There are lots of factors involved in training for an ultramarathon. It’s not just about putting the distance in. Yes, you are going to have to run a fair amount of miles to get your body and mind prepared to run an ultradistance but there is a lot more required. Here are our top 10 tips for training for an ultramarathon, aside from the weekly long run.
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Training for an Ultramarathon
1. Train for the terrain
Specificity of training is key here. Don’t go out and do a 25 mile long run on the road every week when your race is going to take place off road. Train on the terrain that you are going to be running on. Get used to the mud, the grass, the rocky trails and the undulations. The time on feet is key and 25 miles on the road may be quicker but your body needs to get used to the longer hours.
2. Practise your race tactics
If you are going to be walking the hills on race day then practise doing this in your training. If we’re doing a short distance training run, we always run the hills. Anything over a half marathon distance and we tend to walk the hills, using this walking time to re-fuel. It’s like a picnic on the go!
3. Eat what you will eat on the day
We speak from experience when we say that there is nothing worse than needing the toilet because you ate something at an aid station that you had never eaten before. Make sure you practise several times eating what you will eat on the day. The great news here is that eating forms a key part of training for an ultramarathon.
4. Recce the course
This is not always possible, especially if the race is a fair distance from your home. We always like to get at least one recce run in on the course, even if it means travelling to do so. Don’t worry if you can’t – but do take a look at the course profile and then try and emulate this in your training.
5. Try some back to back runs
This is one of our preferred tactics, especially when you can’t do 30 miles without your family thinking you have moved out. If you struggle to get more than a 20 miler in on a single day, try a 10 miler the day before. This way you are able to start your 20 mile run on tired legs and by the end you will be feeling someway towards what you will feel on race day.
6. Use your kit prior to race day
We have mentioned this before, but wearing a new hydration vest and discovering that it chafes after 10 or so miles is not something you want to find out on race day. Shorts, socks, trainers, vest… test them all several times before race day and don’t forget the Bodyglide!
7. Prepare your kit
Many ultramarathon organisers, especially self nav ones, insist that you have specific kit which you have to show before you start. This will often include waterproofs with taped seams, hat or buff, a map and pencil, a whistle and other items. Make sure you check the kit requirements for the particular event and practise at least one long carrying it all.
We often start to panic as the start date looms closer and think that we haven’t done enough. However, pushing yourself to do one more 30 miler, a week out from the event is not a good idea. Your body needs to recover from all the training. You need to line up at the start with fresh legs that are raring to go. Don’t overdo it during your taper period which should be approximately 3 weeks.
9. Try some cross training
I always find when training for a marathon, or ultramarathon, that cross training really helps. Including some element of core/strength training, really helps my running. Whether it’s a kettlebells class once a week, some weights in the gym or something like rowing or cycling, your body will really benefit from that extra core strength.
10. Enjoy yourself
As coaches, all too often we see people get really concerned or stressed about these events before they’ve even started. The idea of running an ultramarathon is to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it from the start, it’s certainly not going to be any fun at 40 miles when you still have 10 or even worse, 60 to go. We will save our thoughts about the Pain Cave and our strategies for emerging relatively unscathed from it for another blog, in the meantime relax and enjoy yourself and enjoy the training.