Training for ultra running

Training for ultra running

Training will not only give you the endurance fitness to compete, but also the mental toughness required to see through an ultra distance race. One invaluable tip is to get yourself a friend willing to support you - they can cycle along giving encouragement and carrying supplies.

'Time on your feet' is the key


An old adage states 'Speed kills, not distance'

One of the most important aspects of any longer distance running - and this includes marathons - is 'time on your feet'. An old adage states 'Speed kills, not distance'. What this means is that it isn't the distance which you try to cover that knocks you off target, it's the speed at which you try to run it.

Any reasonably fit distance runner can run a marathon. Running one at a fast pace, however, needs specific training. Training at long distance running means that you have to be able to continue to exercise for hour after hour without any real discomfort. If you hope to run, for example, for six hours in a competition, then you must have some physical experience which goes a long way towards that. As an aside, many top marathon runners will include a few 30-mile runs in preparation for a big event, as over distance training, to reassure themselves that they can go the distance.
 
Biking is great for stamina © Activity Algarve
Running preparation for ultra distance events is almost always a case of trial and error. Whilst a great many learned papers have been written on the more common track and field events the interest in ultra is less evident in academia. There are common ways of training despite this, and what is certain is that 'time on feet' experience is essential. As 'time on feet' is important it is worthwhile understanding that this does not have to be all, or only running. Long distance walking in the hills can also enhance stamina, as can extended bike riding.

Thirty to forty miles seems to be a common long training run for events such as 100km and above, performed every few weeks at an 'easy' pace

Thirty to forty miles seems to be a common long training run for events such as 100km and above, performed every few weeks at an 'easy' pace. There are various ways to do this. Six five mile loops around your locality might be daunting, but two fifteen milers on different courses would be much easier.

You may have a partner who is willing to come around with you on a bike, especially useful on the latter stages. Perhaps some of your mates could split their usual runs so that you have several different people to chat to. Why nor run a local long race, at your training, not racing pace and then run home? Or run ten miles before a twenty miles race, to start you off tired.

Mental toughness

Running can demand mental toughness
Time on your feet not only builds physical stamina but also helps develop a certain mental toughness which will be essential if you are to reach your aims. During a six or eight or twelve hour run you are almost bound to go from high to low. It is important that you can fight your way through the low and come out back into the high.

Lows can come on quickly, even when you seem to be going well. A solitary patch, missing a drink, your supporter not being there, losing ground to someone you expected to defeat, a blister. All can precipitate you into a session of the blues, but if you can keep going, due to your mental toughness you can recover and run well again. One of the world's most highly respected ultra runners has often had problems with being sick at about three or four hours into a race. It is a real problem over 100km (say, eight hours) but she knew that over 24 hours she could recover and win!

Assistance and back up

An invaluable assistance to most runners is a friend/partner who is willing to second them during training and especially during racing. This person, ideally, is someone who knows the runner and his aspirations and is self organised enough to be able to provide the food, drink and clothing changes which may be required.

If this second can also provide basic massage and psychological support then you may have found your angel!

If this second can also turn to provide some basic massage and psychological support then you may have found your angel! During extended length runs the mood swings may be quite severe and it is important that the second can bolster confidence when a big blue comes along. This blue may last for some considerable time before the runner sees light at the end of the tunnel. Encouragement and positive thinking are a must.

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