Signing up for your first ultra can be a daunting thought. You’ve smashed your marathon distance and want to take your running to that next level. But there’s a lot more to an ultra than putting one foot in front of the other – it can be a mental battle to just keep pushing forwards, but that feeling of finishing and the bling around your neck makes every second of sweat, fatigue and aching worth it.
Here’s our top tips for how to smash (or at least finish…) your first ultra:
Take your training seriously
If you’re going to finish an ultra, you need to be taking your training seriously. If you’ve already signed up for an ultra, check out the route. If you know there will be tough terrain or plenty of hills, then make sure you have incorporated that into your training plan, you don’t want to turn up and have to face something completely unexpected.
Don’t focus on time
This advice goes for your first time running any distance, but especially an ultra. It’s hard to completely forget about aiming for a time, but try to just enjoy yourself and focus on the achievements of finishing. Run ‘naked’ in a couple of your training runs, if you get used to leaving your watch or phone at home and just enjoy the run, you’ll find it so much easier to forget about the time and just have a good time.
Recover, Recover, Recover
Rest days are so important when you’re training for an ultra. You need to give your muscles time to recover properly before you begin your next training session. Having two or three days without running a week is a great rule of thumb to ensure you’re not over-doing it. You should also be thinking about supplements to aid your recovery – when you are doing intense or endurance exercise, you lose electrolytes through sweat – these are important to replace both during a run and afterwards. Taking Totum Sport replaces all of the electrolytes lost through sweat to help your body recover quickly so you can get back to training.
It’s vital to keep hydrated both throughout training and on the day of your ultra. It’s a good idea to practice when is best to hydrate on your training runs so that you know your body and won’t need to nip for the loo when it’s not convenient. It’s useful to bear in mind that hydrating with only water doesn’t replace everything that’s lost in sweat, so make sure you take a sachet of Totum Sport with you to replace all the electrolytes you’ve lost – and you’ll also take on much less water too.
Get your nutrition right
If you’re running 50+ miles, you’ll want to be adding some real food into the mix as well as making sure you’re replacing electrolytes. Make sure you plan ahead and test what works for you throughout your training runs, you want to be eating food that’s easy to digest and won’t make you feel bloated or need to use the bathroom.
Mind over matter
Keep focused on your end goal, and the reason why you were brave (or mad) enough to try an ultra in the first place. You’ve got a lot of thinking time while doing an ultra, so you need to keep your head focused and don’t give in. As long as you’re properly prepared and you’ve done the right volume of training, you’ll be able to finish. A good tip is to think of the race in stages – focusing on getting from station to station.
Remember to take it all in and enjoy it. Whatever your reason for running an ultra, you won’t regret the experience when you’ve finished so relax, take it easy and just keep going.