is very important. You want to make sure that you can take the time to train for the distance, train for nutrition, train for tapering and recovery.

  1. Train Smart:Signing up for a 100km race as your first ultra will require enough time for proper training. Taking time to build a strong base and foundation will help you progress strongly and enjoy your first ultra-marathon. Training for 6 months, by increasing the mileage steadily, building your long runs from 3hrs to 6hrs on the trail will train your body, brain, and avoid possible injuries. Include two back to back long runs every one or two weeks, for your body and brain to get used to running when tired and a bit sore.


  1. Personalize a specific training plan and schedule: You want to make sure that you follow a proper training plan that you will be able to include in your work and life schedule. A basic training plan must include:

Basic weekly training schedule:

  • 2-3 weight training workouts
  • 1-2 long runs
  • 1-2 speed work or hill repeats sessions
  • 2 recovery runs
  • One day off.
  1. Include cross training sessions: Now we know how important cross training is to increase our fitness level, core strength, running form, muscle strength in order to avoid injuries. Include functional strength training like jumping squats, lateral lunges, bridges, planks, burpees, push ups. Increasing our muscle strength helps to increase our running speed. If we work on our glutes and core and even arm strength, our overall performance will be stronger. Include 2-3 strength training sessions/weekly. It’s also important to use cross training to avoid muscle overuse, include some other type of cardio like cycling, swimming, elliptical trainer.


  1. Include proper nutrition in your training plan: Eating a clean and healthy diet will make a big difference in your training. Whether you need to lose a few kilos, or just feel better, avoiding processed foods, focusing on eating lots of vegetables, fruits, healthy carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat will increase your stamina and endurance levels. Find your ultimate personal diet; some people need more carbohydrates while others need more protein. Figuring out the right diet is also part of the training plan that will get you through that ultra-marathon feeling great and strong. During a race, make sure you eat something every 30-45 mins, whether it’s a gel, chews, energy drinks, food, you need to consume 200-300 calories/ hour. Test your running fuel when training, that is the key to not having any stomach issues during the race. Hydration is key to surviving an ultra-marathon. Even if the weather is cooler, our body gets depleted of electrolytes. Make sure you hydrate every 10-15 mins.


  1. Know the course: If you have access to the course, make sure you do some training on the race course so that you get familiar with the terrain, and that your body gets used to it physically and mentally. If you don’t have access to the specific course, train on similar terrain (elevation, technical course).


  1. Learn about pacing: How fast you run and push during the first half of an ultra-marathon will have a huge impact on how you will feel during the second half; more pain, fatigue and low energy. Make sure you train yourself to keep the excitement, adrenaline and speed under control at the start of the race. During training, practice running at a slower pace, include some slower long runs.


  1. Walk the uphill: Running the uphill during training is a great way to increase your stamina and strength, but when running an ultra-marathon, it is very important to power hike the steep inclines up the hills to save energy for the rest of the race.


  1. Find the right gear:  
  • Find the right pack and hydration system (bottles or bladder) that suits your body and storage need.
  • Find the type of headlamp that feels comfortable and provide the adequate lighting for your race.
  • Finding the right shoes for an ultra-marathon will save your feet. Include trail running shoes in your training to make sure they are comfortable when running long distances. Find shoes with good grip to avoid slipping and falling.
  • Find the ideal most comfortable running clothes for your body type. Include some clothing according to the weather forecast, don’t run an ultra-marathon with new clothes, shoes or gear.


  1. Schedule some recovery time: Recovery time has to be included in your training schedule. The more effort you put into your training, the more important it is to include some recovery days (slow and easy runs, more sleep, a day off). Include some regular stretching, foam rolling, massage or yoga in your training schedule to avoid any injury. The following days after the race, focus on recovery. Include some stretching and a massage, make sure you move, walk, light swim or cycling to increase the blood flow. Eat a well-balanced diet to refuel the body, even add some basic supplements to increase the recovery speed.


  1. Embrace the motivation: The mental drive that motivated you to sign up for your first ultra-marathon is a great tool to use and channel into your training. Mental training is as important as physical training when running an ultra-marathon. You want your brain to feel comfortable and happy during the whole race so you can enjoy such an amazing experience.

 Train Hard, Eat Right, and Feel Great!