Written by Anja Hayes
Congratulations! If you are reading this article, then that likely means you are considering starting your ultramarathon journey. As challenging as they are, ultramarathons are empowering races that benefit your physical health and strengthen your mentality. Starting out can be pretty scary, though. Luckily, UltrAspire’s Athlete team has some great advice for newcomers. Read below to see what they have to say.
- Find your “Why”
Ultramarathon running will test your mental and physical strength. Training, planning, and eating right will all help contribute to your success. But finding the reason behind why you want to run is crucial to it. “If it’s because you want a buckle or medal, then maybe do something different,” says UltrAspire Immortal team member John Torrone, whose first “why” was challenging himself to push his own limits.
Finding your why does not necessarily have to be a running-based purpose. For Immortal team member Garrick Attends, his love of exploring nature drove him towards ultrarunning. “I’m a visual person, so trail running was a natural fit for me,” he recounts. “I wanted to get better so I could run further and explore more.”
Whatever your reason is, make sure it is valuable enough to consistently think about. Dedicating thousands of hours to training and competing often means finding motivation from your mind over your body, especially during bad weather.
- Build a training plan (and keeping it up)
This tip is likely obvious to ultramarathon runners. But training routines can include a slew of different focuses, making it difficult to navigate at first. Among the Immortal team, the jury is out on the most important factors in training, since it depends on the individual so much. One point Srulik Liberow believes to be always overlooked is mobility work. “As runners, we often think more mileage will make us better, but this isn’t always the case,” he points out. “Building a personalized daily mobility routine is key for longevity, even if it’s only a ten minute routine.”
A few of the Immortal team members also credit their success to night runs, which are great for learning to stay awake during 24+ hour ultramarathons. “As much as running through the night sucks, a new life comes with sunrise,” notes J Welch. “Force yourself to make it through.”
Once you find a routine that is right for you, stick with it. “Consistency is the best recipe for success in any endurance practice, event, or just life,” comments Josh Tucker. Lindsay Hannah Walters also mentions, “Take it one workout at a time. It can be overwhelming to see an entire training plan, so focus on one day at a time.”
With all of the potential workout schedules, finding the perfect fit can be pretty difficult. Luckily, the Internet is a fantastic source for running resources. Finding a coach is also a great way to not only personalize your training plan, but make sure you stay safe while preparing. “I tried to do it on my own,” says Lisa DeNardo. “But wound up fracturing my foot, twice.” Lisa has now been training with her coaching for nearly two years and has not had a break or fracture since starting.
- Find the right gear
What’s on the outside matters too! Finding the right fit in running apparel and accessories is also important when you first start your journey. A lot of times, running injuries stem from improper footwear. Countless hours of exercising means that sneakers can easily break down over time. Supporting local running stores and consulting with in-store associates is an awesome way to find the right shoes for your body and training needs.
Wearing the right clothes also plays a role in performance. One of the best parts of ultramarathon running is the variety of different trails and terrains you have the chance to check out. Dressing for the weather helps you stay on top of your routine without being distracted by uncomfortable clothing. While dressing in season-appropriate clothing may be a no-brainer, points like packing extra socks during rainy and muddy runs as well as extra hand warmers during colder weather are vital to success.
Don’t forget to accessorize as well. Unlike sprinters’ gear, hydration and supply packs are a part of many ultramarathoners’ running supplies. UltrAspire is here to help and offers a variety of innovative vests, waist belts, handheld bottles, and waist lights. Our support team is here to help you figure out which products are your best fit.
- Take care of your body
Making sure that you are practicing healthy eating habits and staying hydrated is super important all around. However, becoming an ultrarunner also means adding some new practices surrounding nutrition.
One common tip mentioned by Kristy Powell Wynn that many ultrarunners keep in mind is to, “eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty.” Getting your body used to exercising on a full stomach helps to not only keep energy up, but also get used to exerting yourself on a full stomach.
Karin Bachrodt Reems sees nutrition in running as something to constantly work on. “You have to train your body to eat and fuel, just like training to run,” she advises. Vin Capp also adds that you can train your stomach to be more tolerant by “eating weird stuff and trying new things.”
- Enjoy it
UltrAspire’s Sharleen Stevens sums this up perfectly, reminding others that “the race is your party!” Ultramarathon running, above all, is a sport that lets you see just how much your effort and dedication can pay off.
Ultras also reflect your personal journey beyond preparation. Once you have run your first ultra, it is especially important to look back on all of your progress and apply it towards better performance.
With this, it is important to remember to not compare yourself to others on the trail. Ben Barrett mentions that, “If you’re new to running (let alone ultras), you’re not going to be able to immediately do what others who have been running for years can do.”
Now that you have a few tips to guide you along the way, there’s no holding back. Check out Running in the USA’s awesome interactive map to discover which ultra is waiting for you. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for your first ultra and change your life.