Ultra running is a great way to challenge and push your limits. It involves running long distances, often over rough terrain and through varied weather conditions. Individuals who want to get into ultra running should recognize that it requires a high level of endurance coupled with careful preparation, planning, and training. Throughout your experience, it is essential to approach the sport of ultras with a healthy attitude and realistic expectations.
If this type of training experience sounds like it is for you, here are some tips on how to get into ultra running.
Developing a Training Plan:
Regardless of your chosen race distance, experience level, and goal running goals, developing a solid training plan is a must for creating a safe and enjoyable experience as you get into ultra running.
For starters, take some time to set realistic goals. If this is your first ultramarathon, the goal is to cross the finish line. Even if your background is of regularly completing half marathons or marathons, running an ultramarathon can involve a lot of time on your feet and unpredictable conditions. Make sure you account for those factors in your goal setting.
We like to refer to the tried and true S.M.A.R.T. model of goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). For example, someone with a marathon time of 4 hours might write a goal as “I want to run a sub 6 hour 50k in 2023.” This goal meets all the criteria of S.M.A.R.T.
Ultramarathon Training Plans:
Before you get into ultra running, you will want to develop a foundational endurance base, starting with shorter distances and gradually building up your mileage.
Most ultramarathon training plans will include 3-5 months of training and commence with a total training volume of around 20-30 miles per week of running.
Your training plan should include long-distance runs and strength training exercises to help build your overall endurance and strength. Throughout your training, you may find it beneficial to incorporate training specific to your goal race; matching terrain, weather conditions, elevation, and more can significantly boost confidence going into your race.
You should also include rest days in your plan so your body can recover from the intense and long workouts. While you want to stick with your training plan as much as possible, leaving room for rest days and adjustments based on your life schedule is critical for success. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that you are eating correctly so that your body has enough energy for the long run.
Consider working with a running coach or joining a training group to get guidance and support as you get into ultra running.
Finding the Right Gear to Get in Ultra Running:
The next step is finding the right gear for your ultra running adventures. This includes shoes, clothing, hydration packs, and other accessories that help keep you safe, comfortable, and fueled properly on the trails.
You will want to invest in good quality gear, but that doesn’t always mean you have to buy the most expensive items on the market. Ultra running is hard on both your body and your gear. So be sure to read reviews and ask for opinions from those who are experienced.
When considering things like shoes, clothes, or watches, remember that your ultramarathon will be several hours to maybe even more than a day. You’ll want to find the gear that can withstand the elements, keep you safe during the day and at night, and be appropriate for the terrain. Be sure to practice with your gear throughout your training plan. This can help break in a new pair of shoes but can also get you adjusted to using new gear.
Just like you have to learn how far you can push your body, you will need to understand the limitation of your gear. For example, you do not want to find yourself out on the trail with no light, a dead G.P.S. watch, or blisters on your feet that could have been prevented with some planning and practicing ahead of time.
To get into ultra running, you will have to be or learn to be mentally tough. Most runners have heard the adage, “running is 90% mental, and the rest is physical.” Well, that is even more true when running an ultramarathon. Even at its shortest distance, a 50k ultramarathon, for most runners, will equate to at least another 60 minutes or more of running above and beyond the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Remember how you felt at mile 20 of the marathon? However, most of that challenge can be overcome with mental training instead of physical training. As you get into ultra running, you need to learn to push through challenging moments when things get tough, or you feel like giving up.
To build mental toughness, practice positive self-talk during your runs and visualize yourself succeeding no matter what challenges come up along the way. Additionally, practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation or yoga, which can help improve focus and reduce stress before races or long runs.
It can also be helpful to set specific goals for your training and racing and to find ways to break the distance down into manageable chunks. For example, consider seeking resources and support, such as podcasts, books, or training groups, to help you build up your mental endurance.
Lastly, when it comes to ultramarathons, you must embrace the suffering. Ultra running is tough, and there will be times when you’re feeling exhausted, in pain (not injured), and wanting to give up. So it is essential to embrace the suffering, push through it, and learn from the experiences.
Join the Ultra Running Community:
As you get into ultra running, it is essential to remember you are not alone! Countless others have already traveled the path you’re about to take; some may be friends, family members, coworkers, or neighbors. Joining a training group or running club can be incredibly helpful when getting into the sport.
There are many online forums where experienced runners share tips and advice with newbies who are just starting their journey toward becoming ultra runners. Additionally, many cities have local groups of runners who meet up for group runs or social events, which can be great for meeting other runners who share similar interests and goals as you do!
Closing Thoughts to Get into Ultra Running:
By following these steps, anyone can become an ultra runner; all it takes is dedication and hard work! Ultra running is a gratifying experience. It does require some preparation before taking on this challenge. Make sure to take the time necessary to develop a training plan, find the right gear for your needs, build mental toughness through positive self-talk and mindfulness techniques, and join a supportive community of fellow runners!
A Training Plan that Works for You.
Our collection of running plans will help you train year-round. From 5k to a 100-mile ultramarathon, we have a training plan built for your experience level and goals. Every plan is delivered via Final Surge, allowing you to sync workouts across devices, receive daily reminders of workouts and activities, and analyze workout and target zone details. Get started today with a training plan built for you, view our running plans here.