A Beginner’s Guide to Running Ultramarathons
Whether you’re an avid runner or you’re just starting out, chances are completing a marathon is one of the biggest achievements you could imagine for your running journey. But what challenges exist beyond a marathon? Welcome to the world of ultrarunning. Ultrarunning is running any distance longer than a marathon, but common ultramarathon lengths are 50km, 100km or 100 miles.
Why would anyone want to do such a thing? Unlike in a regular marathon, the focus is on distance covered rather than time, meaning you can go at your own pace and really enjoy the run. This creates a more social atmosphere, not to mention what ultrarunners describe as a ‘runner’s high’ like never before.
Ultrarunning might sound daunting, but the sport is renowned for its friendly and welcoming community, and with the right training and mindset anyone can get into it. If you think this could be for you, read on as we break down the key aspects of ultramarathon training:
Set a goal
Having a clear goal in mind will keep you motivated and give you something to focus on when the going gets tough. Your goal might be running your first ultramarathon a year from now or logging a set number of miles per week.
Train your mind
In ultrarunning the mental challenge is half the battle, and a strong mind is an essential counterpart to your physical training program. Practicing meditation and learning to overcome stress will work wonders for your mindset on the trail.
Excitement and motivation are great, but pushing too hard in your training can cause injury and slow you down in the long run (no pun intended!). Start small, build up slowly, and make sure your training plan includes ample time for rest and recovery.
Regular sessions with a physiotherapist will ensure you’re keeping your body safe throughout your training and help to address any stresses and strains before they develop into something more serious. When running long distances, avoiding injury is absolutely essential, and getting the support of a professional can help you make sure your training is injury-free.
Fuelling your body with the right food will help it keep up with the physical demands of training, as well as the race itself. Eat plenty and eat well, aiming to include a range of carbs, protein, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains in your diet.
You’ll also need to refuel during your run, so part of your training should include learning to eat mid-workout. This may feel counterintuitive, but you’ll expend so much energy during an ultra that it’s essential to replenish in order to keep moving.
Include strength training
It goes without saying that strong legs will carry you the distance, but strengthening the stabilising muscles in your ankles and knees will also help to prevent injury, especially on varied terrain. Clinical Pilates or Reformer Pilates is great for building stability and flexibility!
Take your time
Unlike shorter distance runs or marathons, there isn’t a ‘race’ element to ultras; you can (and should!) take your time. Set a slow, comfortable pace from the beginning. Your ultra ’running’ will also likely include some walking – this is a vital way to give your body precious active recovery time.
While sufficient rest and recovery is crucial, training for ultramarathons differs from other forms of training in that it’s recommended to include some long runs on consecutive days. This will get your body used to running on fatigued legs – you’ll be doing plenty of this on the day!
Get professional support from an Osteopath or Physiotherapist
Running an ultra is a huge undertaking, and it can put a real strain on your body. Our clinicians will work with you to put together a training plan that's tailored for you and your body, and they'll support you throughout your journey to keep you safe, healthy and injury-free. Our focus is on longevity, so you can have a long, happy life of movement in whatever form you choose.