Chan adds: “Courses can vary so much, one 50k mile race can be totally different to another 50k race depending on where you are running and things like the weather. There will likely be check points to get food and water, make use of these! Think about getting from check point to check point rather than the whole distance.”
Training for an ultra marathon
There’s no two ways about it, training for an ultra marathon involves a lot of running. But hopefully, that’s part of the appeal. The key to ticking off those training runs is drawing on your motivation.
“Figure out your ‘why’ that connects you to your training” says Walsh. “Motivation comes and goes but having an emotional connection to your event or reason behind your training can be so powerful especially when you’re getting up for those early morning runs before work or digging yourself out of a dark patch during the race.”
Eating on the go
As well as getting the miles in your legs and building endurance, training for an ultra includes figuring out how to fuel your body and practicing eating on the go. “I once heard ultra marathons being described as a rolling picnic” says Chan. “Test out different things to eat, and try solid food, not just the usual race food like gels. Don’t be surprised to see things like sandwiches, crisps, fruit and cola at checkpoints – it’s rather like the food at a children’s birthday party.
“Test out food on your training runs, find and electrolyte drinks that you like, and when it comes to race day, bring your own supply just in case there is nothing you fancy at the checkpoints.”
Race day ultra marathon advice
Running is full of highs and lows, and that’s certainly true of ultra marathons too. There will be low points during a race, but it’s how you cope with these that matter.
“It can be a bit of a rollercoaster, so stay positive” says Chan. “There is a chance that at some point in the race you will question your life choices. Things will find, and you still have a way to go. It is the story of my life! The good news is everyone has these moments, I generally find a little bit of food can lift you.
“If you feel bad in one mile it does not mean you will feel bad for the rest of the race. Stay focused on your finish line, imagine yourself at it, telling people about your ultra marathon, think about the reason you signed up and, honestly, don’t worry about failing. Ultra running is all about the experience! It’s all part of the (type two) fun!”
fear of failure
Whether it’s your first 5k or your first marathon, it’s natural to be worried that you won’t be able to complete it because you’re moving into unknown territory. These fears only get bigger as your races get longer, but instead of letting it stop you, you should lean into this fear says Walsh.
“Embrace failure. A DNF (Did Not Finish) can leave you feeling devastated but it shouldn’t be something you ever feel embarrassed about. It’s something I don’t see athletes or coaches talking about enough. Even the most well prepared ultra runner will encounter issues outside of their control during an event and the purpose of training is to try to mitigate many of these issues. You’ll always learn more from a DNF than from an ultra you comfortably finished.”