Ultra Running Tips for Beginners

Ultra Running Tips for Beginners

An Ultramarathon, or just an ‘Ultra’, is a broad term for an event that covers anything over marathon distance - 26.2 miles. Popular ultra running events offer 50km, 50 miles, 100km, and/or 100 miles, however there are many events covering hundreds of miles over multiple days. Many runners prefer the more relaxed approach ultra running offers, where time and speed are less of a factor. Road ultras do exist however trail ultras tend to be more common, or often there’s a combination of both.

Ultra running has become increasingly popular over the last decade, as many runners search for their next challenge after completing a marathon. The following tips will help you start your ultra running journey:

Get your gear right

Any discipline requires the correct equipment for comfort and efficiency during exercise. Ultra running is no different, and you’ll need to think about the right footwear, hydration pack, and fuelling as a starting point.

As most ultra running events tend to involve time on the trails, you’ll have to consider traction and comfort. You’ll also need to find a way to carry your hydration and nutrition fuelling strategy. A good hydration vest/pack is an excellent option; they can fit a water bladder and soft flasks along with other fuelling options easily. 

Enjoy different fuelling options

One of the benefits of a slower approach to ultra running is that you can explore different fuelling strategies as opposed to, for example, solely using gels in a marathon. It’s great to experiment with solid foods alongside your regular sports nutrition and hydration options such as sports drinks, energy chews and gel mix.

Aim to eat small, frequent snacks every 30-60 minutes and drink fluids every 20-30 minutes to replenish lost electrolytes and maintain hydration levels. In hot conditions, it's essential to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Consider using electrolyte drinks to maintain hydration levels.

Train your brain as well as your body

Ultra running can be just as much a mental challenge as a physical. Find strategies that work for you to get you through the inevitable low points that running a very long way can bring - for some that is repeating positive mantras, listening to motivational music, finding other runners to chat to, or simply remembering your ‘why’ - why you are undertaking the challenge, and how do you hope to feel when you cross that finish line?

Expect the unexpected

Ultra running can throw challenges at you that you might not expect to find on a regular road run - tree roots, mud, river crossings, wildlife, sand - to name just a few! 

Slow down!

Part of the fun of getting off the road is encountering different, more challenging terrains, including more ascents. Don’t worry about your pace as you navigate these obstacles - instead, slow right down and consider walking, particularly when you’re heading uphill. Using different muscles will help your overall fitness. If you’re feeling fatigued, slow down your pace, take regular walk breaks, and focus on staying hydrated and refuelling with snacks. Listen to your body and adjust your strategy accordingly to avoid hitting the wall.

Enjoy yourself!

Pace yourself conservatively, break the race into manageable segments, and stay mentally focused by setting short-term goals. Listen to your body, adapt to changing conditions, and draw motivation from the camaraderie of fellow runners.

Read our Ultra Running Nutrition Guide, to help smash your next race!

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